Books · Lifestyle

How to Survive a Zombie Apocalypse or Repel an Irate Library Patron

There are two kinds of people: those who prepare for the upcoming collapse of civilization, calamitous natural disaster, and/or zombie apocalypse. And the rest of us. But I do try to hedge my bets. Whenever I see a new book about coping with the worst, I buy it and put it on my Disaster Bookshelf. 

Yes, I have an entire shelf devoted to books about emergency survival, including titles like The Special Air Services Survival Handbook, Preparedness Now! and How Not To Die. 

I figure that if the world ever starts seriously going to hell, I can consult them.   


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So when the library where I work added Last-Minute Survival Secrets: 128 Ingenious Tips to Endure the Coming Apocalypse and Other Minor Inconveniences to its collection, I bought myself a copy for The Shelf. Written by humorist Joey Green, author of The Mad Scientist Handbook, it’s packed with quirky DIY tips for coping with everything from a power outage to the total collapse of life as we know it.  

“In the wake of a major disaster or calamity,” Green promises,  “you’ll . . . know how to make a radio antenna with a Slinky, revive a dead car battery with aspirin, and start a fire with potato chips.” 

Skimming through the book before shelving it, I learned a lot. And while there are certain skills I’m unlikely to ever need—such as how to avoid detection from thermal imaging cameras with a space blanket—it‘s good to know that I can now, if necessary, create a functioning emergency toilet from trash bags and Kitty Litter. 

And I now know how to defend myself with a ballpoint pen, which is bound to come in handy for library work.     

Even better? I can fashion that pen—plus a few other items easily found at the circulation desk—into a dart gun! What a great way to respond to the irate patrons who go ballistic when I tell them they have to pay a fine.  (And, of course, when zombies attack the library.)

If anyone gets up in my grill, I can take them out with the nearest Bic! (And if our copy machine breaks, I’ll just fashion a temporary replacement with dishwashing liquid and vanilla extract.) 

Here are just a few of the other interesting factoids and tidbits I learned from Green’s book: 

Vinegar neutralizes the effects of tear gas and pepper spray. 

Water doesn’t need to be boiled to be safe to drink. Heating it to 150 degrees F for 20 minutes sufficiently pasteurizes it.   

Pampers can absorb 300 times their weight in water. 

If you’re unable to wash a minor wound, lick it. Scientists have found that histatin, a small protein in saliva known to kill bacteria, greatly speeds the healing of wounds. (Which explains why animals lick their wounds.) 

A helmet made from a plastic bucket does not meet the standards of the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

In 1985, Space Shuttle astronaut Jeffrey Hoffman became the first person to play with a Slinky in zero gravity. 

A stack of quarters weighs an ounce. 

In 2010, Dr. Elena Bodnar created a bra that can be turned into a face mask which protects the wearer from lethal chemical attack. 

Humans can safely drink water that contains less than 0.5 percent salt. (Seawater contains 3.5 percent salt.) 

Mosquitoes hate the smell of Vicks Vaporub. 

Bounce Outdoor Fresh fabric softener repels mosquitoes. (And rodents!)  

But if you do get bitten? Applying Listerine to mosquito bites will stop the itching. 

Tabasco Sauce will neutralize the pain of an excruciating toothache. 

When a 22-year-old gunman shot Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and 18 others outside a Safeway in Tucson, unarmed shoppers took down the gunman with a lawn chair and ballpoint pens when he stopped to reload.

You can get rid of skunk odor with Massengill Disposable Douche.  

Should disaster ever strike my Philadelphia suburb, you’ll probably find me cowering under the bed. I’ll be the librarian fashioning a Molotov cocktail from tampons. 


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  • Kelly February 21, 2015 at 9:00 am

    Love it! I wonder if vick’s vapor rub works as well as mosquito repellant because it would be a much more pleasant thing to put on your skin to keep those nasty guys away!

  • Mickey February 18, 2015 at 12:15 pm

    Oh, my goodness, Roz. This is so funny! I must let my son read it. He’s doomsday crying all the time. Well, not all the time. Just often enough that … what could I do? Stuff my ears with tampons? Just kidding! Were you joking about the Gabrielle Giffords story? But I wouldn’t be surprised if people did use what was on hand to subdue the bat sh*t crazy person. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I love it.

  • Suzanne Fluhr February 18, 2015 at 11:48 am

    Or you could always fend off those unruly library patrons with snark. Most of them won’t get it, but you’ll feel better. On second thought, if someone starts giving you a hard time, take out your Vicks Vaporub and apply it under (or up) your nostrils while they vent about how unfair their 50 cent fine is.

  • Ines Roe February 17, 2015 at 5:48 pm

    These are all good things to know. Although in a disaster I am sure I would forget all of them and just PANIC.

  • kate February 17, 2015 at 12:55 pm

    So great! Even the zombies are laughing. Thanks Roz

  • Diane February 17, 2015 at 12:53 pm

    I must have this book. And start my own shelf . . .

  • Con Chapman February 17, 2015 at 12:23 pm

    I didn’t realize you had grillz. This must give you street cred when you tells peoplez to use dere liberry voices.

  • Dave Astor February 17, 2015 at 10:33 am

    Roz, I see the irony: a column about disaster tips that’s so good and funny it’s the opposite of a disaster. 🙂

  • Carol Cassara February 17, 2015 at 10:02 am

    I hate the smell of Vicks Vapo-rub, too, although that might have come in handy in india a year ago!

  • Andy February 17, 2015 at 9:51 am

    Thanks for the advice. Are there ways to barricade yourself in your house using self-help survival books?

  • Telly Halkias February 17, 2015 at 9:28 am

    Roz, that is too funny! Unsheath that Bic!



  • Roz Warren February 17, 2015 at 7:52 am

    Toni Myers thanks for sharing that story with us. It’s inspiring.

  • Toni Myers February 16, 2015 at 10:51 pm

    Oh yes, Hillsmom, libraries can be dangerous places where wild ideas run free (I think Jorge Borges said this).
    I would love to visit Roz Warren’s library when she is on desk, to admire not to disrupt!
    When Salman Rushdie was under a fatwa for Satanic Verses, and the University of Washington bookstore wanted to withdraw their copies, our City Librarian, Liz Stroup, asked them and others to give our library their copies. We had readers waiting. My husband was incensed when she said the only thing she cared more about than the safety of her staff was the freedom of ideas. I was never more proud.
    Libraries are the thin red line between civilization and barbarism said Neil Gaiman, though it might on occasion be a patron going wild on that line.

  • mister wonderful February 16, 2015 at 11:10 am


  • hillsmom February 15, 2015 at 10:36 am

    Well thanks for a good laugh even though it’s almost too cold to laugh! I do think you should not let the cat lick your wounds. I didn’t realize your library was that dangerous 8^)

    Cheers from frozen Chesco…