One of my favorite guilty pleasure TV shows is Survivorman, a reality series in which survival expert Les Stroud – armed only with his wits, harmonica, and whatever he finds between the seat cushions of his couch – puts himself in dire situations. Trapped in the most uninviting reaches of the wilderness he demonstrates how to make shelter, live off the land, and reach deep within himself to find the will to carry on against tremendous odds.
I watch because such things interest me, and because I thought there might come a time when what I learned would come in handy.
That time was 10:30 p.m. EDT on Tuesday when our power was knocked out. With no lights and no air conditioning, I was tasked with providing for my family as we faced desperate circumstances. I’m pleased to report I didn’t hesitate in springing into action.
The first thing I needed to do was find a source of illumination so I could search for supplies. Fortunately my fully-charged iPhone was just a few feet away and it has a flashlight feature, so that was one big problem I solved quickly.
I also figured I needed to seek intel about whether or not this was a worldwide outage due to a zombie attack or alien invasion, so I immediately looked at Twitter. While scrolling I saw a video of a cat apparently playing a piano, which was really funny since cats don’t normally play piano.
I then followed a thread where people were arguing about who would win a fight between Wonder Woman and She-Hulk, which was ridiculous because one is a DC property and the other belongs to Marvel. Plus, Wonder Woman is the daughter of Zeus and Hippolyta and possesses the power of the gods while She-Hulk – aka Jennifer Susan Walters – merely has gamma-irradiated blood. Let’s be realistic, people.
Anyway, the flashlight led me to the kitchen and I needed to do inventory on our food supply. I had no idea how long we would be without power, so I had to plan for the most extreme actuality.
I tend to hoard fig bars and I had 27 of those. That meant I was assured of at least 200 calories per day for the next 27 days. (These would not be shared with Mary or any of our critters because as self-appointed team leader I would need to eat one each afternoon so I could stay strong for the others).
A quick glance at the cabinet also revealed three large jars of peanut butter, six cans of black beans, two jars of Portobello mushroom spaghetti sauce, one can of olives, one box of saltine crackers, one can of artichoke hearts, two boxes of Honey Nut Cheerios and a three-pack of Wilson yellow tennis balls (featuring improved durability and performance with exclusive dura-weave felt. I’m not entirely sure how they got there).
Such items probably wouldn’t be as readily available in the wild, so there’s no doubt I got lucky on the food front. And a wave of relief washed over me because even without looking in the refrigerator I knew we had enough food to avoid the unthinkable – the unthinkable, of course, being the prospect of eating our animals.
As I sat in the darkened kitchen looking at videos on my phone and noshing on peanut butter and crackers, I dreaded the thought of having to sacrifice a pet in order to survive.
Which one would it be?
Charlie is too old, so his meat would likely be tough and stringy. He would be better repurposed for parts, i.e. carving his bones into weapons or making custom jewelry.
We’d keep the cats, Bane and Thor, in case we needed to make coats and hats from their fur. Also, they might learn to play the piano.
That meant Steve drew the short straw in the supper sweepstakes.
Young Chihuahuas are high in protein and – when placed on their backs – resemble Cornish game hens. As a vegetarian I shun meats and meat byproducts, but Survivorman makes it clear hard choices must sometimes be made and Steve was that choice.
My next and most immediate worry, however, was the lack of air-conditioning. Environmental temperatures over 130 degrees can result in heatstroke, while the temperature of my bedroom reaching 75 can result in me bitching about how hot I am.
When the power went out the temp in our house was 71, and I knew it was just a matter of time before it became unbearable and I’d be forced to climb on the roof naked.
But just as I opened the freezer and began dumping contents of the ice tray into my shorts, I heard the AC compressor kick on, the ceiling fan began to rotate, and the light I keep on in the bathroom in case I have a bad dream and wake up scared burned brightly.
The crisis was over, and I was able to exhale and admit it was possibly the most intense 55 minutes of my life.
Obviously we all have different ways of dealing with survival situations, but I’m glad the tips I learned from a TV show allowed me to make it through my own private hell.
It gives me a whole new perspective and I vow never to take my creature comforts for granted again.
The only negative is that every time I look at Steve now I can’t help but think about dinner. And truth be told, he does look tasty.