Adventures in hiring: please, not the flip flops

Lately, one can find a number of thoughtful, helpful posts lately regarding the difficult job market, and how to navigate the maze that is finding gainful employment. This is not going to be one of those posts. You see, I’m one of those assholes known as a “hiring manager” (although that’s not my primary job), and folks, I have some stories for you.

For context, I’m responsible for staffing a retail/customer service-oriented workplace. The positions I’ve been hiring for are hourly, higher-than-minimum wage, and, while not particularly glamorous or prestigious, still fairly decent jobs when it comes to the retail industry. We had five open positions, and I had close to three hundred applicants total, over the course of about three weeks. I did a lot of resume scanning, a lot of interviewing, and a lot of shaking my head in disbelief.

Behold, my list of Things I Never Thought I’d Have to Tell Applicants, But Apparently I Really Should:

  • Don’t show up to fill out an application, let alone for an interview, wearing cutoff jean shorts, a low-cut ribbed cotton tank top, and flip flops. (Please, don’t get me started on the flip flops. Probably two thirds of all applicants I encountered were wearing flip flops. More than half wore them to a scheduled interview. Flip flops are now my sworn enemy, much to the dismay of my fifty zillion pairs of them THAT I WOULD NEVER WEAR WHILE I WAS TRYING TO GET A JOB OH MY GOD WITH THE FLIP FLOPS, PEOPLE.)
  • Don’t be rude to the person at the counter. In a retail environment, there’s a very good chance that person may be the manager. Make no mistake, no matter the industry, if you’re rude to the front line employees (receptionists, front desk staff, cashiers), your application will forever be branded with a Post-It note documenting your assholery.
  • “Why do you want to work for [company]?” “I need a job, and this seems pretty easy.” Wrong answer. At least try to lie to me?
  • Don’t tell me how overqualified you are. If I have your resume, I can tell. I make it a point to interview “overqualified” candidates if I think they’ll be a good fit, because I know how horrific the job market is right now. Telling me you’re too good to work here, but you’ll settle because you’re desperate, though, is just not a good idea.
  • Don’t apply to a company with which you have a history of being a bad customer. If you’ve berated, insulted, or abused the staff, why the heck would you want to work there? If your name is flagged as a frequent returner or a check bouncer, maybe you should move on to the next “Help Wanted” ad.
  • Don’t insult me. “Oh, I could never work in retail as, like, a career! God, that’s so depressing! Who would do that?” Me. That’s who.
  • Don’t spend the entire interview talking about your kids/dogs/spouse/herb garden/novel. If you can’t focus on the job for a twenty minute interview, I’m not confident you’ll be able to focus on it for an entire shift at a time.
  • Don’t send an email resume when the job posting says, “Apply in person only. Email and phone inquiries will not be considered.” I have to help customers during this whole process. I’m not in front of a computer, able to sift through ten zillion emailed resumes.
  • Don’t call and ask why you never got called for an interview after you emailed your resume.
  • Don’t: A) chew gum throughout the entire interview; and B) pop it intermittently to punctuate whatever you were saying.
  • FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS GOOD AND HOLY IN THE WORLD, FIND SOMETHING TO PUT ON YOUR FEET BESIDES FLIP FLOPS. I honestly would prefer someone walking in with live crocodiles strapped to their feet than flip flops. I’m not asking for $400 Ferragamo pumps. Payless loafers are fine. Ballet flats are fine. If it’s nine zillion degrees out, dressy sandals are fine. FLIP FLOPS ARE NEVER FINE. Ahem.

(This post also appeared at Persephone Magazine.)

How social media made me hate everything I once loved

I’m a nerd. A big old nerdy nerd with a dash of geek and dork thrown in there, too. I like things that many people consider nerdy, like sci-fi, video games, British comedies, and comic books. I discovered most of these things long before the Internet was a part of daily life, and so for years, I felt like an oddball, a weirdo with bizarre interests.

Fast-forward fifteen years or so, to a time when I spend more time in front of my computer than away from it. I’m hooked into pretty much every form of social media out there, and as my network of “friends” keeps growing, I discover that I’m not a weirdo! (Well, mostly.) Other people like the same bizarre stuff I do! I can talk about my nerdy pursuits with all sorts of people who get it, who get me. Being able to share these interests and talk about the things I enjoy with so many people just causes me to get more in-depth. I get recommendations for books and TV shows and movies that I might not have discovered otherwise. This is great, right?

Sort of.

