Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Z-Kit Failure

Okay, so, Zombie Week! Here goes! Let's see if I can keep this up tomorrow, after my first 10pm - 7am workday starts tonight!(EDIT: I started this last night but I couldn't finish it, so you get it now, Tuesday afternoon, or as I like to call it, "the next day." Working graveyard isn't bad, because when you guys are struggling with rush hour and getting to work on time, I'm driving in the OTHER direction and going to bed.)

This is a fairly light post, as things go (I'm saving the linkdump for later in the week), and it's more of a cautionary tale than an actual essay.

Back in March, I drove from Daytona Beach to Orlando to meet a friend of mine who was working at Disney World for the summer. While this is a fairly straightforward drive that can be accomplished in approximately an hour under ideal conditions, there is usually a traffic multiplier which doubles that -- more so if there is an accident on the interstate, or if transit is attempted during rush hour. So I was ready for a trip of about 2.5 hours, and I had performed the necessary duties of filling up the car, loading the iPod with audiobooks, emptying the bladder, etc.

Now despite the fact that my Z-Kit philosophy expressly calls for me to bring it with me on car trips of this magnitude, I deliberately chose to leave it behind on the assumption that Orlando is a wretched hive of scum and villainy and if my car gets broken into I don't want to lose my Z-Kit along with everything else. You are free to disagree with me on this point if you want, but the fact remains that I was performing a loss calculation and that at the very least I was thinking about the situation I was about to enter. Situational Awareness is a key (perhaps even THE key) to survival, after all.

The problem arose when I failed to account for the fact that without my Z-Kit, a lot of my strategies would fall apart without a backup. To my credit I still had my Car Kit with me, along with the no-name-brand multi-tool I take everywhere, but I hadn't planned for a communication failure.

Specifically, my friend lived in a gated community guarded by Mouseketeers, and I needed to call her once I arrived at the gate to let her know I was there and to please have the nice heavily armed men let me in. But as I entered the city to give her the customary "Hi, I'm 15 minutes out, now is the time to get out of bed and start getting dressed" phone call, I realized that my cell phone was dead.

This happens all the time. I live in a kinda-sorta dead zone and unless I charge my cell every single night it tends to run out juice fairly quickly due to constantly searching for a disappearing signal. But no problem, right? Because this happens all the time, I have a plan for this sort of thing. I'll just pull over at the nearest gas station, get the solar recharger from my Z-Kit, and....

Well, shit.

Some of you are no doubt asking, "Why don't you have a car charger, Palette?" And the answer is, "I do. It just happens to be for my last cell phone, and wouldn't you know it, the adapter doohickeys are different."

Others may ask, "Why didn't you just call her from a gas station or something?" and I go "I didn't have her cell number memorized, and I didn't know her apartment or building number. And I didn't have my laptop with me so I couldn't leech some wifi and send a quick email. No, literally the only option was to find a way to charge the damn cell phone."

This, my friends, is Z-Kit failure. It wasn't especially catastrophic, as these things go: after about 15 minutes of spinning around Orlando I found an electronics store which was more than happy to sell me a non-returnable phone charger (seriously, the receipt said "No Refunds Ever") at a slightly ridiculous price and soon I was chatting with my friend and making plans for how we were going to tear up Downtown Disney. But still, a lesson was learned that day, and I want to pass that lesson on to you:

The best Z-Kit in the world is worthless if you don't have it with you when you need it. Kits don't fail people; people fail by leaving their kits behind, or stocking them improperly.

You may think I'm making a needlessly large deal about this just to write a blog post, and to a certain extent that is true, but that does not render the fundamental lesson invalid. If I had broken down somewhere along the miles of deserted stretches of I-4 without a working cell, the situation could have been much worse.

Perhaps the real lesson here is "Having a good kit does not absolve you of the need for planning." Keeping and stocking a good kit, though, gets you into the habit of planning ahead, and that is always a Good Thing.


  1. This probably ranks right up there with our failure to make sure our weather radio had batteries at the height of tornado season. I'm glad it worked out okay for you, though.

  2. Lesson 2: Always replace the car cellphone charger when you get a new cellphone that is not compatible with the previous one.

    Just sayin'



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