There are two kinds of people. Those who prepare for the upcoming collapse of civilization, calamitous natural disaster and/or zombie apocalypse... and the rest of us. But I do try to hedge my bets. Whenever I see a new book about coping with the worst, I buy it and put it on my disaster bookshelf.
Yes, I have an entire shelf devoted to books about emergency survival, including titles like The Special Air Services Survival Handbook, Preparedness Now! and How Not to Die.
I figure that if the world ever starts seriously going to hell, I can consult them.
So when the library where I work added Last Minute Survival Secrets: 128 Ingenious Tips to Endure the Coming Apocalypse and Other Minor Inconveniences to its collection, I bought myself a copy for the shelf. Written by humorist Joey Green, author of The Mad Scientist Handbook, it's packed with quirky DIY tips for coping with everything from a power outage to the total collapse of life as we know it.
"In the wake of a major disaster or calamity," Green promises, "you'll... know how to make a radio antenna with a Slinky, revive a dead car battery with aspirin and start a fire with potato chips."
Skimming through the book before shelving it, I learned a lot. And while there are certain skills I'm unlikely to ever need -- such as how to avoid detection from thermal imaging cameras with a space blanket -- it's good to know that I can now, if necessary, create a functioning emergency toilet from trash bags and Kitty Litter.
And I now know how to defend myself with a ball point pen, which is bound to come in handy for library work.
Even better? I can fashion that pen -- plus a few other items easily found at the circulation desk -- into a dart gun! What a great way to respond to the irate patrons who go ballistic when I tell them they have to pay a fine. (And, of course, when Zombies attack the library.)
I anyone gets up in my grill, I can take them out with the nearest Bic! (And if our copy machine breaks? I'll just fashion a temporary replacement with dishwashing liquid and Vanilla Extract.)
Here are just a few of the other interesting factoids and tidbits I learned from Green's book:
Vinegar neutralizes the effects of tear gas and pepper spray.
Water doesn't need to be boiled to be safe to drink. Heating it to 150 degrees F for 20 minutes sufficiently pasteurizes it.
Pampers can absorb 300 times their weight in water.
If you're unable to wash a minor wound, lick it. Scientists have found that histatin, a small protein in saliva known to kill bacteria, greatly speeds the healing of wounds. (Which explains why animals lick their wounds.)
A helmet made from a plastic bucket does not meet the standards of the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
In 1985, Space Shuttle astronaut Jeffery Hoffman became the first person to play with a Slinky in zero-gravity.
A stack of quarters weighs an ounce.
In 2010 Dr. Elena Bodnar created a bra that can be turned into a face mask which protects the wearer from lethal chemical attack.
Humans can safely drink water that contains less than 0.5 percent salt. (Seawater contains 3.5 percent salt.)
Mosquitoes hate the smell of Vicks Vaporub.
Outdoor Fresh Bounce Fabric Softener repels mosquitoes. (And rodents!)
But if you do get bitten? Applying Listerine to mosquito bites will stop the itching.
Tabasco Sauce will neutralize the pain of an excruciating toothache.
When a 22-year-old gunman shot Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and 18 others outside a Safeway in Tucson, unarmed shoppers took down the gunman with a lawn chair and ballpoint pens when he stopped to reload.
You can get rid of skunk odor with Massengill Disposable Douche.
Should disaster ever strike my Philadelphia suburb? You'll probably find me cowering under the bed. I'll be the librarian fashioning a Molotov cocktail from tampons.
(First published by Womens Voices For Change.)