Surviving Boredom

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When I was 8 years old, my family experienced a power outage that lasted for three days as the result of a storm.

We were fortunate in the fact that we had a gas water heater, so we still had hot water and could take showers, and we had a natural gas furnace that kept us warm.

In addition, we could travel about 1.5 miles from our house to the city, which still had power and was operating as usual. We ate meals at restaurants, we kids went to school and our parents went to work. For the most part, life went on like nothing had happened. The life-changing impact came on the home front; my parents were forced to deal with a teenage girl and two young boys whose motto became, “I’m bored!”

As a prepper, when all the basic needs have been met, the second tier of priorities (comfort and luxury items) comes into play. Within this secondary tier fall entertainment items, the No. 1 defense against boredom in any situation. This is especially true when the everyday things that we take for granted, like electricity, have abandoned us. Entertainment during a disaster is limited only to the resources that are readily available. Consider some of these tools currently in use in the war on boredom for addition to your blackout kit:

Cards

There are a literally dozens, if not hundreds of games that can be played with cards. A survival situation will likely provide plenty of time to hone those gin rummy or go fish skills. Put the odds in your favor that you will not run out of games before the crisis is over; scour local thrift stores or garage sales for a copy of Hoyle’s Rules of Games or Hoyle Book of Games. This will ensure not only that you have a wide array of games at your disposal but, most importantly, that your siblings, parents, significant other, neighbor, dog or whoever you are playing against is following the rules. In addition to the variety of games that can be played with cards, they are also cheap and lightweight and they hold up well in almost all conditions. In addition to regular playing cards, there are also several other games that use cards, such as Uno.

Games

Having a variety of board games in the closet can provide hours of family fun. Sometimes, depending on the game, a single round will last for hours. Just like cards, board games can be played by candlelight, lantern or just about any light source, making them a great source of entertainment in a survival or disaster situation. Board games can be found cheaply brand new; or buy used ones at garage sales, thrift stores and other places. A word of caution with used games, though: Make sure you get all of the pieces. Keeping pens and paper handy will provide an option for playing games like tic tac toe or hangman.

Puzzles

Puzzles are another option. While puzzles are something that I am not sure I would be brave enough to attempt to conquer by candlelight, it is reasonable to expect that a 500-piece puzzle could be completed in one day during the daytime.

Music

Music can really make time fly, especially during periods of time that are incredibly boring or painful. There are a variety of portable music players that run on readily available and fairly cheap batteries. The hand crank style of radio is also becoming more common. Have a few CDs and a CD player on hand so you’ll have some music to listen to. An instrument like a guitar or harmonica can also be a great source of music and entertainment for those who have the skill to play. In addition to passing the time through music, having a radio on hand can provide a news outlet to keep up on local, regional and national conditions during a time of disaster.

Books

There is a book to suit everyone. Books can be found free, cheap, reasonably priced or all the way up to horrendously expensive. The significant advantage of a collection of books for the prepper is that while serving as entertainment, books can also serve as a point of reference for important subject matter like natural medicine, hunting, fishing, cooking, preserving food, spirituality and survival. Don’t forget to take into account the age range and ability of the different readers who may be perusing the book collection.

Activity books are another option. They are plentiful and readily available for everyone from young children (coloring books) all the way up to senior citizens (large-print crossword puzzles). Most grocery stores, gas stations, dollar stores and supercenters carry a variety of activity books for all ages in the magazine or bargain section. At a few dollars or less for a sizable book of games and puzzles, an activity book can be the solution to boredom following a disaster or just plain handy to have if you catch yourself waiting for an appointment or a connecting flight.

Toys

Kids love toys, small kids and big kids alike. Keep a few favorite toys in a readily accessible area to help keep the kids busy. If the power goes out, it might be a great time for those toys with all the flashing lights to get a good run for the money.

Hobbies

A period of downtime during a survival scenario could provide the perfect opportunity to spend some time on an existing hobby, get back in to an old hobby or learn a new set of skills that you have been thinking about picking up. Some eligible hobbies might include:

  • Drawing
  • Painting
  • Writing
  • Crocheting
  • Wood carving
  • Jewelry making
  • Fly tying
  • Fishing
  • Hunting
  • Making origami

Storytelling

Sitting around waiting for the ice and snow to melt below the roofline of the house could be the chance you’ve been waiting for to share some embarrassing stories about other family members or yourself. Or maybe you could have a fiction storytelling contest. Maximizing the opportunity to sit together and share stories may provide the chance to learn more about each other or relive old memories. It is these family times that also provide a window to share traditions, beliefs and folklore between generations.

Exercise

The TV not working might be a blessing in disguise. Use the extra time to get up from your chair and go outside and take a walk, have a pushup contest with your siblings, or play a game of hide-and-go-seek with the kids. If the weather outside is nasty, then walk the stairs. There are many exercises that can be done with a partner providing the resistance using a minimal amount of floor space. Whether it is high-intensity cardio or low-impact muscular strength, exercise can get you past boredom.

If your preps include a source of power like a generator or solar panels with a battery bank, additional sources of entertainment could include DVDs that can be watched on a laptop or portable DVD player and portable video game systems. Make sure that if power is used for entertainment, rationing is considered. It would be a bummer to use all the generator fuel to watch a movie and then have no way to cook dinner because of a failure to ration fuel resources.

Take care of the basics of prepping first. Once the essentials are complete, tend to the luxury and comfort items like entertainment needs to avoid the chant “I’m bored!” when disaster strikes at home. How will you survive boredom?

–Thomas Miller

Thomas Miller

lives with his wife and three sons in the Northeastern quadrant of the United States. He has completed countless hours of advanced training in both clinical and trauma medicine and is a Nationally Registered Emergency Medical Technician. Tom has also completed several courses in disaster and emergency planning/management as well as hazardous materials handler and transport certification. He graduated with honors from American Military University with an Associate of Arts in Real Estate Studies.Tom is a U.S. Army combat veteran who served with honor as a combat medic on his multiple overseas tours during the Global War on Terror. During his time in the Army, Tom became an expert in the use of several weapons (including long guns, sidearms and improvised weaponry) and obtained competence with many other weapon systems, including foreign firearms. The Army also afforded Tom the opportunity to become proficienct in the driving and operation of several different vehicles from Humvees to heavy trucks and tracked vehicles.If there happens to be any free time available, Tom can be found sharing his passion for fishing with his sons, working on a project in the wood shop, tending to the garden or trying to maintain some resemblance of physical fitness. Tom's other writings can be viewed on his blog, The Prepared Ninja, at www.thepreparedninja.com. If you are on Twitter, Tom can be followed on the handle @preparedninja.