There comes a point when I reach complete saturation with some of these things, when the people I interact with don’t seem able to discuss anything else. By only focusing on one narrow subject per group of peers, there begins a self-perpetuating spiral of attention that brushes the line of obsession. One TV show, one movie universe, one game. And that’s all anyone talks about. It’s fun at first; people discover neat little things that relate to the fandom (I really hate that word, by the way) — drawings, crafts, hard-to-find props, funny T-shirts, that sort of thing. And then people start interacting with the universe in their own ways. They write stories related to the subject. They start “shipping” the characters (creating non-canon relationships). They create, and discuss, and, to someone on the outside looking in, it seems like obsession.

And slowly, I become so inundated with information and discussion related to that one interest that I begin to get annoyed with the discussion or community, and then I turn my annoyance to the TV show or book or movie or whatever it is that’s being obsessed over. Soon enough, I can’t even stand to hear the name of this thing that I once loved, and I start to resent the people who are discussing it.

That’s terrible, right? How dare these people make me hate what I once loved? Well, it’s not their fault. They have a passion for this thing, and once their passion surpasses the point of my own enthusiasm, I need to take responsibility for myself and step back to the point where I can still enjoy the TV show or comic books or movies that I once loved. So I manage my own damn Internet. I stop going places and reading things that make me roll my eyes with what I see as a single-minded focus. I use various tools to avoid mentions of these things so I don’t get burned out on them. And little by little, I regain my love for my nerdy little pursuits.

Having instant access to people all over the world is a wonderful thing. It’s easy to get carried away, though, and let an interest take over your online life until it reaches the point where you turn from loving it to hating it. The key is to find a balance; still enjoying the source material and participating in the community without the kind of overexposure that makes you cringe. Each person has a different level of tolerance, and it usually takes being pushed past your limit at least once to learn where that limit actually is. Until you find that point, tread carefully, and don’t let someone else’s passion diminish your own.

(This post also appeared at Persephone Magazine.)

The politics of dancing

Last weekend, I took a girls’ trip to Las Vegas with twenty smart, hilarious, amazing women. We ate a lot, drank a lot, sat by the pool a lot, and danced a lot. And while most places we went seemed to be having a dudebro convention of some sorts (hey, dudebros need vacations too!), most of the time, we had our fun and weren’t bothered by obnoxious douchey behavior all that much. Except on the dance floor.

One of the nights, about six or eight of us took to the club to cut loose and let our hair down, so to speak. I love dancing. I’m not terribly good at it, but I don’t think that those two things necessarily need to be connected. No one’s going to take a look at me dancing and offer me a contract as one of Beyonce’s back-up dancers or a featured position on MTV’s Spring Break specials. I mean, even if I weren’t a good decade too old for those things, I have a tendency to make stupid faces, yell along to the words in a most un-cool manner, and flail my arms and legs about in a way that can’t be taught; it must just be observed. And possibly laughed at.

So our group of women carved out a space on the dance floor, and we were having a great time, laughing at each other, dancing, making general asses of ourselves. And, as they do, guys would creep up to the periphery of our area and start dancing “with” us. Some, as they do, got a little too close to some of the ladies in our group, but took the hint pretty quickly when whoever their target was would spin around to the other side of the group, leaving the interloper dancing by himself as we quickly closed ranks, excluding him from our group. But just as many ignored the clear signals that we just wanted to be left alone.

One of my friends got far more than her fair share of dance-floor suitors. I’ve been out dancing more times than I care to remember in the past fifteen years or so, since I was old enough to get into the clubs, and I’ve never seen anything like it. I commented that it was like an anthropological study. “R” was the youngest out of our group, pretty, and obviously having a good time (as were we all). She seemed to catch the eye of quite a few “gentlemen,” many of whom indicated their interest by invading her personal space, attempting to cut her off from her group of friends, and ignoring all protestations and uncomfortable facial expressions when they got too close. “It’s a dance floor,” you might say. “That’s what happens.” Well, sure. But why?

Why is it not OK for a group of women to dance with each other? Why does it seem to be an implicit invitation for every slimy greasebag to dance up on an unescorted woman? Why is it acceptable to ignore every possible facial, physical, and verbal cue that we just want to be left alone to dance and have a good time in peace? Why does it seem to be a natural progression of things to start insulting and getting angry at a woman who indicates that she’s just fine where she is and doesn’t desire your company or your body parts? Even politely trying to decline a “dance” with a random stranger just opens you up to an attack, even if it’s just to call you a “stuck-up bitch” or to say that you “aren’t that pretty anyway.”

