THE mood is dire in the United States, and who are we to argue?
Doom’s predicted in the Canadian media, too, because if the great ship known as the U.S. Economy sinks, chances are we’re going down with it. Yet nobody in Canada has thought to lasso a lifeboat.
Maybe that’s because this isn’t the sort of emergency that we Canucks tend to expect. We’re more familiar with the kind doled out by Mother Nature. In my neck of the woods, for instance, we’re aware that we’re perched precariously on a coast with delirium tremens. We know we could be struck at any time by an earthquake or a tsunami, not to mention a deluge of unprecedented proportions. Big clumps of mud or rock or snow are always falling off things and onto us, or we fall off things and onto them. The British Columbia resident’s vulnerability to outdoor disaster is enough to make a worrywart out of a Hell’s Angel.
To protect ourselves from major catastrophes, we know we ought to have lots of water, nonperishable food, a first aid kit, spare eyeglasses and cash secreted in some spot that’s unlikely to be crushed when our house falls in.
Such suggestions, however, seem pathetically utilitarian at a time like this, when it’s an economic crisis that threatens us, rather than a natural one. For most people on the North Shore, at least at present, the problem is not that we are likely to lose our homes. It’s that we may no longer have the wherewithal to hire the pruning company to trim the Japanese maples. Painting and verathane-ing the deck could become superfluous. Some of us might have to part with our honkin’ SUVs and settle for déclassé sedans.
Nevertheless, given the economic uncertainty, there’s a lot of morose counsel on Canadian TV and in newspapers about what to do with “all” our investments. Should we buy cheap real estate in the U.S. in hopes of making a killing somewhere down the line, or sell our own real estate now in hopes of not taking too much of a beating as prices deflate? Beats me. For those of us who just have the one piece of property, which we gratefully use as shelter, these discussions are moot. (For those of us who don’t even have that, they’re simply insulting.)
These gloomy media pundits don’t realize that what the middle-class Canadian family is really obsessed with now is maintaining its own status quo, and we certainly don’t wish to be seen as overreacting. Who wants to be one of those frumpy keeners who, the instant the house -- or the economy -- collapses, whips out a kerosene stove, cracks open the beef jerky, and crams the whole family into ponchos made out of space blankets? What we really crave are guidelines for sailing gaily through this mess.
Personally, I’m putting together a family emergency kit for economic recession that has nothing to do with hoarding money. I’ll pack this kit the same way I would for a plane trip that I know will end in a wreck on a tropical island that might spin out into a hit TV series. Feel free to emulate my sensible example.
Tuck something warm and waterproof for each family member into the package, in case electric heat or furnace fuel get too pricey. Choose outfits for yourself in two neutral, complementary tones, such as black and taupe; you can always splash on colour via accessories. Do resist the urge to toss any high heels into the mix. True, they lengthen your legs, but they’re useless when it comes to outrunning packs of feral rabbits.
And just in case we do get kicked out of our houses due to an economic catastrophe, we need a back-up plan for our domiciles -- structures that allow us to look au courant no matter what happens.
It’s always best to consult the experts. So, on your behalf, I used mental telepathy to ask the designer from a home makeover series to devise a Home Economic Emergency Preparedness (HEEP) kit, packed with “the New Essentials.” The kit will be available at selected locations; you can set it up in any old clearing.
Although Random Designer Guy (RDG) prefers to remain anonymous, you’re advised to crack open his cleverly crafted HEEP at the first televised sign of jowly 50-year-old men in wire-rim glasses breaking down in tears about the TSX.
RDG claims that as of this week, we’ll all want to hunker down and cocoon, but in a stylish way -- “Nothing too 9/11.” The kit itself is a 2-metre-high collapsible “shed.” Made of stainless steel, it’s shaped like a kidney, because, says RDG, “We’re trending toward essential organ shapes for fall.”
Once you pop open the solar-heated shed and walk inside, it’s remarkably spacious. Its “calming” aquamarine interior walls are studded with brushed steel hooks, on which all the remaining parts of the kit are neatly hung. The hooks themselves snap together to become a wind-powered Vespa with matching Italian silk scarf.
The New Essentials include:
• fold-out wicker beds with cheerful/spiritual saffron yellow duvets and matching pillows
• a robot that automatically cleans up the shed without any peon-type sass
• beanbag chairs that you can fill with re-purposed squirrels’ nests (Tip: Remove squirrels first)
• a laser-fuelled heating element that, in a pinch, can be used for tanning
• a manual espresso maker with detailed instructions
• espresso cups that will double for servings of soup, cereal and pasta (“You might as well lose weight while you’re sitting around waiting for your house to regain value,” RDG opines)
• a giant sack of oranges because of scurvy, and man’s perpetual need for a centrepiece
• a case of tequila, a case of Margarita mix, and 400 little paper umbrellas
• dried pasta from Italy, in many shapes to avert boredom
• a grater and a giant wedge of Parmigiano Reggiano (“I don’t care if it’s the financial apocalypse, there’s no excuse for Kraft,” RDG says sternly)
• organic food, water and shampoo for your pets
• primitive looking battery-powered tiki torches for “Survivor” ambience
“Why think of an emergency as a bad thing?” asks RDG. “After all, don’t they bring people together, and whatchamacallit and so forth? A little bit of pizzazz can make any eventuality a real hoot. Don’t be glum, chum -- celebrate. As REM sings, “It’s the end of the world as we know it/ And I feel fine!’”