I am a worrier. And don’t think I don’t worry about that. In fact, I just started a meditation course to try and morph myself from a hand wringing anxiety sponge to a beaming wellspring of calm. While I am awaiting that transformation, I continue to fret about many things. One of them is not being able to keep my emergency kit stocked with food.
There are two main reasons that I have this kit: 1.My lifelong bad habit of reading the newspaper every morning means that I open each and every bright new day with some time that is specially devoted to empathizing with people I don’t know who are dealing with devastating floods, earthquakes, tornadoes and military disasters. And 2. I live in California, a state that is obsessed with reminding its residents that a horrifying earthquake is not just inevitable but long over due. While we are eagerly awaiting it, there are also fires, mudslides and an intermittently bankrupt state government to keep us occupied. Fortunately for me, despite an unbalanced budget, they were able to find enough money to recently put up some cheery signs on Pacific Coast Highway warning of the possibility of a tsunami,should conditions be agreeable.In fact, LA is so in love with its own disasters that newescasts station reporters at the scene of any former disaster every time rain is predicted, just to remind everyone that even the faint memory of a mudslide or a fire is still a good reason to be tense.
Its hard for me to imagine my box of emergency supplies being very useful in an earthquake, tsunami or fire since all three of them would require me to flee the premises. But I guess I read the grasshopper and the ants one time too many when I was a kid. I plunged ahead and bought a big container in which to stash food, water, a first aid kit and the roll of duct tape I still had from when Atty. General John Ashcroft, of the Bush administration, insisted that we needed to be ready to seal all our windows with plastic sheeting. Ah, what golden days those were for the duct tape business. It must have seemed like the arrival of a special better-than-Christmas TAPE holiday . Imagine the corporate meetings they had, trying to figure out what they could do to to keep the giant national duct tape celebration going.
Anyway, I persist because I somewhere deep in my soul I am preparing for a scenario in which my loved ones and I have survived that shift in tectonic plates or that dirty bomb terrorist attack and there we will be, cut off from civilization for some finite period of time, wandering around in our sports jackets , looking too formal for our new Mad Max landscape. After a few hours of that, it will just be a matter of time until the man and four dogs with whom I share my life will begin staring at me and wondering what is for dinner. Definitely none of them will have put away any boxes of supplies. That much I know. Nope, everyone will be looking at me like “So? Now what?”. Obviously it will have behooved me to have figured some of these things out in advance.
The first time I shopped for this disaster food, I did my menu planning around the fact that in horrible circumstances, we would all be pretty depressed. Thus I bought things to eat that not only had a long shelf life but that might lift our spirits a little when we opened the box: Nuts, dried bananas, three kinds of jerky, high end canned soups. I got enormous flats from Costco of canned tuna or chicken, canned spaghetti, chocolate protein bars, malted milk balls. I bought so many of the kind of tasty snacks I try to stay away from because they’re fattening that I began secretly to look forward to at least a small disaster so I could have a big hand full of bridge mix without feeling guilty. And this impulse, of course, lead me directly to an entirely different problem: It soon became impossible to keep my disaster supply box full of food .
It didn’t take long for the raids to begin. Whenever I got hungry in the middle of the night or had been drinking sake , I would make a bee line for the terrorist supplies. The nuts and dried bananas were the first to go. Right after that I thought I’d have just one protein bar. But of course after the carton was opened, all of them disappeared pretty quickly. Canned beans? Sure, why not. One glass of cabernet and I’d be overcome with a romantic feeling about eating beans from a can that I’ve been harboring since I was in grade school watching old movies full of cowboys eating around a campfire. Mind you, I did’t eat all my terrorist supplies in one bingey night. It took me a couple of weeks. But before I knew it, I had also consumed every can of the minestrone and the canned ravioli. By then, the only food left was a few cans of beets or carrots. Those foods were safe because I never wanted to buy them in the first place. I hate the taste of canned vegetables. (I also hate canned raviolis but they take on a certain gross reverse-appeal after a few glasses of wine.)
Eventually it occurred to me that my behavior left me with only one reasonable course of action. I had to force myself to fill my emergency preparedness box entirely with cans of food I hate. It was that or continue to have an empty emergency box that needed to be refilled, therefore rendering it useless as a disaster preparedness kit. This lead to a trip to Costco where I walked up and down the aisles answering the question “What else would I not eat if I were a little tipsy?”
True, an emergency kit full of canned carrots and canned wax beans and canned beets is an emergency kit that will never be raided in the middle of the night. But its not going to do much to lift our depression after we’re heading in to a second night without power or water, wondering when some helicopter is going to spot us gesturing wildly on the ground. I can already hear the disparaging remarks from my neighbors who might need to rely on me and who are now faced with nothing but water logged beets and peas. On the bright side I suppose by the time our lives resume in a normal fashion, we will all be slimmed down and full of vitamins .
Still, my dogs will fare okay. And that counts for something. I bought huge sacks of their usual diet. Don’t want to let down the dogs. And there’s no danger of me eating their food in the middle of the night. At least I hope there isn’t. I haven’t tried it yet. Maybe its not all that bad. There are nice looking drawings of fresh salmon and vegetables on the sack. And a rushing stream. Peas still in the pod. Fresh tomatoes. All in all, just one more reason why I better hurry up and get further in to my new meditation class. A more relaxed and transcendent me isn’t going to want anything to do with canned ravioli in the middle of the night. Maybe. Though I’m not so sure about the dog food.