Spoofs & Satire

A Survivor’s Journal

America weathered Y2K, Viagra junk mails, and Web 2.0. But will it survive the next technological crisis threatening civilization?

February 16

11:13 p.m.
Typical evening, nothing unusual to report. Watched American Gladiators and Nashville Stars (latter was recap show—man, they are really dragging this out). Did the dishes, played some computer solitaire. Triple-bolted the front door. Loaded the shotgun.

Fucking Clint. I don’t know how I let him talk me into buying this stuff. He made it sound like the world would end tonight, told me to buy gold and firearms and food. So I stocked up; near as I can tell, no one else bothered. Two grand for a generator I’ll probably never use. What was I thinking?

I mentioned this to Clint recently. I kind of blew my stack actually, yelled at him a bit. He admitted that he may have been alarmist, but basically shrugged it off. “Cut me some slack,” he said. “I said all that last summer, when everyone was on edge. We thought gas prices would go up forever and a Democrat would become president.”

Decided to lock the iron shutters on my windows tonight—I paid a fortune for these things, and may as well use them at least once. Took me 20 minutes to secure the house. Felt kind of silly doing it, but better safe than sorry.

February 17

8:23 a.m.
It’s The Day After, and nothing seems amiss. A few people wandering the streets and looking dazed, that’s the worst of it. What the hell am I going to do with all this gold?

5:58 p.m.
Weird day at work. Most people were fine, but a few seemed discombobulated. During our 10 o’clock team meeting, Marla kept interrupting the agenda with questions about The Today Show. “You guys see it this morning?” She’d ask. “Did anyone outside the studio hold up any funny signs? Or, like, marriage proposals?”

My manager cornered me in my office later that afternoon. “We don’t hang out enough,” he said. “You know, like socially. What are you doing tonight?”

I made up some story about a yoga class after work. “How about after that? Say, 8 p.m. Pacific Standard Time, 9 Central? Your place?”

I don’t even remember what I said to that, but he left looking despondent and pissed. Guess he won’t be coming over.

More people on the streets. It’s getting restless out there. Maybe I’ll use the shutters, just one more time.

February 18

3:03 p.m.
Called in sick. Afraid to leave my home unattended. People have been approaching the house all morning, begging to be let in.

Conspicuous display of the shotgun has deterred most, but one guy continued to plead. “Come on,” he said, “a few minutes of The Price Is Right, that’s all I’m asking. I didn’t think anyone could fill Bob Barker’s shoes, but that Drew Carey is a card.” He broke down in tears when I refused. “Just the Showcase Showdown—that’s all I need.”

I finally gave him one of the converters from my cache. “But you can’t tell anyone you got it from here,” I said. He swore he wouldn’t, crossing his heart while blubbering in gratitude.

7:13 p.m.
He told.

A dozen people gathered around my front door, demanding converters. “My god, didn’t you people see the PSAs?!” I shouted at them. “They aired for a year straight! A hundred bucks and 15 minutes in Best Buy—that’s all that was required!”

But there was no reasoning with them, of course. I retreated inside and tried to ignore them.

They beat on the reinforced door for a quarter of an hour, howling for entrance. I had to turn the volume up to 9 just to hear Charles Gibson.

Then, abruptly, a rock crashed through my front window.

That’s when I panicked—flung open the front door, hurled my remaining converters into the crowd. I can’t even describe the frenzied scene that followed, people scrambling to secure the units. There was enough for everyone—extras, even, as I saw some carrying more than one as they sprinted off to their homes.

But my reserve of converters is depleted, even as more people congregate outside. I have closed the shutters again, sealing myself off from the outside world. I wonder if I will ever be able to open them again.

February 19

3:07 a.m.
Awakened by a commotion. Grabbed the shotgun, took it with me as I snuck out of my bedroom and down the hall.

