Boy spent the last two weeks at camp in the Bay Area (San Francisco area for non-Californians). Today I picked him up, drove 400 miles round trip in the process and get to repeat it tomorrow. Why? Because he asked if he could go back for another session and being the wonderful grandparent that I am, I said yes. Before I told him he could come back I explained that the two sessions of this camp costs about the same as going to Fresno State for half a year. He offered that neither he nor his sister should get anything extra bought for them for the rest of the year. Why your sister? I'm not spending all this money on her. He said he was sure she would want to pitch in. Right...
Unfortunately there wasn't going to be anyone at the camp who could keep him for two days. The camp really starts Tuesday afternoon but I told the head of the camp that I could not get him there then since I had a mandatory meeting each Tuesday and two weeks ago I missed it because I brought Boy to camp and last Tuesday I missed it because I was sick. I'm sure work would not be happy if I missed it again. The head of the camp said that I could bring Boy back tomorrow afternoon since the counselors would be back at the camp the evening before the next session starts. So 400 miles today and 500 miles tomorrow, including driving to work. It's a good thing I have the Prius.
Each time I drive up there we go past the PG&E substation that was hit in the terrorist attack a year or two ago. Very few people remember that one or the one just last spring down in southern California where "someone" loosened the main bolts on quite a few transmission towers, hoping that the towers (and electrical transmission lines) would fall in a domino effect.
On the way home from camp today I started quizzing Boy. What happens if a big earthquake hits and you have to leave camp but I can't get there to pick you up? We figured it would take him 5-7 days to walk home if he had to walk the entire way. Fortunately, crazy panic wouldn't set in the city until a few days past the disaster and he'd be out of the city by then. But does he know how to get home? After all, he's 12.
The first thing he said was he'd go buy a map. You can't buy a map. The stores are all closed. Pretend you can't look at a map on a cellphone. The phones may not work in or near the disaster area. How would you get home? Which way would you go? He said he'd walk along the 280 freeway. Where is that? How do you know which direction to head when you leave camp? Look at the mountains. The mountains are west of you. If you are facing the mountains your left hand will be the direction you will want to go - south. After he was able to verbalize that he told me which other roads he would follow. He got all the freeway numbers right. The 85, or if he couldn't walk there then just continue onto the 101. Go South! Once he got to Gilroy he'd head east on the 152. Once over the Pacheco Pass he could continue on the 152 all the way across the Great Central Valley or he could head south on the 5 and head east at any time. But, he concluded, the 152 is a good highway and if I was trying to find him we should have the main plan all squared away. He figured that he would be somewhere along the 101 or the 152 by the time I was able to reach him. I did remind him that he would probably be able to call me once he got out of the bay area. His last remark was that he should pack his life straw so he could get a drink anywhere along the way that he could find water.
He also has a small get-home bag in his suitcase. It's filled with snack foods. He knows that he's not supposed to eat these at camp. They are for an emergency where he has to come home. He has a little blanket in his bag. He doesn't need it for warmth, but if he has to find his way home, having something to wrap himself in while he sleeps is good for the morale.
I was really pleased that he was able to figure out how to get home and smart enough to realize that we needed to work together on the plan for me to find him and also that food, and more importantly, drinking clean water was necessary. There's more to disaster planning than just preparing for an earthquake and how to escape from the city but getting a child comfortable by filling him up with the knowledge and ability of being able to do this on his own is really important.
Am I not going to worry, now that he has a plan? Of course I'm going to worry. He's a 12 year old in camp in the Bay Area, 200 miles from home.