Survival skills

I have no realistic chance of surviving even your basic apocalypse.  Whether it’s zombies or aliens or robots from space, I’m probably going out in the first wave.

You see, I lack basic survival skills.  I can’t hunt or fish.  I can’t shoot straight.  I can’t swim or run very fast.  I am a software engineer, which means that my main value to society expires when the lights go out.  (Disclaimer: the “value” of software engineers to modern society is still under review.  Just go with me on this.)

As a result, my post-civilization job prospects basically come down to 1) crazy old man who sits around the campfire telling the children stories about the old days when giant metal birds flew around and music came out of little boxes; or 2) crazy old man who lives in a cave and talks to himself about giant metal birds that flew around and music that came out of little boxes.

So I don’t really mind not surviving the apocalypse.  Not just because I’ll be obsolete.  The real reason is that, based on a scientific survey of what’s on TV this week, apocalypse survivors are really horrible human beings.  They’re constantly swearing and yelling and fighting and shooting each other like there’s no tomorrow.  (OK, there isn’t, but that’s not the point!)  Be they the last remnants of humanity, or just a bunch of people stuck on a ship at the far edge of the galaxy, doomed people never seem to find the bright side of being doomed.  (Note: need to find a bright side to being doomed and insert here before posting.)

But until the apocalypse comes, I consider myself pretty well suited to my environment.  My main survival skill is being born in America in the last half of the 20th Century.  This allows me to concentrate on valuable skills like typing and reading, and eschew menial tasks like hunting and gathering.

But as I realized today, life as a non-hunter/gatherer has its downside as well.  Today I was at the grocery store.  Since I can actually cook, though not well and not often, I sometimes come to the grocery store looking for “ingredients”.  Today was different.  Today I was looking for hand lotion.  Just hand lotion.  My hands were dry and peeling.  All I needed was hand lotion.

So once I had picked up cheese, butter, deodorant, macaroni and cheese, and eggs, I immediately set off in search of hand lotion.  Suddenly I awoke to a powerful epiphany.

I have no idea where they keep the hand lotion.

I’ve had this experience at the supermarket before.  One time I went to buy capers, which is an ingredient in veal piccata.  According to rumor, capers are some kind of flower buds used in cooking.  (Note: This is apocryphal, as no one has ever seen young lovers frolicking in a field of caper flowers.)  After searching the condiments aisle, the vegetable section, and the flower shop, I finally discovered that veal piccata tastes fine without capers.  My current theory is that capers are only sold in 16th century apothecaries and in Chinatown.  Possibly on eBay.

But capers are neither here nor there (see above).  I was looking for hand lotion.  So where is the hand lotion?  Hand lotion is for healing dry, cracked skin — first aid!  No luck.  Hmmm, women use hand lotion — cosmetics!  Wrong.  OK, what else is lotiony?  Suntan lotion!  That has a section!  But it doesn’t have hand lotion.

So I decided to fall back on a solution that has served me well in the past.  I asked a passing shopper.  Now, I’m 6’4″ and loud and weird, so I try to be sensitive about approaching strange women, so as not to spook them.  And if there’s one thing that I’ve discovered from watching TV, it’s that women find cluelessness non-threatening.  I refuse to play dumb, but I’m not above demonstrating my stupidity when it’s from the heart.  So I approached the nearest female shopper and said, “Excuse me, but I have a stunningly stupid question.  Where would I find hand lotion, like for dry skin?”  I instinctively stick my hand out at her to show her my dry skin, as if this will somehow convince her of my sincerity.

She’s very helpful.  She tells me the name of a really good hand cream that her husband likes because it’s unscented.  But she’s not sure where it is.  She points me back at first aid.

The next woman I come upon is wearing a head covering (hijab?).  I’m hesitant to go up to her, because I’m honestly not sure if she’s allowed to talk to me.  But as I walk past, she smiles and says hi (I’m apparently cute and harmless-looking when being the village idiot), so I stop and ask her about hand lotion.  She has no idea, but she does point at another woman.  (I happen to notice when she points that her hand is not dry and cracked, so apparently someone brings her hand lotion from an undisclosed location.)

So I head in the direction of the third woman.  By this time, I’m starting to wonder how well butter works on dry skin.  By virtue of the power of 3 (which is a magic number), the third woman points down the aisle we’re standing near and says, “I think it’s over by the shampoo, with the liquid soap.”  Since she’s headed that way, she walks me down the aisle like I’m a lost child looking for his mother.  We stop, right next to the cosmetics I looked at before, and she points to the bottom shelf, which is laden with hand lotions.  I had walked past them three times, but failed to look down, because no one would have the audacity to put hand lotion on the bottom shelf.  Such things are unheard of in polite society.

So now I have hand lotion, and my hands are soft and supple.  I hope the zombies appreciate this when they come to my cave to hear stories about the giant metal birds.  Otherwise I might have to swear at them a lot.  And nobody wants that.

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