Yikes, the Big One's Coming. Got Tofu?
by Debra Galant
March 11, 2001
THEY say the thing that makes us human is that we alone among animals know that we are mortal, that someday we will die. The other thing is that we among animals get nonstop prognostications every time a storm is rumoredto be coming.
So last Sunday, a day most New Jerseyans had set aside for making a nice pot of pasta fagioli and waiting for the third season of ''The Sopranos'' to start, we instead ran around like maniacs in a pre-Apocalyptic tizzy. Grocery stores resembled soccer riots. Drugstores were like methadone clinics. Home Depots? I can't even imagine. We haven't had this much fun since the frenetic nonstop storm warnings a few weeks ago.
The thing is, what do your average 2001 Ozzie and Harriets need to get through two or three days trapped inside their Restoration Hardware homes? Or more to the point, what do they think they need?
My husband, who usually goes grocery shopping on Monday, volunteered to go out Sunday morning to pick up our week's necessities. This is the 21st-century equivalent of Pa going out with his shotgun to get some provisions because there's snow in the air.
''Get toilet paper,'' I yelled. ''And candles.''
Men, as you know, are from Mars, and women from Venus. Martians think a good supply of candles -- enough to get you through a serious power shortage -- is about a dozen, the number you currently have around the house. We Venusians, however, know that the current cache of candles is just enough to fuel one romantic evening. For a week without electricity, we're going to need at least three dozen, right?
An emergency trip to Pier One Imports?
''And mesclun mix,'' I continued. ''And lots of romaine.''
In the meantime, I set about getting the firewood ready. After all, why have a wood stove and then -- when there's no electricity to crank the furnace -- find that you're out of kindling? Or that the woodpile is under two feet of snow?
I passed a garden center that had a box of wood shavings in front: perfect kindling. They said I could take as much as I wanted, but I couldn't have a bag or box.
Lesser women might have panicked. I found a plastic sled in my minivan and loaded it up. Then, back home, I found two big plastic recycling boxes, filled them with firewood and brought them into the house.
It was at about then that my husband returned with $150 of necessities, including three containers of tofu, a package of Sweet'n Low, a lifetime supply of D batteries and -- bless him -- extra candles.
Food, shelter, heat. What else? Data! If electricity goes, so goes the computer. I printed out my electronic address book -- 11 full pages -- because my Palm Pilot knockoff is broken and I'm waiting for my new one to arrive.
(Oh, I think sadly, if only I hadn't dropped it. What are the chances FedEx will deliver my new one in a blizzard? Three more days without a personal digital assistant? How? And why -- why oh why, I wondered -- did we give away our manual typewriters? What if the electricity went out for a week and I had an inspiration? No worry there.)
While my address book was printing out, my son was stewing to get on the computer. When he finally did, I saw the program he so badly needed was solitaire.
''Noah,'' I said sternly. ''You're going to have to learn how to play those with actual cards. The power might go out.''
''I don't know how to lay it out,'' he said miserably. (Note to self: teach this deprived child how to lay out solitaire.)
Food, heat, shelter, data, solitaire. What's next? Toiletries. Surely my husband hadn't thought of conditioner. While I was at CVS, I ran into a friend who had talked her doctor into calling in a prescription for antibiotics because her son had a sore throat. While I was there, I decided to stock up on photo albums on the theory that organizing 11 years of family photographs might be a fun way to kill a few days. I walked out $41 poorer.
When I got home, I called a friend who had been preparing for the storm by making sure that everybody's prescriptions for antidepressants were filled (I'd already checked ours) and gathering a week's supply of chocolate and videos.
''What have I become?'' she said. ''I used to make my kids pancakes with organic whole wheat flour and wouldn't let them watch TV. Now I'm out making sure we have enough junk food and horror movies.''
Five minutes later she called back. ''I'm getting booze,'' she said. ''Do you need any?''
Ah, the pioneer spirit!