As a child who was in grade school in the 1960s, I am one of those in the generation who experienced duck and cover rehearsals. Duck and Cover, which was taught to children from the 1950s to the early 1980s, was a suggested method of protecting oneself against the effects of a nuclear explosion. The idea was if a kid went under the desk upon seeing the first flash of a nuclear explosion, he or she would be protected from a soon-to-follow explosive wave that would blow in glass and other debris. Duck and cover probably wouldn't have done much to prevent exposure to radiation, but I guess the thinking was that if kids were flat on their faces on the floor, they would at least avoid getting jagged pieces of window in their eyes.
Anyway, that's the age in which I grew up: nuclear bombs and hiding under desks. September 11, 2001, brought fear and preparedness to a whole new generation, and jangled the memories of us under-the-desk kids. While I remember only vaguely my duck and cover activities, I recall with startling clarity how in the weeks after 9-11 I was driven to get a go-bag together. Decades had passed and here I was, now an adult, who had transformed from duck and cover to pack and run.
The other day I was rooting around in my downstairs guest bedroom and came across a tiny blue suitcase under the bed, the contents of which I had forgotten. Turns out it was my go-bag. When I lived on Long Island after 9-11, I felt I needed this important tool in the event of -- you'll excuse the expression -- shit hitting the fan in New York City (grid shutdown, biological warfare, another terrorist attack, whatever). Where I would have gone with go-bag in hand, of course, was Sherburne. Now that I'm in Sherburne full time, the go-bag became a forgotten item and ended up under an infrequently used bed.
I felt a little like Pandora when I clicked open the suitcase. What would be in this bag? What paths had my rattled mind been traveling when I filled a small suitcase with items I might need when hearing about some pending or actual disaster, grabbing the bag, and hitting the road in a hurry? What had I considered to be essentials for my five-hour trip north to central New York?
Here's what was inside:
-Box of Band-Aids
-Tube of Neosporin ointment
-Bar of soap
-Tiny tube of hand lotion I got once in an airplane give-away pouch
-Six tea bags
-Packet of decaf coffee I apparently stole from a Radisson Hotel
-Sample packet of cappuccino I got from a promotional vendor
-Flashlight with no batteries
-Tiny Phillips-head screwdriver
-Packet of tissues
-Two cellophane-wrapped toothbrushes and two really tiny tubes of toothpaste
-Pack of cigarettes
-Three books of matches, one of which was from Sherburne's Honky-Tonk Saloon
-Two candles, one taper and one tea-light
-Roll of Scotch tape
-Pair of contact lenses
-Several packets of expired Vioxx (a drug now discontinued, and the only product that ever helped my periodic back pain)
-Razor (not for box cutting, for leg shaving)
-Box of rice
-Small (and I do mean small) copper pan
-Green magic marker
-Deck of cards
Rattled mind is right. WHAT was I imagining? Clearly I was worried about armageddon bad breath with two toothbrushes and Tic Tacs packed. And of course, when global meltdown occurs we ladies want to be sure our gams are smooth. Six tea bags? Okay, I suppose a person could drink six cups of tea in five hours, but where did I think I was going to get the hot water from? Oh that's right. I had the tiny copper pan. Maybe I was imagining that I would, for some reason, be unable to make it to Sherburne and would have to spend the night camped out by the side of the road (or more helpfully, by the side of a stream). So there I would be, sitting around a campfire by candlelight cooking rice, drinking cappuccino out of a collapsable cup, smoking cigarettes, popping Vioxx, and playing Solitaire. Later I suppose I planned to scrawl "Farewell!" on a bridge abutment with the magic marker before climbing back in the car for the final leg of the trip.
The go-bag has now been dismantled as I have no where to go but where I am. Should I get word that the world has melted down, I'll be sitting in front of my fireplace drinking wine from a crystal glass, slippered feet on the coffee table. I will ponder the age-old questions: man, woman, birth, death, infinity, and hope I survive. If I don't, I don't. I will not be chewing Tic Tacs, will not be brushing my teeth nor writing final notes on concrete. I will not be dealing cards. And I guarantee: the least of my worries will be hairy legs.