Sometimes when I'm in line at the grocery store, I look at the people in front of me and try to imagine what would happen if we were all suddenly thrust into some kind of emergency situation: disastrous earthquake, robbery--I've even imagined the Target where I shop being hit by an airplane and trying to figure out what exit strategy would keep me and my 5-year-old alive. (The Target on Coleman Avenue is right under the landing flightpath of the San Jose International Airport--so it's not THAT far-fetched of a thought)
These disaster plan fantasies are not the result of parent-paranoia that sets in once you reproduce. And it's not some kind of post-9/11 thing either, nor the result of watching too many bad LOST epsiodes. No, it's more like I just wonder what these strangers would be like in an emergency situation. Like, who would take the reigns and guide the people to safety? Who would be the one to curl up into the fetal position screaming, "We're all gonna DIE!" Who would comfort the child separated from his family?
I've imagined disaster/emergency scenarios since I was a kid. I remember driving around San Jose all day with mom or Grandma on some endless errand-run, bored out of my mind and I would pretend that I had been kidnapped. I'd try to pick out landmarks and figure out if I could find my way home. I'd look for people in the store that seemed trustworthy, and try to figure out how I would tell them, in code, that I was being held against my will.
I imagine these scenarios most when I'm on an airplane, of course. I look around at the people squished into their economy class seats, wondering, first, "Does this look like a group of people that are destined to die together"? And, second, who are the heroes, the complainers, the MacGyvers, and the one most likely to get us all killed? Not that airplane disasters ever discriminate between one plane full of people over another--It's pretty much random chance. But I still can't help thinking I'd be able to tell if this particular group of people looked like the cast from a plane crash movie. I'll know it when I see it, but then, it will be too late. And I won't be able to tell anyone about it cuz, well, I'll be scattered in a cornfield somewhere amongst the wreckage and rubble. But I (hope) I would've been the one to comfort others, the one who was the voice of reason.
I think I'm just totally fascinated by the thought of strangers turning into totally different people right before our eyes--shattering all stereotypes or judgments we might have made on their behalf. The people you wouldn't make eye contact with in line at Target suddenly become your surrogate grandma and the guy you thought for sure would run for the exit, all George-from-Seinfeld-like, pushing old ladies and babies out of the way, turns out to be the one to stay and help to the end.
In your disaster daydream, who would you be?