You know those exercises where you’re asked questions like which book you would take to a desert island, who would you want at the end of the world with you, or if you could talk to anyone living or dead who would it be? I used to read magazines that had those kinds of quizzes in them about what readers would do if certain situations presented themselves, and I always had a difficult time coming up with answers that could be calculated by the grid following the quiz.
But the one question I generally found easy was what I would save from my house if there was a fire and I was of sound mind enough to think rationally about what physical things are important to me. So, I sat down recently and thought about those physical things currently in my house that I would want to survive a fire, and I forced myself to narrow it down to the top five — in no particular order — (assuming all people and animals in my home are already safe)…
5. My phone. Normally I would just assume it’s always in my pocket, but since I charge it at night it might be sitting in my living room. In which case I would grab it first because it is honestly my connection to the outside world. Maybe I rely on it too much, but in an emergency it’s probably the best way to get help for myself and my family.
4. My laptop. All of my writing projects are accessible through my computer, and indeed several of them are in files on the computer itself or on my flashdrives. So I would definitely cheat a little bit and include my flashdrives in this particular choice. They’re plugged into the USB ports anyway, so they count.
3. My journals. I have a series of journals that I’ve written in for practically all of my adolescent/adult life. Maybe this is cheating too, but I can’t separate them in my mind or in my process. My thoughts and commentary over the years are encased in those books, and I couldn’t bear to let them burn. Just like my journal on here is personal to me, these are as well.
2. Our honeymoon scrapbook. Most married couples have a wedding album full of all the pictures from their magical day, but we’ve never been traditional. My wife spent a lot of time and energy creating a honeymoon scrapbook because we never had that traditional wedding but our time in Ireland was incredibly memorable. She captured those 8 days perfectly in the scrapbook, and I would like to save it.
1. My U2 collection. I’ve been collecting U2 music and memorabilia since 1993, and I think it defines me more than pretty much anything else. Those CDs are a part of my DNA, a record of my history through lyrics and sound, and even though I transferred all the songs to a digital format there’s something to be said for the physical albums, for the books, and for the concert tickets that tell my own story.
Of course back when I first asked myself that question, when I was thirteen years old, the answers would have been a pack of gum, the Back to the Future video tape, my record player, my Phillies ballcap, and the letter that I wrote to Alyssa Milano but that I never mailed. I wonder where that stuff is now.