I was listening to Glen Beck the other day. One of his sponsors is for some food insurance company. I used to think it was bullshit. There’s a local talk guy, Jon Howell, who talks about the collapse of society in this Ayn Rand-ian sort of way in which those with the guns, and those who are not burdened by ethics or compassion for their fellow human being will be the ones who pervail when the apocalypse comes.
The debate over guns, the substantial threat from North Korea to shut down the power grid with a nuclear detonation in space, and Barack Obama have enlived their doomsday fantasies. I mocked them. having actually lived in a society, a city under siege, in which there was no food, water, gas or electricity, in which you could be killed without warning from a sniper, blackmarketeer, warlord or a waterborne illness, and yet people did not become self-directed zombie-like ne’r-do-wells, but worked together and strengthened communal bonds. But when the plumber shut off our water yesterday to install a new water heater, well, all of that changed.
At percisely, I’ll always remember where I was at that moment, at precisely 12:05, the water was shut off to our little condo. At first we didn’t notice much, but then, slowly and imperceptibly, things began to unravel. It began within a half an hour. Ana asked for a glass of water. The first crack had appeared.
By 12:20 I had to face some tough truths. Ana’s thirst indicated that she might not be strong enough to carry on. How long could she hold out? I was thawing chicken for supper, but should I set that other plate? Would or could both of us survive, or should I start coming to terms with stark and unavoidable truths?
“Can you do me a favor,” she asked, “just go up to McDonald’s and get me something to drink.”
There it was, the Lord of the Flies! The power play. Survival of the fittest. John Locke and Ayn Rand, and Rand Paul and Ron Paul were right all along. The relationship, the love Ana and I had cultivated these many years was crumbling before us, and we were helpless in the face of animal desperation.
I was trapped, struggling as much with myself as the lonely howling from the pipes that sang the demise of the civilation I held so dear. Still Ana pressed for something to drink. I felt as the very edge of existence, alone. I dreamt of water, cool, refreshing, but it was no more than a distant fantasy.
“You know what would be good?” Ana commanded. “Be a dear and run down to that place on the corner for some Pad Thai, since the stove is shut off too.”
The stove, indeed! The second pillar of civilization was gone. First the water, now the stove. I eyed the cats, luxuriating at their dish and thought that I could sustain myself through the darkness on cans of Friskies if needed. There was a squirrel in the yard, fattened by the bread I’d vainly and short-sightedly tossed out through the winter. I curse myself for not buying an AR-15 after New Town and converting it to a fully automatic assault rifle with a 40 round clip. I’d need it to battle back the hordes, and squirrels are small and move fast. I’d probably need a whole clip to bring the critter down.
By 1:30 my deoderant was failing. I was reverting to an animal, and smelled like one too. Ana mentioned that I needed a shower. The knives had come out. It was now every person for themselves. I was straining at the tension, which was driving me mad. Oh, Glen Beck and Gold Line, curse you that I should have listened to you sooner! As civilization crumbled around me, what I wouldn’t have given for a fist full of gold plated cugurands.
By 3 I was at the breaking point. Ana, sitting on the bed, tickering with a Facebook post appearing unmoved and unaffected. Who was she? Some sort of super woman, or was she toying with me? Maybe she was the strongest, and I would succumb first. Maybe in the days or weeks to come, upon those smouldering remnants of the world, she would be feasting upon my b…”
“Well, that’s about it,” said the plumber. “She’s in and your water’s up and running again. I’ll just take a check and be on my way.”
Oh, salvation, how bittersweet civilization! So perfect and yet so fragile that you can porvide us the grand illusion, only to reveal your mortality as well. I embrace you now more fully, knowing only too well what a commodity and rarity you are. Just in case, I’m keeping a can of Friskies in my pocket.
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