How is Robert |

How is Robert

Barry Smith

On this beautiful spring day in May, my thoughts are with Robert. Is he, I wonder, still naked and bleeding and crawling through the woods with a handful of tattered, muddy, Internet printouts in his hand? One can only hope.

Way back at the turn of the millennium, I got swept up in the threat/promise of Y2K more than I can admit without embarrassment. Somewhere around the summer of ’99 I started looking into it as a real possibility, and as the months progressed toward 2K-Day, I was pretty convinced that the feces was going to hit the rotary oscillator in a big, bad, apocalyptic sort of way.

I used every personal navigational tool that I had at my disposal; my power of reason, my discerning intellect (pause, wait for laughter to die down), the signs, signals and synchronicities that I take as guidance and just the plain old feeling in my gut. All of these told me “yes, yes, yes, the time of reckoning it at hand,” so I reckoned I had better do something about it. Most of this “something” came in the form of acquiring dried beans, which I have not yet finished eating. (Please contact me about purchasing. Serious inquiries only.)

By the time I met Robert in September of 1999, it was a seller’s market for paranoia, and I had my checkbook out. He was holding a Y2K community preparedness meeting, and he was throwing down the paranoia like a snake-oil salesman during an eclipse. He was from Canada and lived in a “community,” which, I later found out, consisted of him, a whole lot of women and the many kids they had bore him. Obviously Robert was using millennial fever as an excuse to stock up on more than canned goods.

According to Robert, the powers that be (hereafter “they”) were planning a massive clampdown on the population, and crashing computers was a manufactured excuse to declare martial law and pass the Patriot Act, start tapping your phones and emails, taking pictures of your tallywacker at the airport, arresting you for shooting video of cops beating people, hassling you when you try to download “Game of Thrones” from Pirate Bay and make gas cost $4 a gallon and, wait, sorry, that’s a dystopian future that not even Robert could have imagined.

The point was: They soon will be after you (me!), so you better have a plan.

Robert had a plan. He had created a big glossy poster with all kinds of Web pages listed on it that tell you how to build a house, raise kids, grow food, hunt, make clothes, etc. Since all of these skills soon will be forgotten, Robert’s suggestion was that we should print out every single page from every single site listed on this poster, then run to the woods with this printout when the hammer drops. They eventually will consume themselves with hatred and power struggles, and that’s when you (or, specifically, Robert), will emerge from on high, Web printouts in hand and be the founder of a new civilization! Praise Robert!

And yes, these posters were for sale. Fifteen bucks. I still have mine somewhere.

After our weekend gathering, Robert was heading back to Canada to begin making plans to move his community/harem deep into the woods of British Columbia, preserving the kernel of hope for all of humankind. He urged us to do the same in our community or, if we were single, attractive women, to come and join him in Canada.

“I’m prepared to be crawling through the woods, naked and bleeding, if that’s what it takes,” Robert said of the level of his commitment to saving the race.

And now, 14-plus years later, I find myself wondering about Robert. Specifically, what did he use to print out his civilization manual? Because laser printers were expensive in 1999, and ink-jet printouts don’t do well in the dampness of the Apocalypse. Nothing worse than flipping to your “How to Make Clothes and Cauterize Wounds” page and finding just a big black smear.

At some point in the past decade and a half he had to have crawled to the edge of the woods, peered through the underbrush and seen a fully operational Tim Hortons. Did he excitedly buy a dozen donuts to take back to his group, skipping merrily through the forest, eating half of them along the way? Or maybe he thought it was a trap and crawled back into the woods, still naked, still bleeding, donut free.

If so, then crawl, Robert. Crawl like the wind. The human race is counting on you.

Barry Smith’s column appears Mondays.

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