I just finished watching Cloverfield. For anyone unfamiliar, it’s a J.J. Abrams (he of Lost fame) movie that came out in January and begins with a going away party at a SoHo apartment. Before long, there’s a tremor, which causes a brief black-out, after which all the partygoers decide to go to the roof. From there, we see an explosion near the harbor, and then some panic as a bunch of people run down the steps.
By this point, I was already having some problems; after what appeared to be a pretty major earthquage (which, for the sake of this post, we’re going to define as any ground shaking of suitable strength it shuts lights off, however briefly), whose first thought it is to go to the roof? Especially in Manhattan, where the buildings are so many multiple stories tall?
What I liked was that the whole movie wasn’t exactly like that. Sure, some of the characters make some questionable decisions, but amid chaos like that, a lot of decisions are going to come flying, and no one can decide them all well. A lot of times you do the best you can with the information you’ve got; a lot of time, the best you can do isn’t much (or could even be nothing at all), while the information you’ve got is limited (or, again, nothing). After you’ve seen a military stand-off between a handful of soldiers and . . . something big as a skyscraper, retreating to the subway tunnels in favor of being caught out in the open isn’t that bad a decision. Also, constant movement in the best direction possible, when possible, is good; otherwise, cover is your friend. The characters maintain a pretty consistent balance between the two.
I like to think I’m good in emergency situations. I grew up in scouts (Be Prepared), and if I never encounter a situation as uncertain as being in Manhattan on September 11th, I’ll be a happy man. As I watched the movie, I kept thinking of what I would have done. First, no going to the roof. Second, on first sight to the decapitated head of the Statue of Liberty, get my friends who were just at my party together, walk back up into my apartment, quickly grab some supplies, and start walking. Away from the damage. Considering said monster was in midtown, I’m not crossing the bridge to Brooklyn; I’m starting north, toward Harlem and the Bronx.
Along the way, I’m stopping to make sure the women in my party can get more sensible shoes and clothing than the trendy/pretty clothes they wore to my going-away. I’m also making sure everyone is carrying at least one bottle of water, which I’d continue to make sure they were drinking, rather than rationing, stopping to refill as possible/necessary.
Also, and I think somewhat important, I’m not trying to keep control. Not that I’m running with the chaos, but I think the most important thing in any such situation is flexibility to adaptation. I’m starting north because I think that’s the best option, but if better ones present themselves, I’ll take them. I’m with my friends, at least, and if I can keep a group together, safety in numbers.
Most important, of course, is not panicking.
My father got me into Boy Scouts when I was a kid. He was an Eagle, too, and he was my cubmaster and then my scoutmaster and then committe chairperson–he was very often more than just a father to me, and his influence did a lot to shape who I’ve become. When I was 16 or 17, he handed down to me his old stereo system, in which I found some old clippings, one of which was a copy of “If,” I think by Rudyard Kipling, which included the line, “If you can keep your head about you, while those around you are losing theirs,” and I think I can.
Which is probably why I liked the movie. I didn’t love it, and I could have done just fine without seeing the big monster thing, and, honestly, (MAJOR SPOILER, SO IF YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW, SKIP TO THE NEXT PARAGRAPH BREAK), I wish even one of the characters had survived, but it certainly wasn’t bad.
Thinking about emergency prep always reminds me of Making Light, where I’ve learned a lot. One of my favorite posts concerned how the characters in the movie could have (or should have) responded to their emergency; now that I’ve seen the movie, I understand what the author was talking about in which places.
I think it’s stuff everyone should know.