It is a lot more common these days to think about what would happen if the entire world collapsed and we woke up to a post-apocalyptic wasteland.
Movies depicting this kind of horror are a lot less entertaining and a little more jarring than they used to be. We live in a time where any scenario is not really out of the realm of possibility. Zombies. Nuclear war. A black hole swallowing us up. The sun exploding into a supernova. Unlikely, but not impossible.
Sitting down with my wife, having our nightly recap and counseling session of everything that bothered us about the day, this topic came up. My wife reminded me, as she does on a regular basis, that if such a thing as the end of the world is to happen, I will be on my own. I am not allowed to go with her because I will slow her down and cause her to die. I remind her that I am an Eagle Scout, and she reminds me that I am the worst Eagle Scout there ever was. She may be correct. I get lost in my own neighborhood from time to time.
The problem she has with me joining her during such a catastrophic event has nothing to do with my orienteering skills. Face it, if the world ends, maps are going to be the last thing on your mind. No. She will not take me with her because she thinks I will eat all of her food, leaving her to starve. Again, she may be correct.
I do most of the grocery shopping for my household. I enjoy going to the grocery store and walking around. Probably because I was in my early teens before I ever went into a large supermarket. They still amaze me. I usually am given a list by my “manager,” but I enjoy going off script as well. I’ll get her and my son a few things I think they’d like, but I stop short of getting myself that much. I’ll get a bag of pork rinds or some wasabi peas, that’s all. Selfless.
I have been made aware of a very disturbing trait of mine. The issue starts when I come home and put away the groceries. I make a big deal out of whatever cookie or candy or silly breakfast thing I bought them. I say, “I bought this for you.” Within a few hours, I get hungry and I look at what I bought myself. I look at what I bought them. Then, for whatever reason, the stuff I got them looks better. Tastier. So I eat some of it. Not all of it, but some of it. Yes, I purchased these things for them, but we are a family. We can share.
My wife doesn’t see it that way. Her viewpoint is that if I bought food for her and food for me, why in the world would I eat her food first? This fight comes up a lot, but I have only now come to terms with the fact that she is right. I do eat her food first. Only then do I consume my food. My food is something I have purchased subconsciously knowing they would never eat. What 6-year-old eats wasabi peas?
Now that I am aware of this, I notice I do it with everything. If there is a beverage that has been purchased exclusively for my wife, I will subconsciously develop a thirst for it and drink it before anything I have for myself. She likes lime seltzer water; I like grapefruit, but Lord help me if there is a cold lime in the refrigerator and a cold grapefruit, I’ll always pick the lime.
For paper products, if she has a box of Kleenex on her nightstand and I have a box on mine, I will always reach for hers first. My son has no lollipops or popsicles because I ate them all and only left him with my pork rinds. I am a monster.
I like to think this kind of behavior is a survival mechanism I developed by growing up in a house full of men. It was either eat what you can, when you can, or don’t eat at all. We were like cave people. The minute we found a wildebeest, we went for the part we wanted, even though we knew we’d eat the hoof if nobody else did. I don’t want to be a caveman.
Lately, I have been trying to break this habit so that in the event of the end of the world, I can survive with my family. The other morning while I was making my coffee and reaching for the fiber-rich cereal I bought for my old-man self, I hate to admit, something came over me and I poured the last bowl of my son’s chocolate cereal, leaving him with nothing but my fiber-rich twigs.
If the end of the world comes my family won’t let me come with them, and neither should anyone else … if they want to survive.
Chris Walter is a Georgia writer and artist. His recent book "Southern Glitter" and more can be found at kudzuandclay.com .