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 V.14 No.33 | August 18 - 24, 2005 

Feature

Survival is Not an Option

A visit to Surplus City

I drove away from Surplus City (10805 Central NE, 292-7131) in my decrepit '60s compact last week in a simultaneous state of panic and dejection, knowing that the end of mankind was just around the corner. Just as ramshackle as my car, Surplus City is one of those strange and eerie yet amazing places that houses a crap-ton of weird stuff. Some might say junk; I say relics of the past. From military paraphernalia, old electronics, clothes and kitchenware to a million parts to things that I just essentially see as widgets, a whole amalgam of extra mass-produced things from bygone decades awaits a non-discerning shopper. As I roamed the store, encountering strange residues, smells, colors and conversations, I saw the aforementioned widgets, picking up the most interesting ones and thinking, "I don't know what this is, but I'm sure I'll need it to survive when the apocalypse comes."

After meandering through the store for roughly an hour a man wearing camo asked me if I needed help. After he pointed me towards the survival manuals and confirmed that the store did have gas masks he asked me if I needed anything else. Sounding like a boob, I said, “Say the apocalypse comes, what kind of supplies will I need that I can get here?”

David wouldn't give me a last name, saying he wanted to "blend into the fabric of the continuum" until he was gone, but he did tell me that in an apocalyptic situation (think nuclear, not biblical), aside from government officials who, according to David, will retreat into lead-lined bunkers which would be their graves, we would all be dead in a matter of days. He said people could be treated with an anti-isotope iodine solution, which helps in offsetting radioactive intake but doesn't really work. Otherwise, we'd die nauseous, diarrheic, bloody, toothless, hairless deaths over a few mentally horrific days during which contaminated people would be alive, but essentially dead. Afterwards, fires would burn for hundreds of years in a nuclear winter situation, and according to David, everything would be contaminated and dead. All of this, he said, could be the result of just two suitcase-sized atomic bombs.

While speculating about humanity's ability to destroy itself is unpleasant, even trite perhaps, what made my unexpected intake of this information worse was that David told me he, as well as the U.S. government (and, I assume, most apocalyptic conspiracy theory guys), were expecting an attack at any moment. While this kind of thinking reminds me of Y2K and orange alerts that just spawned and spawn useless fear in the minds of blockheads, I bought into it at that moment and panicked. "Don't feel bad about it," David said, "mankind's done pretty well for itself. Life will flourish again."

While assuming what I was told was mostly wild conjecture (what do you expect when you ask someone about the apocalypse?), the fact remains that for more reasons beside the possibility of nuclear war tomorrow, the survival of humanity is never a sure thing. Asteroids, super volcanoes, magnetic shifts, epidemics and environmental destruction, just to name a few, are all very possible scenarios that we could spend our time agonizing over, but why worry when survival is uncontrollable?

David seemed unburdened by his imminent demise and that of humanity, despite his detailed knowledge and assumption of certain doom. In a universe with no edges, our individual survival is quite insignificant.

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