Aside from being unwatchable, most apocalyptic movies that show the end of civilization-as-we-know-it tend to have several things in common. They often begin with a leading man with the brains of a nuclear physicist but the body of an underwear model as he comes across and eventually saves a precocious young kid who was on a school trip when disaster strikes. That kid’s mother is usually a world-class scientist who predicted the event but was ignored because of misogyny and the Finnish president, and it is she who must now juggle maternal instinct to save her child by trying to save the world (*slow tear down cheek*). Eventually all characters meet by chance moments before they see a montage of speeches by world governments telling their people to pray and, finally, dart around falling skyscrapers as a tsunami/earthquake/nuclear weapon/alien aircraft/Josh Brolin follows until abruptly defeated.
Cue the sunrise of hope.
But there is also one other facet of apocalyptic survival. A darker shadow group of mercenary individualists hiding in shadows: the club. Whether weathering withering aliens or crashing meteors, you’ll always find a secret members-only group of incredibly wealthy people who knew it was coming the whole time. It is they who have the underground shelters, the nuclear bunkers, the rations of food and the hazmat suits for the nuclear winter. They have the world’s last chicken and it’s best wine bottle. The movies set them up to be undeserving hoarders, and they usually don’t survive until the end.
But in the real world, they very much do. Take the pandemic in New York. When it hit the city, richer people got the hell off the island for their sprawling beach houses and mountain cottages, leaving everyone else here to fight over toilet paper (figuratively speaking, Yours Truly has a Muslim shower and so is immune to this American weakness) in small, dingy apartments. I spent most of my quarantine hate-scrolling through real estate websites wondering why I didn’t have a million-dollar Spanish revival villa on the shores of Crete to while away the months.
When it hit the city, richer people got the hell off the island for their sprawling beach houses and mountain cottages, leaving everyone else here to fight over toilet paper (figuratively speaking, Yours Truly has a Muslim shower and so is immune to this American weakness) in small, dingy apartments
While it is no secret that those with more resources have a better chance of surviving life, the recent vaccine roll-out has made me deeply triggered. When the vaccine was announced the messaging was careful to suggest only older people or frontline workers could get it. In most of the world that is still the case. But it feels like everywhere I look people are sporting stickers of “Just Vaccinated” or brandishing government vaccine cards that now have the street value of a designer handbag. While most of the vaccinated are older, I’m obsessed with trying to find out how the 20-something skateboarder who lives in the apartment below me has a “Vaccinated Household” note on his door like this was a Biblical culling and Moses only found enough time to tell him.
It feels morally unfair that some wait in lines while others can game a system. Actually, that’s not true. It feels morally unfair that I – not skateboarding Jason from downstairs who doesn’t take out his recycling, but little old unvaccinated me! – should be stuck in a room hyperventilating when he pretended to have asthma for ten seconds and is now out all the time.
So suspicious was I that I started hanging around pharmacies at closing time because I heard they give away unused doses. Turns out that’s not entirely true, which is disappointing, but then my doctor called unsolicited to schedule an appointment in six weeks because she thinks everyone will be able to get it by then.
Everywhere I look people are sporting stickers of “Just Vaccinated” or brandishing government vaccine cards that now have the street value of a designer handbag
When I pause to think about the capitalist systems that the pandemic arrested, I realize things have always been this way. Resources – not just money, but things like time, support, awareness, networks, access – are not equally distributed and never have been. Something like a vaccine, that is supposed to be given to everyone, makes those inequalities feel crushing.
For now I’m grateful that my parents have been inoculated. That we are even able to speak about a vaccine exactly a year after initially dealing with the disease is miraculous. We are, all of us, within spitting distance of being able to, well, spit distantly again. Not that one ever should, unless you see a vaccinated skateboarder in your neighborhood.