Six people had taken up residence in my living room, perched on every piece of furniture—the sofa, the armchairs, the end tables—and were, slackjawed and torpid, entranced by Conan O’Brien. As I looked on, a seventh person joined them, entering from the kitchen. It was at that moment that I realized that I’d forgotten to bar the small window in the pantry.

Brandishing the weapon, I entered the room and demanded they leave. They took no notice of me whatsoever, oblivious to my presence, fixated on the monologue.

I sidled along the wall, slipped into the kitchen, entered the pantry. Another invader had his head and shoulders through the window, and was struggling to cram his bulk through the tiny aperture.

I placed my hands on his scalp and pushed. He tumbled backwards, revealing a queue of people outside, lined up at the window. I hastily closed and secured the shutters.

Back in the living room, I unplugged the converter box from the TV. It took my guests a minute to claw their way back from listlessness.

Shotgun ready, I escorted them to the front door. They marched obediently, momentarily sated. But the last turned toward me as he marched outside, and I could see that his hunger was growing anew. I hastily bolted the door behind him.

Watched the end of Late Night. Vampire Weekend was the musical guest. Those guys are so overrated.

February 22

6:18 p.m.
Day five. Cable news channels are running 24-hour coverage of the crisis but can’t agree on a snappy nickname—CNN calls it “The Great Unplugging” while MSNBC has christened it the “telepocalypse.” Fox simply refers to it as “Pelosi’s Fault.”

The President is addressing the nation now. He says that they will stay the course and not resume analog transmissions, that those who failed to prepare for the switch-over must face the consequences of their inaction. I wonder who will tell them, given that they are unable to watch this press conference themselves.

February 23

11:33 a.m.
I have created puppets out of old socks. Every hour I open the shutters of the broken window and, for 15 minutes, reenact scenes from popular programs. It subdues the mob outside my home for a spell.

They don’t seem to notice when I switch from Seinfeld to Friends to Everybody Loves Raymond in mid-story. But repeating any scenes I have performed before results in outraged cries of “rerun” and a resurgence of hostility. Alas, I am down to a two-day store of remembered plotline. Early today I had to resort to argyle socks and a recreation of Antiques Roadshow.

February 25

11:14 p.m.
I spent much of the morning feigning laughter into the microphone of a tape recorder. I’ve found that, if I play it back at key moments during my hourly performances, the Underentertained (as E! is now calling them) will chuckle right along. In fact, I don’t even have to make jokes—as long as my words have the right cadence and pauses, they will join in the prerecorded laughter that follows. With this discovery, I think I can hold them at bay indefinitely.

February 27

9:34 p.m.
Chaos, as the Underentertained caught wind of the two-hour Prison Break season finale airing tonight and redoubled their siege on homes equipped with digital TV. Nationwide riots, according to CNN.

Twenty minutes ago the power failed, blackouts across the city. I fired up the generator just in time for the opening credits. Oh, Michael Scofield, how will you get yourself out of this one? I mean, you’re in this prison, but your tattoos show the blueprints for the other prison!

February 28

7:44 a.m.
Power still out. Underentertained are now flocking to the few houses in the city with generators, including mine. Have to do twice as many shows a day. Socks getting threadbare.

March 2

5:52 p.m.
Out of gas.

7:11 p.m.
I opened my home to the Underentertained, welcomed them in to verify that I no longer had power. Many touched the plasma screen sadly before wandering off in search of another home. Some even expressed their condolences.

In a way, I’m glad it’s over. After nearly two weeks of confinement, the peace and quiet is a welcome relief.

I picked up a copy of The Omnivore’s Dilemma from Amazon a few months ago on the recommendation of a friend, and have been meaning to read it since then. I think I will light a few candles and give it a try. Honestly, it will be a welcome change of pace.

7:14 p.m.
You know, I’m pretty sure Clint bought a generator, and probably stockpiled more gasoline than I. Maybe I’ll wander over to his house, see what he’s up to. Been meaning to visit him for a while now. And Dancing With the Stars starts at 8:00.