Editor's note: Names have been changed to protect interviewees' privacy.
Bob Valenti, a 40-something from Downers Grove who works at a tech company
“Q3 of last year, I was looking at my inventory and we had four months of rations: rice, beans, noodles. I had a medical kit that you could call a first aid kit on steroids, including several kinds of antibiotics. As this thing started to snowball, I checked my inventory again and one month’s worth of canned meats and canned veggies had expired. So I stocked up a little more. But I’m not worried about grocery stores. It’s not like the utilities are going to shut down and the grocery stores are going to be closed. We are running the dish washer every single day. That has been the single biggest change.
The whole toilet paper thing? I did an analysis. One roll of toilet paper for a family of five will last five days. We happened to have a regular Amazon delivery come fairly recently. And yes, I did buy an extra dozen rolls. We have 40 rolls of toilet paper [on hand]. That’s going to last us 200 days. There’s no reason to hoard toilet paper. There’s no reason to have 100 rolls stashed someplace.
I didn’t add much more to my armory. But when we go out on a walk now, I always carry [my gun]. And I used to never carry. With what’s going on, if we go on a walk, I’m carrying.
We try to limit ourselves to one major grocery store run a week. But we’re not really adding to our standing inventory. What we have now is the max of what we can safely fit in two cars if we have to bug out. But there’s no plan to bug out. I think this is going to be a really slow boring roll for the next six weeks or so.
What could change is if, for whatever reason, the supply chain of food becomes an issue. Then, all bets are off within 72 hours. Hopefully we’ll know about that ahead of time. You’d have to have a mass die-off for that to happen, where you don’t have people to do that work. Today, there’s plenty of people to do the work.
I’ve been keeping an eye on the situation in New York and Seattle. What if the national guard has to get called out to keep the peace in some of these areas that are more vulnerable to significant economic depression? I don’t think that will happen, but if things start to burn, we’ll know that coming out of New York or Seattle before it happens here. Because Chicago is probably 10 days behind the curve. You have to watch your leading indicators. At this point there’s no plan to go anywhere, but Plan B [Valenti’s out-of-town shelter, in an undisclosed location] is always an option. Plan B is ready.”
Pete Campbell, a 40-something advertising executive on the North Side
“I've been calling this ‘apocalypse light.’ I had no idea that during the apocalypse I'd still have to work every day. Wasn't expecting that. [For me], one of the highlights of the potential apocalypse was not having to work. So in that respect, I'd say this apocalypse has been a bit of a bust.
When we talked a few years ago, I described [prepping] as a hobby I hoped I would never have to use and, double bonus, I’m prepared if something does happen. You’re always looking at [potential events] in terms of the zombie apocalypse and these crazy outlandish things that would never happen. In that respect, I guess I am surprised something really did happen.
People have been freaking out. They've been getting stressed. I've been reading about all of the various ailments, physical and emotional, that people have been experiencing. And I kind of feel like this is what I’ve been training for, you know? I wouldn’t say that I'm at peace. But I also kind of feel like whatever happens, it's going to be fine. I'm going to come through it.
I have a friend, and he was telling me about this back in December. He was like, this is how the world-ending virus begins. And as it was unfolding and I was reading about them blocking the streets in China, and how the government stepped in and shut everything down, I was like, this is just like a movie. When it transferred to Italy, I was like, it’s going to get here. There’s no way around it.
In mid-January I ordered four more cases of MREs [U.S. military surplus Meals Ready-to-Eat]. That’s 48 meals. I had some on hand, and I was like, it’s probably time to update my stash anyway. So my current inventory is 72 meals total. When I bought them, they were $140 a case. When I checked a month later, they were going for $260 a case. There’s a lot of criticism about how the government knew about this and didn’t act, or didn’t know about it and didn’t act, and here I am, some guy just hearing this stuff on the internet and I had enough foresight to at least do a little something a month-and-half before the government.
I didn’t think I was going to be trapped in my home and we were going to be living on those. But it was kind of that security blanket, knowing that if it ever did get really bad, we’d have those to fall back on. When people were panicking and making runs at Costco and Sam’s, I knew we’d be all right. But I’m not going to lie: We did make a Costco run ourselves.
I took an inventory four or so weeks ago: I took stock of my ammunition and supplies. I took the guns out of the safe. One is in the night stand. One is by the back door. I made sure my holster still fits if I do need to carry — but I haven't done it yet.
I did buy a water purifier. It’s one of those things that lets you scoop up the water out of a puddle on the side of the road and drink it. Water is one of the hardest things to come by if something goes down. It's too heavy; you can't carry it. So if we were to lose power we would be covered.
Also, I've made sure my car is full of gas in case any kind of exodus takes place. If it gets down below three-quarters of a tank, I fill it up the next time I go out. I don't want to run out of gas if there's heavy traffic leaving the city, or worse, a gas shortage.
One of the things I’ve thought about over the years is, I've always been kind of an apocalypse groupie. Not having to work, surviving on your wits — how fun is that? Now that I’m older and I enjoy my comfortable bed and A/C and things like that, I'm starting to realize maybe the apocalypse is not the Shangri-La I thought it would be. As much as I fantasized about this during my youthful years, now that I'm older and not as agile as I once was, I really don’t really want it to happen.”