One guy, after numerous failed attempts to dance with my friend, told me I was the “second prettiest girl” in my group of friends. First of all, is negging still a thing? And if you’re trying to pick someone up, telling them they get the silver is a pretty poor way to go about it. I’m still trying to figure out the motivations behind that one. As an old married broad, I know I’m not putting out any “hit on me” vibes, so was he hoping that by (sort of) appealing to my vanity, I’d put in a good word for him with my friend? And after having been ignored by all of us for a good three or four songs, why would he think it was OK to then try to strike up a conversation? Did he think that by insulting me and the rest of my friends, he was “getting back” at us for not welcoming him into our group? Or was he legitimately under the impression that a line like that would get him anywhere? After I ignored him, he made one last attempt to grind up on yet another one of us, then moved on to a different unsuspecting group of girls after failing to get a reaction from us. Another guy made repeated attempts to untie my friend’s skirt, and after being thwarted, repeatedly, stayed and continued to try to dance with us.

Are we still at a place where men feel that they’re entitled to interact with a woman’s body however they want to, just because she has the audacity to be out in public, dressed up, dancing, having a good time? Clearly, the answer is, “Duh.” A dance floor is still the Wild West as far as gender politics are concerned. And in that environment, women are expected to perform for men. Our good time is only measured by how much the men around us enjoy watching us. Any attempt to make clear that we’re fine just with the company of those we came with is met with mockery, derision, insult, and aggression. Don’t believe dancing can be aggressive? Just watch how a man responds when he starts grinding up on a woman, uninvited, and she tries to move away or indicate she isn’t interested. It can be a dangerous game, just trying to enjoy a night out with the girls.

It’s not to say that all men in clubs are animals. One of my friends was approached by a man who only wanted to tell her, “You look like you’re having the most fun in this whole place.” And you know what? She was. She, like the rest of us, was dancing for her own benefit, enjoying a night out with the girls, not interested in performing for the sake of anyone but ourselves. And it shouldn’t be such a battle to have a good time that way.

(This post originally appeared in Persephone Magazine.)

How to make a retail complaint without being an asshole

There are about a zillion articles out there that try to tell you, the consumer, how to effectively complain when you’re dissatisfied with something in a retail or service context. I’m someone who has been the drone on the other side of the counter for many, many years, and I’ve read many of those articles to see what sort of information is being suggested to the general public. And I have to say, almost every single one of those articles pisses me off. Most of them advocate customers being loud, aggressive, rude assholes to retail employees until the customer gets what they want because the employee or store wants them to shut up and go away. Since I’ve been that employee more than I’ve been the customer, I’d like to offer a more realistic guide to how to effectively complain and still maintain your integrity as a human being.

Make sure your complaint is reasonable. Are you trying to replace a piece of merchandise because the item is defective, or are you trying to obtain a free replacement because you/your dog/your child dropped the piece of expensive electronic equipment on the floor/stepped on it/sent it through the washing machine? I assure you, store employees can tell the difference, and while it’s certainly nice of a company to replace an item that was ruined due to the customer’s actions, it’s absolutely not their responsibility.

Are there rules, and are you following them? All stores have return policies. All coupons have expiration dates or exclusions. If you’re complaining because you just don’t like the fact that the rules apply to you, well, you may just have to accept that you need to follow the same rules as everyone else. Once again, it’s great if the store or restaurant bends the rules for you, but they don’t have to, and they may not be able to.

Begin the interaction in a calm, reasonable way. Don’t start off angry. Employees are people. I can tell you, from years and years of experience, that the amount of help I’m willing to give a customer with a complaint is almost entirely dependent on how they start the interaction. Don’t get me wrong, I follow the rules completely and entirely for each and every customer, as do most, if not all, retail employees, but if you begin the conversation politely and calmly, explain your complaint clearly and concisely, and are not yelling, screaming, swearing, or throwing things (yeah, that’s a true story), I can almost guarantee that the employee you’re dealing with will be more willing to go above and beyond for you. It’ll also make the whole interaction much less stressful for both of you.

While you’re at it, avoid these phrases:

“I’m a very good customer.” Here’s the thing. Everyone thinks they’re a very good customer. And there are lots of very good customers. But people who pull out this line tend to be the sort who return more than they buy, who are rude to the employees, and who are generally problematic.

“I’ll have your job for this.” Threatening to get someone fired because you aren’t getting what you want not only doesn’t help you achieve your desired result, but it makes you a pretty horrible human being.

