Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Life in pre-apocalyptia

As many of you are no doubt aware, most of Queensland is currently flooded.  Over the next couple of days, that will include a nearby town, Ipswich, and the state capital, Brisbane, where I live.  The floods are set to be as bad as or worse than the floods in 1974 that left the Brisbane CBD looking like this:

There have been heartbreaking stories all over the news since yesterday, when an 'instant inland tsunami' descended on the nearby town of Toowoomba.  Luckily, we Brisbanites know what's coming.  It's weird.

I had to go to Coles this afternoon for kitty litter, and made a decision before I arrived to only buy items that I normally would, in an attempt to distract the rising fear in my local area.  After all, that Coles will be underwater in less than 18 hours.  A little last-minute shopping may be called for.  When I arrived, I was a little surprised to find rows and rows of shelves like this:



Longlife milk.

Paper towels and toilet paper.


Fruit (there are only pomegranates left).

Wow.  Okay.  This was 3pm on a weekday.  Bottled water was completely gone, many soups were disappearing, instant noodles were all but extinct and quite a few people were buying chocolate.  I was the only one to buy fresh flowers.

I've been playing Fallout: New Vegas recently, and watching The Walking Dead, and while I love post-apocalyptia, pre-apocalyptia is something I've never really thought about.  Well, a little, because I'm afraid of zombies.  But while I would like to see the world crumbled in the way of Fallout, highways shattered across the landscape and people working together to rebuild their lives, it's pretty incomprehensible to imagine the actual event that leads to such a society.

Don't get me wrong.  Obviously, floods are nothing compared to a nuclear holocaust.  My house isn't even in danger.  We'll probably be isolated for a couple of days, but I have food, and the internet, and my cat.  If the roads remain open for just that little bit longer tomorrow morning, my partner might even manage to make it home before everything turns brown-coloured.  I'm in a pretty good position.

But the frenzy at the supermarket, coupled with the weary resignation of the people waiting for sandbags a couple of blocks away, certainly made it feel like the end of the world.  People were buying similar things to what I imagine they would buy in the event of a nuclear war.  Canned food.  Bread.  Longlife products.  Meat.  Water.  It's only reasonable, and a good idea.  Maybe that's what's so scary.

Queues of people, standing with their groceries, silently watching the pelting rain outside, clutching loaves of bread, worry on their faces, as their children held onto single bottles of water and tried not to put them down. The diminishing pile of sandbags as the line grows longer.  A tightness around people's eyes as they smile, searching the supermarket for anything that may have been left behind.

Luxury items were.  Blueberries were cheap, and the table was full.  Fresh flowers were all on sale.  I bought a beautiful bunch of pink roses and carnations for five dollars.  Juice was apparently not high on the list, either.  I had a fine time, choosing the foods I would normally choose, most of which were on sale.  Toward the end, however, even I became a bit spooked.  I bought two jugs to fill with filtered water, since all of the bottled stuff was gone.  I considered batteries, then realised my torch is kinetic.  I wondered how long it would be before I would taste fresh apricots again.

For us, there's an end.  The uncomfortable silence lies in the waiting, in the inexorable march of a wide brown wall of water, bearing down on our city.  But it will be over.  Life will return to normal, hopefully not too much for the worse, or too slowly.  We'll get bread again.  I don't want to imagine circumstances otherwise.

And that wall of water keeps getting closer.  I'm one of the lucky ones, not having to fear waking up with my books floating across my bed, or my loved ones trying to escape and needing to be rescued.  I want to help others, if I can.  Would I feel the same if the circumstances were more permanent?  Probably not.  Would I have fought harder to get bread?  Yes.  Would I survive?  I doubt it.

Lucky for me it's not the apocalypse just yet.  It only feels like it.

Please donate to the flood relief appeal if you can.  It doesn't take the best of us, only each of us, to make a difference.

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