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Taking Charge of That Impending Sense of Doom
An Essay by Diane Roberts

audio Listen to Roberts' essay.

Nov. 4, 2001 -- You're trying to stop watching CNN. All they say is that something is happening but they don't know what. You're trying not to be scared of the mail. You're trying to live normally, whatever that is, while on high alert, whatever that is.

You're worn out, ready to opt out, go off the junk food, off the grid, off the map. Suitcase jammed with bottled water and Cipro, you're fixing to light out for the territory.

This isn't just explicable paranoia, slightly tardy millenarianism or selection B from the evolutionary fight or flight menu. It's now a lifestyle, the “prepared” lifestyle. The prepared lifestyle is not about frozen lasagna or condoms. The prepared lifestyle is about “you” being ready for “it,” whenever “it” comes, whatever “it” is.

"Being prepared is all about being in control, patrolling your own perimeters, taking charge of that impending sense of doom."

Diane Roberts

You might flee to the boonies and build a solar-powered house on a defensible, preferably wooded site full of reasonably friendly meat-bearing animals, dig your own well, grow or shoot your own food. Or you might hunker down in the 'burbs. A lot of houses from the '50s and '60s still have that bomb shelter in the back yard. Get you a Kenmore generator. Pile that garage high with Diet Coke, Dasani, canned tuna and ammo. You can order latex gloves by the case. If you work in a tall building, or spend a whole lot of time in airplanes, you might invest in an executive chute. Bet you can even get that monogrammed.

In what we must now call the prepared community, it is de rigueur to dig out a copy of the "Foxfire" book in case you need to build a groundhog kiln, and order one of those cookbooks which explains how to kill, clean, dress and cook armadillos, possums, snakes and squirrels. Don't worry. In the South, we've been eating them for years. They taste just like chicken. Being prepared is all about being in control, patrolling your own perimeters, taking charge of that impending sense of doom.

Diane Roberts teaches English at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa.