If you were foolish enough to open this link, you are probably wondering, looking at the title: is it a guide made by an idiot, or a guide for the idiots? And are the two mutually exclusive? The jury is still out on that. In this post I’ll give some general shit-storm coping tips based on my, unfortunately, relatively vast experience. It’s all written just for laughs, surely it will all be fine, no reason to worry (while you should definitely not panic, this never helps, seriously, I really mean this last part).
- Things to rely on in a crisis
- Crisis must-have list
- Things you don’t really need
- Crisis tips and tricks
5.2. Bicycle spare tubes
5.3. Frozen bread
Unlike that wuss Bear Grylls, most people from the former Yugoslavia, especially those older than 40, have had their share of real survival experience and more training than they had asked for. I wasn’t “fortunate” enough to live in Sarajevo, while Serbian forces held it under siege, with not enough food, water, electricity, and with snipers killing anyone who came into view. But I have lived in Novi Sad, Serbia, and we too have had our share of excitement – mostly due to the “wisdom” of our leadership and average Serbian patriots.
So I’ve had a chance to experience inflation with money being worthless (my family living on about 10$ per month), water and electricity shortages, most products being scarce due to international sanctions, with a cherry on the top of the cake’s icing in the form of US-lead bombing of the entire country, including my city.
This morning, I came home from training and took a shower – “in the middle” of the Corona virus crisis. And I thought: it’s so cool having hot water and electricity, if this shit keeps up, who knows how long that will be the case. Because, if this virus thing keeps up (and for now there’s no information that would convince me it won’t), we can expect to see a breakdown in supply chains, health and social services, as well as basic infrastructure (like plumbing, electricity etc.).
So this inspired me to write this post – hoping that the more experienced people, especially the neighbours from Sarajevo, will add their own “tips and tricks”.
2. Things to rely on in a crisis
In a real crisis, practically anything goes. Suppose most US and EU folks are in for a surprise. Would even go as far out to say that even the marines and the other military veterans might be a bit surprised – since, at least to my knowledge, US an EU armies haven’t had a situation of a total system and logistics breakdown, even when they were out invading oil rich countries.
However, there are things one can rely on, even, or, especially in a crisis. So let’s get to those:
Shitstorms bring out the best and, especially, the worst that people can offer.
“Choose a job you would do if you were rich enough to not have to do any job” is a wise advice for career choice. In the times of crisis, especially when there is no law and order, you can expect people to do what they would if there were no punishments to be expected (“dance like no one is watching” 🙂 ). The worst, sickest things you can imagine a person could do to another, as well as nicer and more self-sacrificing than you could imagine are very likely to occur. Shitstorms, not alcohol, show what people are really like – deep down.
Priorities will change – both personal and business.
When every day could be the last, long term plans are a lot less relevant than day-to-day stuff. And even the day-to-day stuff often gets shifted. Things that are needed for survival become a lot more precious, than art and beauty. Plumbers and mechanics become more “valued” than professors and lawyers. Doctors and dentists, unlike priests and “Jesus”, can really help and save you.
You can’t eat money – especially in a bank.
Banking systems might collapse. Get all your savings into good-old cash. Even more importantly: realize as soon as possible that water, food and fuel are useful, and cash in and off itself is good for wiping the ass. Prices might skyrocket. Currencies might collapse.
Canned food is good for a lot longer than the best-used-by date says.
Tried and tested. It’s a fact – don’t let the “cover my ass” regulations fool you. That’s just for normal times, when people with a bad stomach might sue the manufacturer using a good and greedy lawyer. As the Americans say: “we eat what we can, we can what we can not.” 🙂 Canned food is your friend. As well as the spaghetti.
The police and the military (as well as the doctors) will likely be tired and nervous
Long hours, lots of stress, too little sleep – it builds up. People can be jumpy, harsh and easily agitated.
It will pass.
Most importantly, with the bad times, just like with the good times, if one thing is 100% certain, it’s definitely this: it will pass. Which can give you hope and help lift your spirits. Life goes on. Based on the previous experience with several crisis in my country, “life goes back to normal”. Both my grandparents, parents and myself haven’t done anything during the previous shitstorms that we would consider immoral (though that is a very relative and subjective term). We had done many illegal things, but never something any of us would be ashamed of admitting (without a fine/prison threat at least). However, many people had been jerks. Does being a jerk pay? Mostly. You can make things better for you, at the expense of others. And when things settle down, it mostly gets forgotten (“I had to do it, I have children…” and similar excuses are usually met with an affirmative and understanding nod). The only exception was at the end of the World War 2, when communists did put many people on trial and many were shot – deservedly in my opinion. If you can sleep well knowing you were a dick (though a person seldom realizes when they are being a dick) – by all means, go for it – it will make your life easier. Compassion and self sacrifice doesn’t pay – it just looks good in the films. Based on the experience of my family, and other people I know, being “the good guys” doesn’t help you have a better life, have more money, or save your health – it is quite costly and usually ends up tragically (I’ve got no live male relatives over 50, though my mother’s father got to see the age of 77). So one’s own conscience and peace of mind are the only rules to follow when the excrement hits the air circulation enhancing appliance.
In case I’ve forgotten anything, please use the comments section (just mind the etiquette).
3. Crisis must-have list
Stuff in the picture above is more valuable in a crisis than the newest iphone (Amazon affiliate link 🙂 ). Basic tools needed to fix stuff. Good trusty pliers, hammer, multi-tool (with a decent knife), duct tape, zip ties, nuts and bolts in various sizes, and WD-40. WD-40 is like gold: it lubricates stuff, loosens the stuff that’s rusted together, disperses any moisture from electrical contacts (like when a car just won’t start)…
If you have basic knowledge in electrics and electronics – you should also make sure to stock on old electric appliances and car batteries, as well as some tin and soldering iron, because if there’s electricity cut-outs, making light using electricity is still a lot safer than using candles and stuff.
Personal hygiene: toothbrushes, toothpaste, soaps, shampoos, toilet paper – in that order of priority.
People who live in large cities are likely to have a lot more problems than those in the country – when there’s no water and/or electricity.
Books (you can never have too many books, especially if you are not in a position of having to move) and social games like cards, chess, or FRP (Amazon affiliate link – used, like other on this page, to make crazy profits from other people’s fears – it will surely all be fine) are necessary to keep sanity and pass the time, especially in the winter.
Good winter jacket, good autumn jacket and sturdy outdoors trousers, or denim, are a good choice.
Good winter boots. Quality hiking ones are very good, durable and waterproof. These things are probably the most precious (in the 90s crisis, I wore my grandfather’s old army boots, since we couldn’t afford any decent new ones, while cold and wet feet are a serious health risk).
Good quality dishes, fuel canisters, flour storage etc. are all very, very handy.
UPS for a computer is also probably a good idea – make sure your modem/router is connected to it as well. Spikes when electricity goes on and off can kill those gadgets, so a good UPS is a must. APC is the only one that works properly (Amazon affiliate link).
Bicycle is a very reliable means of transport, that can be adapted to even haul some tools and supplies. It is very cheap to run, even in the times of scarcity. The simpler, the better. Forget the exotic carbon fibre frames, low spoke count wheels, narrow super-light tyres. Modern craze tubeless bicycle tyres are a nonsense – too much hassle to keep them running in my opinion – good old tubes are the king. Lower number of rear sprockets (“speeds”) means that you can run practically any chain (narrower chains for more speeds can be used on fewer-speed cassettes, but not vice-versa, for more details, see my bicycle component compatibility charts). Stock up on spare tubes, tube patching kits (how to patch a bicycle tube) and basic bicycle repair tools (video is in Serbocroatian, but the products are shown), bicycle pump.
I would add whatever firearm is predominant in your area (for easily available spare parts and ammunition). Don’t go for heavy, bulky stuff (this goes for ammunition especially). If you’re a hunter, you probably know a lot more than I do, while if you are in a densely populated city – humans are very vulnerable and any firearm is deadly for them, no matter what the merchants say.
In case I’ve forgotten anything, please use the comments section (just mind the etiquette).
4. Things you don’t really need
Room and storage space is never unlimited. So what are the things that can be spent to make room? Anything that is sensitive, complicated and difficult to replace. Now’s the time to replace a fancy electric car with everything automated for a VW Golf 2 Diesel in good condition. That beast can be repaired in the parking lot and will run on any sort of oil, not just diesel.
This is not a carbon footprint reduction situation – but one where you are fighting for you and your family to keep on making any kind of footprints.
