Never say never.

While things are well in my personal universe, others I know both in Real Life and Net Life aren’t so fortunate. Someone close to me in Real Life is going through a divorce after twenty-three years of marriage. An online acquaintance’s husband left her and their two small children to take up with a nineteen-year-old. Two of my neighbors got laid off from jobs they’d had twenty-plus years. Another online acquaintance is dealing with his daughter’s drug addiction while trying to raise her infant son. I offer what comfort I can, but they’ve all said/written one thing that disturbs me.

“I never thought this would happen to me.”

Many years ago when I was hitting rock bottom in every way possible, I said those words to a caseworker in a homeless shelter. I can still remember the little sad smile she gave me as she shook her head. “Honey, if you think that you won’t be able to deal with it when it does happen,” she said.

I took those words to heart, and I like to think they helped me climb out of the hole into which I dug myself, often while swallowing my pride. But in these days of uncertainty, with the media filled with stories of companies collapsing and people losing their homes and those eight words ribboning through them I have to say “PLEASE think that it could happen to you.”

I’m not saying wallow in negativity. I’m saying expect the best but prepare for the worst. I remember in the aftermath of the One Way Flights (what I call the events of September 2001 for the n00bs) how many widows lamented that their spouses had no life insurance. Um, WHAT? Life insurance is pretty cheap, especially if you’re young. A few bucks a week taken out of your paycheck can help your loved ones keep their home, possibly their standard of living. No hardship at all … but yet so many didn’t because, say it with me, they didn’t think it would happen to them. Granted, no one expects to buy it courtesy of a jet slamming into your office building, but what about a car accident? Just as sudden, far more common. Everyone knows someone who has either been killed or seriously injured in a car crash, and pretty much everyone has been in a fender bender or a near-miss. Recently I was driving down to Charlotte, North Carolina to visit friends when a car two places in front of me smacked a deer which flipped over his car, bounced on and over the car ahead of me and damn near hit mine. From the time I heard the impact on the first car to when I slammed on my brakes to avoid it maybe two seconds elapsed. Two seconds in which one car was totalled, another damaged, deer blood was splashed on my headlights and four people got their panic rush. Fortunately no humans were injured-and the deer died pretty much instantaneously-but again it was brought home to me how things can go from awesome to shit in the blink of an eye. I felt badly for the young couple who’d taken the initial hit; I heard him saying “Shit, I can’t afford another car right now.” During the course of conversation, it turned out that … you guessed it, they had no insurance on the car. Virginia doesn’t require it but does make you pay a $500 to drive an uninsured car. Of course one would question why people would not use those five hundred dollars to buy car insurance but I’m not going to tell you how to spend your money.

I’m not prepared for everything-I’m reading up on zombie apocalypse though-but for the more common tragedies that come in life I am. I have insurance out the wazoo.  If my husband suddenly lost his mind and took off I could easily support myself. If he dies his life insurance would pay off the house and give me a nest egg. Same for him if I should suddenly shuffle off the mortal coil. We both have wills dictating who gets the money and where our cats should go.  Our company got bought out by a behemoth company almost four years ago and there are indications that our office may eventually shut down, possibly as soon as next year. For the past year we’ve worked on increasing our savings and paying down debt so if that does happen we could survive for a while. I’ve researched cities that we could move to, as Richmond has recently been nicknamed “the Detroit of the South” for the number of large employers that have either gone out of business, moved out of the area or cut way back.  If the bomb drops, we can pick up stakes and cats and go.

It astounds me how many people I encounter-almost all of whom have children-are woefully unprepared for lean times.  As the rumors swirl around my company people are beginning to panic but no one’s beginning to plan, mostly because of delusions that it can’t happen and management’s repeated assurances that it won’t, which remind me of Kevin Bacon’s Animal House performance in which he shrieks in fright “REMAIN CALM!  ALL IS WELL!”  This is the third company I’ve worked for that got taken over by a far larger company.  The first two?  No longer in business.  So you’ll pardon my cynicism.