Survival is not a matter of luck; it is a skill that requires training. Take notes as the Ultimate Survivor Man shows you how it’s done! It’s the final day of the Ether Books Flash Fiction Competition and today’s entry comes from a series of stories I wrote way way back in the early 1980’s. Originally called “Survivor” – this was decades before the popular reality TV show – they featured a man who went through life deliberately testing and hardening himself to the great challenges of life in the modern Western world, so that he would be prepared for the inevitable day when it all went to shit. Looking back at it now I’m impressed by its prescience, because the Survivor stories were relentlessly mocking the kind of dystopia-fantasy thinking that didn’t even come into fashion for another thirty years, more or less!! The original cover art was a collage that featured a Clark Kent type hauling around a sort of portable toilet. Survivor was prepared for anything, and the things he put himself through – woah! He sat through an entire poetry reading. He tried the pie at a local diner. He deliberately ran a red light. He stayed awake all night. He attended a Midnight Madness Sale at a local mattresss outlet. He was positively fearless! But perhaps no feat was more spectacular and daring than the time he trapped himself in a bank elevator in which was playing the most dreadful muzak. Ladies and gents … The Ultimate Survivor Man and the Muzak Elevator:
I don’t know who told you that life was going to be easy. Well, it’s not. You can’t just go along from day to day expecting everything to turn out fine, just the way you want it to. I’ve seen too many people who went along like this, and the first time trouble came up, they just went to pieces and then some. You get soft, soft in the head. You gotta work at it, I tell ya.
So I don’t listen when people laugh and make a joke about the things I do. I know it pays when push comes to shove and I am ready for it all. And things that might seem weird are really something else, like not weird after all. Like the time I jammed the elevator in the Fourth Fidelity Bank Building. I did it on purpose, but it wasn’t like I’d planned it ’cause sometimes my survivor training is spontaneous like the little things in life.
I was going to see about a loan, but once I got inside that elevator I heard these awful noises and I thought, My God, that’s terrible! This is the worst thing I ever heard. You think stepping in dog poo is bad, just try listening to that! So at first I said this sucks, but then I had an idea. I said I bet it ain’t so bad as that. You see, if you can’t survive the stupid little things there is just no way you’ll make it through the raging rampaging rapids that life has sometimes got to offer when you’re least expecting them. So I shut that sucker down for as long as it took for them to get me out. I was going to force myself to listen to that noise until it didn’t bother me no more at all. So that’s exactly what I did.
You see? They laughed at me for that, but I learned that I could survive even the crappy muzak in a stuck bank elevator for forty seven minutes and twenty three seconds, which is how long it took because those bozos weren’t paying any attention to their job, they was half asleep ’cause it can’t be too exciting to sit there watching the stupid boring monitors all day long for something bad to happen. You get soft that way, soft in the head, like those idiots did.
You don’t want to get that way, as I can tell you from a whole bunch of experiences. So you take your opportunities where you find them, keeping in mind that whatever don’t destroy you makes you stronger, It’d be a lousy statement about your adaptable conditioning if you let some stupid piped-in muzak get you down or wear you out. The same is true for many other things in life. And I don’t care what lousy song they play, but never let ’em get you down, okay? Otherwise, you know what happens. Don’t get soft. Get not soft.