Smile Politely

Hoarding Food for the Apocalypse

Before the election, I had all but decided that if McCain were elected, I was going to renounce my pacifism and go out and buy a bunch of guns. No more threatening to move to Canada for me.

The guns wouldn’t be to shoot people, but simply to prepare for the inevitable Palin presidency and the corresponding apocalypse that would follow. Jesus would have wept at my actions, but I would have felt compelled to construct a bomb shelter in my basement and stockpile enough food to ride out the storm. My wife and children would be huddled next to me, wool blankets draped over our hunched shoulders, and I would spend most of my time clutching my new gun, waiting for the mutants or the undead to burst through the trap door.

As it turns out, Obama was elected, and instead of the usual prospects of doom and despair, I was filled with the unfamiliar feelings of hope, unity, and even optimism. Instead, it’s the conservatives who are now running around, buying up all the guns (which I’ll assume is a sign of respect for their new commander-in-chief). However, as good as it is to have all this unity, it feels a bit unnatural. I’ve come to the conclusion that hope is not something I’m terribly suited for.

I think my problem was being raised in the nuclear age, when global nuclear meltdown was always one Ronald Reagan finger-push away. That and Dawn of the Dead, Escape from New York and The Stand cemented my early fascination with the many ways that humanity might snuff out ourselves. I still can’t look away from any kind of doomsday story, from 28 Days/Weeks Later and Children of Men to The Road. Surely, our sins will catch up to us eventually, in some horrific way.

Luckily for me, there is still a financial crisis in full bloom. If that’s not a global catastrophe worthy of stocking up food in the basement, I don’t know what is. While I certainly hope Obama can stem the bleeding, I found my natural pessimism trumping this weird optimism last week. During the height of our national hope-filled ecstasy, I saw black beans on sale and I bought an entire case of them.

Although the buying a gun thing is a cheap joke, stocking up on food is something I’ve been thinking of doing for awhile. In the deep recesses of the reptilian parts of my brain, I have for decades retained the idea that I eventually need to do some kind of I Am Legend-ish personal food hoarding, for use when the global meltdown finally happens. It’s a sign of mental illness, when you look at it — a complete lack of faith in humans and in God and generally in the future.

However, until last week, I had never actually acted on it. I think watching my 401K lose 30% of its value and my lack of a real job are what finally put me over the edge. And yet, there’s something about actually buying the food and needing to put it someplace that gives away the game.

What the heck difference is one case of black beans going to make when zombies start roaming the earth, unless I hurl the cans as blunt objects? If I am really going to do this, don’t I need to think about it a little more? For example, isn’t water more important than beans? Should I keep some rice down there with my beans? How do I protect rice from getting all weevily if it’s going to be stored for a very long time? And what if there is no apocalypse and my rice just spoils? Suddenly I have to choose between my natural paranoia and my natural frugality.

Deciding to buy bomb-shelter food begs the question of what I’m preparing for, exactly. Do I only need three months of food until the flesh-eating virus passes by, or the full-on ten years of food and bullets for the alien invasion? If nuclear fallout permanently prevents vegetation from growing, would living longer be a good thing? Or am I just trying to supplement my food rations while the Depression/war/revolution sweeps in and out within the space of a year?

No, this is all pretty dumb, except for the part about buying stuff on sale. Everyone should be entitled to their quirks, but I don’t want to be the guy who plans to survive a takeover by robotic overlords. I’m going to set my sights lower, like surviving a week-long power outage, or a week-long flu pandemic.

Luckily, terrorists have not yet succeeded in bringing the internet to its knees and there is some surprisingly useful information on emergency supply kits at and For instance, a can opener would be useful if you stockpile beans in cans. Also, it would be good to figure out how to dispose of those beans after they have provided nutrition and passed through your body.

So, I’ve decided to stop worrying about global devastation and collect what I need to survive one week in my own basement from some local calamity. Laugh if you want, but seven days crazy is about right for me. Being able to survive for a year is for lunatics and not being able to survive three days is for people who probably shouldn’t be spreading their DNA. But if authorities can’t rescue me after a week of self-survival from the middle of Champaign-Urbana, human culture will just have to be passed on via someone else.

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