“I’m never shopping here again.” I’m just going to go ahead and reveal one of the great retail secrets: When you say, “I’m never shopping here again,” any employee within earshot is thinking, “Good riddance.” Once again, there’s a certain kind of shopper who feels the need to make this proclamation, and it’s not a kind that anyone will miss.

“Do you know who I am?” Yes. You’re a rude jerk who is making my life extremely unpleasant.

Stick to the issue. Don’t use your complaint as a springboard for every little thing that has ever annoyed you. If your issue is that a sale item was rung up at the wrong price, or that the shirt you bought has a hole in it from where the security tag was removed, focus on that. Going off on a rant about how high the prices are and how no one cares about customer service and how there are never enough registers open just obscures the issue and makes you seem unreasonable.

Treat the employee as a human being. I wish that this didn’t have to be spelled out, but it does. I have two degrees and I work in customer service. I love to read. I have a family and friends. I am not a lesser life form. I am not a servant, an idiot, or a punching bag. Treat me like a person, and this whole thing will be much more civilized. Put yourself in the employee’s place and think of how you’d like to be treated.

Escalate appropriately. It’s very important to know that the first person you talk to may not be able to do what you want. They have rules they have to follow, and breaking them may put their job in jeopardy. If they can’t give you your desired result, demanding to speak to their manager is kind of a crappy way to escalate. Back to the human being thing, saying something along the lines of, “I understand you need to follow your policy about this. Is there a manager or owner I can speak to?” is a far more polite way to move up the food chain. And thanking the employee for their help in front of the manager is always appreciated. If your issue is still not resolved, or if the manager is unable to override corporate policy (which is very often the case), you may need to go to corporate directly. Call the company’s customer service number. While explaining the situation, please keep in mind all of the above steps. The person answering the phone is a person, too.

If you’re still unable to get a satisfactory resolution, go to the top. The CEO of a company is generally not thrilled to have a customer complaint letter (and letters do work better than email) come across his or her desk, and although the top dog may not deal with it directly, they will most likely make the appropriate calls so it gets dealt with. In your letter, if applicable, please mention that the store-level employees were as helpful as they could be, but that due to policy, they were unable to give you what you were asking for.

To recap: Be polite. State your complaint clearly and concisely. Don’t be a raving lunatic. Don’t yell or throw things. Recognize that you are dealing with fellow human beings. And if you do get the result you were looking for, thanking the employee is always a nice touch.

(This post originally appeared in Persephone Magazine)

Childfree in the workplace: the forgotten front of the Mommy Wars

“The Mommy Wars” are something that most adult women are, in some way, at least a little bit aware of. For most people, the issues that immediately spring to mind are things like working mothers vs. stay-at-home mothers, or the “right” way to parent with regards to things like what food you feed your kids or what schools they go to. There’s a whole other battle in the Mommy Wars, though, and that’s the one being fought by the Non-Mommies, and the front it’s being fought on is the workplace.

The issues that the childfree (those who have chosen not to have children) face in the workplace are often unexplored in an examination of the many facets of the Mommy Wars, but these issues exist, and they could use some discussion.

I work in an environment that skews fairly strongly “female,” and for the sake of this post, when I talk about “the workplace,” I’m referring to non-executive, primarily female-dominated fields, such as retail, customer service, education, and other fields where you find a majority of women in the workforce, and jobs that require “coverage,” or for someone to physically be present to do the job at specified times. I don’t have experience with the types of jobs where you can leave your work on your desk for the next day, so I can’t speak to the childfree experience in that type of environment.

In industries where working a specific shift is the norm, and where coverage is king, the childfree often find themselves holding the short straw when it comes to scheduling and job duties. Parents who work, I’m sure you’ve found yourself in the position of having to stay home from work with a sick child, or having to leave early because of an important parent-teacher conference, or coming in late because there was a delay in the drop-off line at school in the morning. I know that these are all common occurrences, and I know this because I’m the one who has to cover those times when the employee with kids isn’t at work.

The childfree are often the ones who are expected to work on holidays, weekends, and nights, because there’s a presumption that “no kids” equals “no life.” And if a childfree employee tries to get a workplace to adhere to a more fair way of assigning less-than-desirable shifts, such as seniority or alternating holidays, they’re accused of not being a team player. Need to leave two hours early because little Johnny has a school play that you simply can’t miss? Well, sure, that’s understandable. Until you ask the childfree employee who’s had to reschedule a doctor’s appointment for themselves three times because they can’t take the time off, and are expected to handle their personal business on their personal time. Someone called out sick? Well, jeez, call the employee without kids, because they have nothing else in their life but work, and it’s not fair to ask parents to do anything extra on what was supposed to be their time off.

