Verner: If end is here, this Bud's for you

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 12, 2012

I’ve finally figured out the real purpose of the ancient pyramids. They were designed to serve as doomsday bunkers where the pharoahs, kings and chieftains could take refuge when the apocalypse arrived.
When Khufu built the Great Pyramid, he wasn’t concerned about his transition into the afterlife. He wanted to have a sturdy bunker where he could wait out the next locust plague or Nubian invasion. That’s why archaeologists exploring the pyramids often find urns of grain, pots of honey and jewel encrusted swords. The pharoahs were really our first urban survivalists.
This realization came a few days ago while I was reading a story in USA Today about the National Geographic Channel’s new reality show, “Doomsday Preppers.” The show, according to National Geographic, “explores the lives of otherwise ordinary Americans who are preparing for the end of the world as we know it. Unique in their beliefs, motivations, and strategies, preppers will go to whatever lengths they can to make sure they are prepared for any of life’s uncertainties.”
Just how prepared are we talking about? These are certified category 10, code purple, scramble-the-bombers worry warts.
In the first episode, the show introduced us to a Los Angeles couple who live in a home built of steel shipping containers, with 50,000 pounds of non-perishable food stored inside. (Wouldn’t it be simpler to just move into a Big Lots store?)
Another couple have made similar preparations because they’re convinced the planet’s magnetic poles will abruptly shift, causing catastrophic climate disruptions.
Then there’s the Arizona guy who’s so worried about solar flares he conducts regular drills in which he and his children practice staying in their underground bunker. This helps prepare them for the stress of living in close quarters, fighting over meals and going for long periods without bathing or brushing their teeth. (While some call this doomsday practice, others refer to it as “taking a family vacation.”)
I’ll have to confess, I fail miserably as a “prepper.” It’s not that I totally ignore disaster planning. I just do it in a different way. For instance, on Monday morning, I always check to make sure I have enough clean underwear to make it through the week. OK, enough to make it through Friday. I think most men will agree that a disaster which strikes on the weekend isn’t really a doomsday scenario requiring clean underwear; it’s an excuse to go to Home Depot and spend three hours looking at portable generators.
Also, I’m obsessive about making sure that, at any given moment, there are at least two cold beers in the refrigerator. I’m still traumatized by memories of the hot July day when I opened the fridge, reached in to pull out a frosty brew and instead came out holding half a can of sauerkraut. No cold beer. Like any member of the media, I immediately thought the government should solve my problem. When I called the federal emergency office, I was told they don’t deliver cold beer. However, the next morning there were two FEMA trailers sitting in the yard, along with the CDC’s latest warning about formaldehyde poisoning.
Part of the problem is that I worry about choosing the wrong survival strategy. Stocking up on canned goods sounds like a practical idea, applicable in many of your common disaster scenarios, such as a hurricane, earthquake or Mitt Romney campaign speech. But what if the catastrophe involves invasion by alien beings whose prime directive is to seize the universe’s stock of chicken noodle soup and SphaghettiOs? Then your bunker becomes ground zero for Armageddon. What if a shift in the magnetic field turns flashlight batteries into miniature atomic bombs, or makes your bottled water glow in the dark? What if you discover that the pallet of toilet paper stored in your cement-walled safe room contains biochemical markers that will enable the one-world-government’s men in black to track your every move across the post-apocalyptic landscape?
And, really, given the nation’s obesity epidemic, is it wise to have three year’s worth of Doritos hidden under the garage floor?
You see where too much thinking about doomsday scenarios can lead. Life’s uncertainties are just too uncertain. However, the fact that I’m not burying K-rations in the backyard doesn’t mean I’m burying my head in the sand. “Doomsday Preppers” has inspired me to take action. From now on, there’ll always be a minimum of three beers in the fridge. If I have to barter for food and clothing, I want to be prepared.
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Chris Verner is editorial page editor of the Salisbury Post. Contact him at or 704-797-4262.