After last week’s declaration of a moratorium on lunches out, in the interest of getting things done for my rapidly approaching across-country move, I slipped up at the end of the week and had one more. Maybe that was a good thing in the end–or maybe not, in that as a result of it I may have to rent a U-Haul just to get me and my cats, our personal paraphernalia–and, as I’ve just been instructed, disaster equipment–from the east to west coast.

A moving van will take the bulk of what’s going, and every day I’m working hard to diminish the amount of that bulk. I had thought that the cats and I would easily fit into my Jeep, even with room to spare, but since lunch the other day, I have my doubts.

The critical lunch was with a friend, Brigitte, who is a professional Red Cross volunteer who travels to exotic international locations to get things up and running after hurricanes, earthquakes, wars, and other destructive acts of God and man. She knows disasters in all forms and she also knows how to be prepared. It was the how-to-be-prepared knowledge that she applied to me over lunch.

She wanted to know what I was taking in terms of emergency supplies. Emergency supplies? Well, I have ordered some books-on-tape so I won’t get bored and fall asleep as I drive through vast stretches of nothingness. I’ll have two cell phones-the old one and a new one for the new location, so that if one can’t make contact from a certain location, maybe the other will. I have my AAA card and a recently renewed membership, and I have my credit cards. And what else? Isn’t that about it?

Brigitte was aghast. It seems that I was my own worst disaster just waiting to happen for lack of preparedness alone. She began rattling off a list of things for me to go out and get–just in case. It started with jumper cables. Well, yes, those make sense for most of us to have at all times, but how many of us actually have them? So that was #1. Next were two flashlights–one to stay in the Jeep, the other to stay with me if I had to get out of the Jeep. And I need to take spare batteries.

I also need to get flares, garbage bags, a shovel (in case I get caught in a blizzard and have to dig out), salt (to melt ice), towels, toilet paper, some alleged reflective cover-thing that folds into something small enough to fit in a pocket, but unfolded would keep me dry, warm, and reflective (was Brigitte reading directly from Harry Potter?), in case I happened to land outside the Jeep and without ability to get back in, or have access to the inside. Catch is, I must remember to have this wonder garment tucked in my pocket at all times. Most unfortunately, Brigitte cannot remember what it’s called, but says it can be found in drug stores. Drug stores? We’ll see…

And I need a stock of water and food for me and for the cats, litter (for the cats only, and possibly for traction if stuck in snow), and litter boxes with accessories–if you have cats, you know what those are–if not, never mind. These things I had already planned on.

And I need a ‘gerry can’–never heard of that before, but I think it’s a gas can, in case I run out and have to walk 50 miles to get more.

This was sounding very reminiscent of my Aunt Chee, who took it upon herself to always prepare herself, and those she loved, for any all-out calamity that could ever befall a person. On hearing that I would be taking a trip to China, or even just around the block, Aunt Chee would send me the necessary things to get me there safely, no matter what.

And here was Brigitte spouting this endless list as I scribbled it onto a napkin. I’m quite sure she was channeling Aunt Chee, but there was one noticeable difference. Aunt Chee went out and procured everything on the list and sent it all to me. Brigitte was dictating a list that I will have to act on myself if I am to achieve the state of preparedness that she and Aunt Chee are striving for. But when will I have the time to do this in my already cramped and compromised schedule? This is not Brigitte’s problem.

Brigitte is French, and therefore has certain standards about food–even the emergency sort. Aunt Chee was not French, but she might as well have been, given her concerns and standards to which all food, emergency or otherwise, was always held. I had already planned to take some food, for me as well as for the cats, but I held my breath as Brigitte continued…would I need to conform to French standards to survive a disaster? Foie gras, truffles, and champagne served on fine china and in a crystal champagne flute on a linen tablecloth with napkins to match?

Luckily for me, Brigitte is more Americanized than any French person I’ve ever met. I’ve sworn not to report her to the French authorities, but she has openly admitted to liking peanut butter. This is considered a crime against humanity in France. So given that, that she will allow me to include peanut butter in my food stock is beyond major (and a testament to her Americanization), and that makes me very happy. Aunt Chee, concerned with the nutritional value of things, would also approve.

And one more thing I need–a first aid kit with snake bite component. Snake bite? If I were ever close enough to a snake to be bitten, I would depart this world well in advance of the bite being committed, so that does seem not to be a necessary add-on to my ever growing stockpile of survival tools.

What makes me not happy at all is the additional hazard that I just found out I will have to attempt to avoid on the drive out. I had already planned on the possibility of dodging tornadoes and blizzards as I make my way west, but according to this week’s news there are also wild fires blazing across Oklahoma and Texas. Hope Brigitte doesn’t hear about this, or that Aunt Chee doesn’t channel this information to her, or I’m sure I will have to tow a fire truck as well as the U-Haul, just in case…

Perhaps the law of perversity rules, or perhaps it’s the law of preparedness. By being prepared for anything, nothing will happen, and vice-versa. I think this is the principle under which Aunt Chee operated. Considering that, maybe I will actually invest in the snake-bite kit.

Internet Explorer 6 or older browser detected. This website is functional only in Firefox, Safari, Internet Explorer 7+ and other internet standards compliant browsers. Please visit this site using a current browser.