The right skills for a cri­sis

The Covington News - - THE SECOND OPINION - David McCoy, a no­to­ri­ous sto­ry­teller and proud Yel­low Jacket, lives in Cov­ing­ton and can be reached at davm­c­coy@bell­

I’ve been re-read­ing the Hitch­hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy se­ries, and my brain is reel­ing with space­ships, ro­bots, time travel and tow­els. But one pas­sage I read is more a real-world warn­ing than it is sci­ence fic­tion. Arthur Dent, the pro­tag­o­nist, is stranded on a re­mote and prim­i­tive planet. Noth­ing in his train­ing has pre­pared him for a world that’s this sim­ple­minded, and de­spite his sup­posed learn­ing and skills, he feels use­less. In­stead of do­ing what most use­less peo­ple do — go­ing into na­tional pol­i­tics — he opens a sand­wich shop. He’s a sur­vivor and he’s found his call­ing.

I share Arthur’s puz­zle­ment. What would I have to of­fer, if our world were sud­denly to stop work­ing the way it does now? I’ve spent my life work­ing with com­put­ers. Com­put­ers re­quire elec­tric­ity; elec­tric­ity re­quires in­fra­struc­ture; in­fra­struc­ture re­quires civ­i­liza­tion. What would I do if civ­i­liza­tion took a tum­ble and we all lived like an­i­mals? It could hap­pen. My skills wouldn’t hold up in a world where hog ren­der­ing and fire build­ing are the most im­por­tant tick­ets to success and din­ner. I’m afraid I’d be some­what use­less in a world ruled by the first guy who could fig­ure out how to roast a chip­munk in a trash­can. Well, I’m go­ing to pre­pare for that even­tu­al­ity, just in case our elected of­fi­cials de­cide to jump over the fis­cal cliff and take us with them. I’m go­ing to learn a fall-back skill that will still be valu­able even as civ­i­liza­tion goes to heck in a go-cart.

So, it’s de­cided: I’m go­ing to learn how to hol­low out tree stumps and turn them into toi­lets. Ev­ery­one has to go, even­tu­ally. I could put up a pri­vacy screen, charge one roasted chip­munk per fam­ily, and be in busi­ness, so to speak. And I could learn to make soap. Af­ter you’ve spent a pleas­ant af­ter­noon visit- ing the “lit­tle tree stump,” you’re not go­ing to want to re­turn to your makeshift hut with dirty hands. So, each fam­ily will get a lit­tle cake of soap in­cluded in their low pay­ment of one measly roasted chip­munk. If the big crash does come, I’ll be pre­pared, and you’ll know ex­actly where to find me. Just look for a sign that says “Hon­est Dave’s Fam­ily Bath­room Em­po­rium” and come on down. But re­mem­ber one thing: I like my chip­munks roasted medium well, and you’ll need to bring your own toi­let pa­per.


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