"If this is the way she's going to react to a little thing like a broken air conditioner, what use is she going to be in an Armageddon situation?"
"I hadn't thought about that," I replied honestly.
"No, I figured you hadn't. Leadership is going to be vital, Jack. Can't have women going hysterical in a life-or-death scenario."
"No, I suppose not."
"Check out the "Psychological Factors" section at www.apocalypse2K.com. It's got a whole bunch of stuff about leadership."
"Right. Thanks. Uh...you wouldn't happen to know someone who fixes air conditioners, would you?"
"Who's going to fix your air conditioner in the year 2000, Jack?"
"Self-sufficiency's the name of the game. I gotta go now. There's a squirrel outside the window."
I put down the receiver, went out onto the porch and waited for the bang. It came a couple of seconds later followed by a short silence and then a faint "Goddam it". I was glad. I respect and admire Ralph, but I always secretly find myself rooting for the small animals in his yard.
The main gist of the leadership advice offered by the people at www.apocalypsey2k.com was the need to prepare those who will occupy your shelter with you for what will occur. "A thorough explanation of all factors for survival before the apocalypse will yield great dividends in team cohesion post Y2K. Involve all members in the preparations and discuss fully what is expected of them. Assigning duties and responsibilities now will help them feel involved and committed."
I was unable to find anything about fixing air conditioners, which did not figure amongst the items listed as essential for survival on any of the Y2K sites. I mentioned this to Margaret when I phoned her at her mother's. After a few remarks which left me with the feeling that it was going to take some pretty intensive work on the psychological factors before Margaret could properly be called involved and committed, she gave one of her sighs and said, "For God's sake, Jack, what could be more essential than an air conditioner?"
I saw my chance. "Soap."
"Yes, it's essential, and it's vital to make sure we have some if the socio-economic infrastructure collapses." Here was my opportunity to involve her in the preparations by assigning her a responsibility. The team cohesion thing. "I've decided to put you in charge of soap." There was silence from the other end of the phone. I continued. "Now you'll need to make sure that we have an ample supply of lye and coconut oil."