On a recent June afternoon, my boys and I, in various combinations, spent the hours between 1:30pm and 8:45pm in the car in a perfect storm of dental appointments, sports practices, horrendous Seattle traffic, and a birthday party. It was a long afternoon, but somewhere along the way, we proved that old parenting adage that says if you want to talk to your kids and have them actually pay attention to you and respond, do it in a moving vehicle.
We covered all kinds of topics, like the proper terminology for male anatomy, who liked or didn’t like which girls, and why they shouldn’t make weird faces at the drivers stuck in traffic next to us, but by far the most heated conversation was about what to do in the event of an apocalypse.
My oldest son is very into this topic. The Hunger Games and The 100, both the book and the TV show on CW, have triggered this interest. The 100, by Kass Morgan, concerns the last remaining survivors of a nuclear-war ravaged earth in their makeshift home in space. They have been floating in their spaceship for a long time and are now rapidly running out of resources, namely air. Is it safe to return to earth? Instead of sending a Wall-E-esque robot for the task, they decide to send 100 juvenile delinquents in custody until their mandated death at the age of 18. Since they’re slated to die anyway, who better to investigate the habitability of planet Earth? After dropping 100 questionably moral teenagers onto earth with no resources, no adults, and no social structure, multiple intriguing problems ensue. (Note: The TV show is nothing like the book, save for the title and the premise.)
When my oldest son posed the question: “What would you do if there was a zombie invasion in Seattle? What would be the plan?”, I thought it was a fair one. After all, Brad Pitt earned millions of dollars answering the same question in World War Z.
Naturally, as a mother, I have a plan for just this occasion, but I was curious about what my sons would say. My youngest came up with an elaborate and violent plan to decapitate every zombie he saw with a knife.
My Oldest: You’re only eight years old. You can’t even reach his neck.
Youngest: I can climb up on his shoulders and then chop off his head.
Me: I think you should run far away from the zombies.
Middle Son: I would go out into the country and hide.
Me: That’s a great idea!
Oldest: I would go hang out at Costco.
Me: Costco? Trust me: by the time you got there, the food would all be cleared out. That’s the last place you’d want to be.
My son didn’t believe me. He argued, loudly, and I argued right back.
Because I knew: I saw what happened here in Seattle when the great wind storm of 2006 downed power lines and trees. Food, gas, and medicine were nowhere to be found because the supply trucks couldn’t get through.
I knew something else too: the story of Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank. It is a compelling fictional tale of what would happen to the pockets of civilization that survived a full-scale nuclear war. Radiation was a big problem, as were looting and lawlessness. There was no more food being delivered to grocery store shelves because the major cities, and thus the major factories, were taken out. The same happened with medications and pharmacies, leaving those requiring medication to live, such as diabetics on insulin, with a severely limited lifespan. Broken eyeglasses and illnesses requiring antibiotics, normally easy fixes, became calamities because the resources to provide those supplies were no longer available. Makeshift police crews guarded the barricades of their new, enclosed city against invaders with radiation poisoning or the intent to steal. Venturing beyond the confines of the new city became a life-threatening endeavor.
I relayed all of this information to my son, and still he didn’t believe me. So I did the next best thing: I said “Read Alas, Babylon and then we’ll talk.”
He’s reading it now, and I can’t wait until he’s done. Not only is it a terrific read, but I’ll be curious to see if his post-apocalypse plan changes in any way, although I may have to wait for another long drive in the car to hear it.