Yet, powerful, big cars that use a lot of fuel can be a real logistics problem. Something small, not bulky, with a manual transmission so that push-start can work when the battery is dead (older models with fewer electronics) is very good.
Most fancy clothes, shoes and dresses are not very practical.
Earplugs / headphones. Now is the situation to be aware of what’s going on. Being able to hear a warning, or an order. Especially in the street, even more so when jogging, riding a bicycle, or driving. Same goes for staring on your phone when walking. Now is not the time to brush against anyone in the street, or get a sprained ankle, or a broken leg.
Again, in case I’ve forgotten anything, please use the comments section (just mind the etiquette).
5. Crisis tips and tricks
Small stuff that make life easier. The little black dress of crisis times. 🙂 Let’s start.
When making eggs, you don’t want to risk one bad egg contaminating all the rest. This goes for any time, but in times of scarcity it is more crucial. So have a spare cup where a new egg is broken, inspected and, if it looks OK, put together with the other eggs. Until you have as much as you need for whatever it is you are making.
5.2. Bicycle spare tubes
Three bicycle tubes can last for a decade. You need two tubes for the two bicycle wheels and one spare tube. Once you get a puncture:
- remove the bicycle wheel
- remove the tyre and the tube
- inspect the tyre for whatever had caused the puncture – so you don’t keep getting punctures from the same shard of glass.
- place the spare tube and mount the tyre back, inflate it, then put the wheel back on (same way you took it off, just reversing the procedure).
- patch the punctured tube – it is now officially a spare tube.
- start over at the next puncture.
5.3. Frozen bread
Fresh bread can be put in a freezer and kept for weeks. Afterwards, take it out, leave it at room temperature to de-frost, and it can be eaten. Not as nice as fresh, but not as bad as stale, week old bread.
I’ll add more stuff to this list as they come to mind. If you have any suggestions, use the comments section below – just keep it civil.
From the army I remember that boredom is a dangerous thing. It makes people be less cautious and do stupid things. Also, if one is in a dangerous situation, or scared for any reason, having too much time just to think about that makes it a lot worse.
Depending on people’s mentality, even when they are in a (small) group, they can get bored. While others can keep from being bored even when alone. Fighting boredom is something to be taken seriously in a Shitstorm™. How does one fight boredom?
I can give some examples that have worked for me. At the risk of stating the obvious. Depending on your particular situation, some of the things might not be possible.
Let’s start with the worst case scenario: you are alone and have no electricity. For such occasions, a deck of cards can do wonders – and it’s small, light and easy to carry. Google single player card games (various types of Solitaire). It’s great for keeping your mind occupied, keeping yourself calm, passing the time and still being alert enough.
Next best thing in my opinion is reading books. Books are a great way of learning, plus, depending on the genre, can “take you away” to another world, making you forget the current situation.
You can also contemplate on any problem you wish to solve (just beware not to think of your desperate situation too much). Or just meditate.
Singing – unless you need to be quiet/hidden, singing, even when alone, is a great way to lift one’s spirits and pass the time. Making a concert by yourself, for yourself – thinking of the happy times. Small instruments like flutes, or small mouth organ are easy to carry and you can play on them.
Keeping a journal. Either on-line, or in a notebook. It will get you to analyze your actions and your thoughts. You can look back at it and see where you’ve been going – both physically and mentally. When people “loose it”, they are often the last ones to realize it. Writing (and reading) one’s journal can help you pass the time, occupy your mind and keep a check on yourself. Plus you get to laugh once it’s all over. 🙂
Learning new skills, languages etc. If you have a computer, Internet and, of course, electricity, you could find all the human knowledge at your fingertips. Give yourself a task of learning something new. Or improving something you already know.
Excercise – if you have enough food and water, you could probably afford to exercise. It makes you feel good and stay stronger and healthier. Even basic pushups can do wonders.
Have a daily routine of tasks, like a schedule. Keep track of time, days in the week. Make Sunday a day for rest and chill. Monday for starting new tasks, etc. This is important for mental stability – sanity if you like.
Computer games – a very nice way of passing the time if you ask me. 🙂 Not nearly as productive as reading, but not nearly as bad as just sitting and doing absolutely nothing, or thinking of how bored, poor and miserable you are.
Make a WordPress website on any topic, or hobby, you are knowledgeable about. Make a YouTube channel in a similar way. How publishing content on-line can help you improve.