The fruit fly attention span these days is really getting to me. Five years after Hurricane Ivan blew up the Valley, I just lived through another haw-haw-ain't-that-stoopid discussion about hurricane preparedness, delivered by a city guy who figures he'll pull a MacGyver and make everything he needs out of what's handy. We will be tactful and not remind him that he gets hysterics when the copier is out of ink or, worse yet, there are no Fritos in the snack machine. Since this guy won't pay attention to the real lists of emergency supplies, do you think I should give him this one written just for him?
Dear Not So Bright Office Chum,
Fortunately, you are not in charge of emergency preparedness for the company, so the rest of us will more likely than not have what you need should you find yourself stranded at the office. You should, however, take care of your own car safety kit. I would suggest you buy a pre-packaged one, but it's likely to have a lot of stuff in it that you will never in this world figure out how to use. Here's what you may need:
Sharpies: If something big happens and you aren't going to pay attention to public warnings, keep a Sharpie handy to write your name on an arm or leg. Ummmm, maybe both. It makes things easier for rescuers. Hmm. Just in case, keep a large lawn and leaf bag around and crawl into it at least up to your neck.
Peanut butter and crackers and Fresca: If you're going to make fun of the real advice to keep food and water handy, next time you're in an old-school gas station or garage buy a package of peanut butter and crackers from the countertop display. If they haven't spoiled since they were put there in 1952, they're not going to, and unlike a jar of peanut butter, loaf of bread, etc. there's very little chance you'll be tempted to eat them unless you're starving. No offense to those who actually LIKE Fresca, but it would work for your fluid stash for the same reason. You might also like to think about gummi candy shaped like TV characters whose shows were canceled a couple of years ago, cashew packets so old they've sprouted and begun to bear new nuts, the brands of beer no one even bothers to refrigerate, bargain brand plastic snack cakes, or those fake snuff containers full of shredded beef jerky.
Crank or solar flashlights: You're not going to buy batteries, and even if you did, you'd use them for something else beside the flashlight. You probably won't pay attention to where you put the flashlight, either, but hey, I tried.
Midol, Pamprin or some other women's pain reliever: You're never going to leave aspirin, Advil or Tylenol in your first-aid kit, but it's going to take a flaming emergency to get you desperate enough to take any pain reliever in a pink bottle. I also recommend a box of Fluffy Rainbow Pony adhesive bandages because you'll never use those to plaster over where you ran that staple through your finger.
That T-shirt with the embarrassing logo or saying on it: If you carry a regular shirt in your car safety kit, you'll change into it when you have to change a tire. In case of real need, you'll still have the one declaring your loyalty to that politician who went to jail back when, or maybe your support of a sports team that sneaked out of town in the middle of the night. One of those Tyvek painters' coveralls works well, too, because you're not going to grab that when you forgot to do laundry unless you're running to the hardware store to actually buy paint.
One of those cheap multi-tools: You'd probably be afraid to get a fancy one dirty, and odds are you're going to mess it up anyhow, so go for the dollar-store model. Somebody can show you how to use it once you're not laughing at the idea.
Battery-powered tea light: Yeah, the regular kit always says to carry candles, but after seeing you try to stuff 400 pages into a one-inch binder, I don't think you should be handling fire. The tea light won't keep you warm. Neither will that killer fireplace app for your cell phone. No, you cannot download a virtual blanket. Staying warm if it gets cold or you get wet requires an actual blanket or dry piece of clothing. A real candle would be handy for staying warm, but you're apt to get really, REALLY warm. On the other hand, the smoke would attract the rescuers you forgot to call because you were too busy trying to Twitter about the snowstorm you drove into.
Cell phone car charger: I don't know how long your iBerryPod will hold out if you use the whole supply in the car battery, but it ought to be long enough for you to annoy people into coming to get you, provided you don't use most of it to download porn instead.
But seriously, folks, this is a good time of year to look over anything you really do carry in case of emergencies. You never know when you'll get stuck somewhere or get cruddy working on the car. If you do, do you REALLY want to trust to your co-worker trying to make a raft out of copy paper boxes, shipping tape and his shoestrings?