Back when dystopian teen novels were, well, novel, the question “how would you fare in a Hunger Games situation” used to crop up in conversations all the time. I assume people asked because answers and their accompanying explanations would, theoretically, indicate how people perceive themselves and others. Except I don’t know if I’ve ever heard anyone say anything beyond a variation of “dead,” so either the question adds no real value whatsoever or I’m hanging out with the wrong people. (Or the right people, upon second thought.)
Anyway, I’ve never shied away from my role of “first to die.”
An actual question and response on a business organization application last semester
Q: If you were stranded on a desert island with a group of people, what would be your role?
(If you were wondering, the org rejected me.)
As you can see, I’ve accepted my lack of survival skills. But after what happened Friday afternoon, I’m reconsidering that assumption.
I went to the dollar movies with Mom to watch Hidden Figures, a film that tells the untold story of three black women who were integral to NASA’s efforts to send the first men into space. Upon entering, we were the only two people in the theater. True, we’d arrived on time—and you never arrive on time to the movies—but even when “20th Century Fox” appeared, signaling the start, only three more people had joined us.
It was just the five of us for a while, so I immediately noticed when a tall man slipped into the back during an Octavia Spencer scene. Maybe I paid so much attention to him because I’m already paranoid about movie theater violence, or maybe it was because he’d entered over an hour into the movie. Either way, I became hyperaware of his every movement.
Trying to discreetly eye him while facing the front, I contorted into a variety of positions and somehow glimpsed the man drop what looked like a heavy-looking backpack beside one of the seats and then leave the theater. An unattended item left in a public place by someone quickly leaving the area, the backpack raised red flags.
It signaled a potential bomb threat.
The next few minutes saw me wage an internal battle with myself, trying to decide whether I should stand up and expose my paranoid self or turn back in my seat and “discreetly” illuminate the backpack—to ascertain that I’d seen correctly, because it did seem unlikely he was planning to bomb just five people—with my phone’s flashlight. A difficult decision because the latter would possibly lead to everyone’s fiery death but would save me some face. After much twisting and turning, I decided on the flashlight.
It was, indeed, a backpack. I shot out of my seat, muttering “that man dropped a backpack” to Mom. I must’ve looked very serious, because she followed me out unquestioningly (which I maintain was equally, if not more, shocking than there being a potential bomb.)
Me: That man, the one who came in just now, he left a backpack. You saw it.
Mom: I didn’t even notice. I heard him come in because he was so late, but how did you see what he was doing? Are you sure he wasn’t one of the people from the beginning?
Me: Yeah, I’m sure. There were five people and I saw him for the first time just now.
Mom: … Is that him?
I whipped my head around to see Backpack Man walk past us, elbow-deep in a bucket of popcorn. He gave us a quizzical once-over, clearly wondering what we could be gossiping about outside the theater.
Me: Yes… *starts to wheeze-laugh*
Backpack Man reentered the theater. The sound of crunching kernels was cut off by the door swinging closed.
Mom: He was just getting food! He just put his things down! Why are you like this?
Me: *expresses my shame through laughter*
So, in terms of innate survival skills, I got the short end of the stick. My common sense is lacking. I have zero sense of direction. I don’t know how to start a fire. But what I do know is how to recognize where there aren’t bombs, a skill I would say is preceded by few in significance, except, I guess, pinpointing where there are.
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