Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Marooned Mind Game

Ever since my teens, I've been playing an odd little mind game with myself. While driving alone, I wonder what would happen if I, the car and all its contents were suddenly transported somewhere else. How long, with the materials at hand, could I survive? The answer depends on a number of factors.

1. Location
Does the car reappear in the middle of a desert with the hot sun beating down, no sign of an oasis? Perhaps I wind up on a small tropical island, with conveniences such as running water and coconuts, a la Gilligan's Island. Sometimes I wind up on an alien planet, inhospitable to life - but in those circumstances, my car becomes a sealed environment with indefinite life support. Sometimes there are roads, however isolated, and I can drive somewhere - perhaps far enough to find civilization, assuming a full tank of gas. Sometimes the car is stuck on a sand dune or a snowdrift. Sometimes it's floating in empty space, or it materializes inside a deep, dark cave system.

2. Inventory
My favourite time to amuse myself with this puzzle is right after I've made some kind of shopping trip: usually groceries, since those tend to extend my survival time, but sometimes after a trip to the bookstore or a stop at a gas station. 

3. Strategy
If I ever did find myself in such bizarre circumstances, at first I might assume I was dreaming or having some kind of psychotic episode. But (in the game), reality would assert itself soon enough, and I'd have to deal with my situation.

First, I'd investigate my surroundings, when possible. Obviously if I were floating in outer space or enclosed in pitch darkness, I'd probably confine my observations to looking out the windows. If I found myself in relatively hospitable territory, I might survey my immediate surroundings by foot, taking care to never lose sight of the car. Invariably, there are no signs of civilization within sight of the car (except for those times when I start the game on an isolated road or within an abandoned town or city).

Returning to the car, I take stock of my situation. How much food do I have? How can I extend the supply? If I have perishables like milk, eggs or meat, I imagine myself preparing and consuming as much as possible right away, hoarding the dry goods for the long run. How long can one live on crackers and soda pop after the good stuff runs out?

Of course, preparation of the perishable goods is only possible sometimes - say if I'm in a forest near running water. Thanks to Jeff and Susan, there's a well-stocked emergency kit in the car trunk, so that kit always appears in my mental adventures nowadays. My trunk currently also includes a shovel, a couple of folding lawn chairs, a tool kit, an extension cord, an old pair of gloves, some cardboard, charcoal briquettes (about five years old now) and usually a bag of empty pop cans and bottles.

My car usually includes at least one book, and often more, so that I'm never bored if I find myself stuck somewhere. These days I also have my iPhone and its USB charger, which runs off the car battery, providing some more entertainment options, and possibly communications.

In the glove box and console there are napkins, hand sanitizer, a flashlight, pens, some loose change. I have the Club anti-theft device - possibly useful as a weapon. I have the car keys, of course. And in my jacket pockets, my gloves (in the wintertime) and often my pocket camera. Sometimes I'll have my DSLR, too; both are useful for documenting my strange adventure.

Sometimes these adventures will end as abruptly as they began, with my sudden reappearance back home. Sometimes they'll end ambiguously as I eke out a new life for myself on a deserted but lush frontier, living out of my car and off the land. Sometimes I'll manage to drive to some new civilization, celebrated as a strange traveller from afar, my bizarre tales inspiring wonder or disbelief. Sometimes I'll starve to death or be killed while exploring.

Of course, it takes ten times as long to describe this simple mind game as it does to play it. Usually it takes me only a few seconds - a couple of minutes at most - to imagine one of these scenarios.

I suppose there's some evolutionary reason for these idle speculations; perhaps running through dangerous scenarios in quiet moments is a survival instinct, a sort of mental preparation for the worst.

Does anyone else out there play games like this?


susan_rn92 said...

I love to imagine I am on a pirate ship. I have never imagined being marooned with the car, I guess because my mind is too practical. The last time Jeff was stuck in traffic for several hours he came home and I asked him if he cleaned out the interior of the car with the Lysol wipes in the trunk.

Andrea said...

When I'm going somewhere, I often see an interesting building and think, "When the Triffids come and most of the population is blinded or eaten, that would make a good place for me to live".
I think it about once a month or roundabouts, so I can very much relate to your game Earl.

"The Jefferprise Incident" said...

An interesting topic that would make a whalloping short story!

Mostly, I play the "What would I do if the guy in front of me crashed his vehicle?" game. Look for exit strategies, stopping distances, and the like.

Sometimes I wonder if the other car was on fire if I would have the guts to try to pull the people out. I have a cousin who did that, most inspirational.

Periodically, like Andrea, I would look out for places that would hold out against a zombie horde. Triffids don't bother me, just don't watch the fireworks... duh! Not like we'd see them in Raincouver, anyways.

I used to imagine that my car was an airplane, but there was a lady here who went off her meds and thought that she was on runway 27 trying to take off. She was pulling back on her steering wheel and gunning the gas up past 150 km/h, and was surprised as hell when her car failed to take off and she rear-ended some family who all got killed.

Even though it is getting old, our eleven year old car is still very sleek. Sometimes I project myself back into my childhood when I was on road trips imagining what it would be like in the futuristic cars of the year 2000. It's kind of cool to match up the real 2000 automobile to the one I imagined as a kid.