Imagine the impossible happening: Terrorists blow up the entire electrical grid and send the USA into cyber-darkness, not to mention actual darkness along with no air conditioning, no refrigeration, no instant communication via cell phones. And say this destroyed electrical grid is permanent in terms of years before it is repaired and life returns to normal.
Or, there is some sort of apocalyptic nuclear war that doesn’t kill you, but destroys 95% of the infrastructure. All desk jobs, computer jobs, sales jobs, and in general, white-collar jobs, are no longer. People must survive by the fruits of their own physical labor. Maybe you’d need to become a carpenter, a farmer, a plumber, a ditch digger, a factory worker, any one of dozens of physical labors that used to comprise the bulk of American livelihoods one hundred years ago.
How would you survive?
My skill is house painting. Interior and exterior. I started when I was a teenager, helping my dad paint our house (no ladders), helping my grandmother with some inside rooms, then progressing to her entire exterior. I’ve painted one of my own houses inside and out, and the complete interiors of my last two houses
After high school graduation I got a summer job with College Craft Painters, one of the pioneering house painting businesses that turned energetic young college students into paint crew bosses, and turned less energetic high school and college students into willing employees and competent house painters for a summer or two or three.
*Note- I only painted the steps and stained the screen framing, lattice, railings, and stiles. The siding is all vinyl and wasn’t painted.*
The summer I held that job (1973) was one of the hotter, drier summers of that era. I recall we routinely painted in 90-degree weather, which is hot for Minneapolis. On top of that, we only had one day off due to rain. It was hard work, ten-hour days, five days a week, an occasional Saturday to finish a job in a timely manner, but by summer’s end not only did I have a great upper body tan (we had to wear long painters pants, but were allowed to take off our t-shirts when the owners weren’t home), but I had a viable skill that I put into my back pocket for career insurance in case my life went the wrong direction from what I’d hoped and I couldn’t make a living with my brain.
New hires of College Craft Painters actually went to a 3-day painting school in Wheaton, IL. We learned proper siding preparation such as washing, scraping, sanding, patching holes, caulking. We learned the most efficient ways to paint wide-lap siding, narrow-lap siding, stucco, and shakes. We learned how to repair window mullions–the putty used to hold a pane of glass into place on a window. We learned how to quickly paint windows, doors and other trim (the slowest, hardest part of house painting because of the detailing and wanting not to slop trim paint onto the newly painted siding. We learned how to paint with oil-based paints, latex paints, and various stains.
We even learned how to set up ladder scaffolds and work on them without falling twenty or thirty feet to our deaths. I’m proud to say I never fell off a ladder, especially the rickety scaffolding (ladder on top of plank on top of ladders on top of planks) we set up to paint the back side of a three-story house plus full basement with a peak that was easily forty feet above the ground. By the end of the summer, I had used all those skills enough that I probably possessed the equivalent painting skills of an apprentice or journeyman house painter.
So when TEOTWAWKI (The End Of The World As We Know It) comes, I’ll at least be able to offer my painting skills in exchange for money to buy food, clothing and shelter for my wife and me.
What manual skills do you possess that could be used to support yourself if the unthinkable happens in your life? What manual skills do you wish you had learned “back then” or would like to learn? What do you think the odds are of TEOTWAWKI happening in your lifetime?