I don’t blame parents for this unfair standard. I blame employers who allow it to happen; employers who have created an environment where parents have special rules and special exemptions and the childfree are expected to suck it up and deal. “Don’t like it? Get another job!” is the common response when these inequities are pointed out, but the economy hardly makes that feasible, and my experience has been that it’s the same in every workplace. Kids are a legitimate excuse for missing work, and employees without kids have to pick up the slack or be told they’re bad workers.

Is there a solution to this problem? Is there a way for the childfree not to feel resentment when they see parents being granted all sorts of lenience with scheduling? Is there any way that parents can maintain a work-life balance without their childfree coworkers being taken advantage of? Is there a way for the world at large to realize that “work-life balance” applies to everyone, not just parents? I hope so, but it needs to start with employers. Either all employees can come and go at will because of personal issues, or none can.

Shift work is tricky. You can’t always predict when your kid is going to get sick, or your babysitter falls through, or there’s a critically important soccer game that means you can’t work your scheduled shift on Saturday (well, actually, yeah, you can predict that last one), but having a job that requires you to bodily be there means you sometimes have to sacrifice things. But by the same token, it’s not feasible to say that parents maybe can’t do these sorts of jobs because of the predictable unpredictability of a parent’s schedule. Bills still need to get paid, and the job you can get is the job you take. Trust me, I get this. I may not have kids, but I sure as hell have bills. I’ve had to miss doctor’s appointments, funerals, holiday celebrations, and all sorts of things because I’m scheduled to work, and the expectation is that I’ll be there, working. And if I’m not, there are consequences. The trouble is, these consequences are not applied evenly to all employees, and that’s where the resentment comes from.

I don’t think there’s an easy answer. I think parents will always ask, “Well, what do you expect me to do? If my kid is home sick, I need to stay home, too,” and the childfree will always resent being the ones to pick up the slack when their coworkers are out for the sixth time this winter because the schools have yet another snow day. And employers are stuck between a rock and a hard place, too, because that parent is calling out, and now there’s no coverage, so, really, who is there left to ask? The manager? Sure, sometimes, but often those shifts overlap, so the manager is already working, and very few places can be run with only one employee at a time.

As a childfree employee, I guess the best I can ask for is to be afforded the same lenience that parents are. I want to have the option to come in two hours late because 9 a.m. on a Tuesday was the only time my doctor could see me, and I don’t want to be penalized for it if my coworker wasn’t penalized for showing up two hours late because there was a delayed opening at school. Or, conversely, I want parents to have to use their owed time (like vacation, sick time, and personal days, if such things exist in a particular workplace) for all of those various little forty-five minute, two hour, or full-shift spots, and if I don’t have an hour or two at a time deducted for kid-related reasons, well, then, I still get to use all of my paltry vacation time on a vacation, and maybe my coworker who’s a parent can’t, because they’ve used that time in other ways. I don’t know what the answer is, or if there’s any way to make employers realize that all employees have lives, and that extending special treatment to some employees and not to others creates conflict and resentment where none should exist.

(This post originally appeared in Persephone Magazine.)

Valentine’s Day can suck it

I hate everything about Valentine’s Day. Setting aside that it’s smack dab in the middle of February, which is my least favorite month, everything about it is just plain awful. I have no objections to the fact that it’s a “Hallmark holiday” or an attempt by the greeting card, candy, and floral industries to create yet another day where people expect gifts. Hell, if I had the power, I’d start National Cheese Fries and Chocolate Chip Cookie Day, and make sure that everyone paid proper tribute. I have no issue with the dubious origin of V-Day as a modern holiday, or the massive influence of consumerism in making it what it is today.

What I object to is everything else about it. It is the worst “holiday” ever. It sets everyone up for failure and disappointment. Single? Well, here’s a huge, obnoxious, pink and red reminder that you’re alone, and, oh yeah, why don’t you just go ahead and use this time to think about how you’re going to be alone forever, while you’re at it? Not single? Well, nothing you do (or nothing your significant other does) will be good enough, romantic enough, original enough, or over-the-top enough! Prepare for disappointment!

There’s also the small issue of the fact that, like weddings, almost everything associated with V-Day is overpriced and awful. $75 for a dozen roses? What the hell is that? I personally hate roses (the smell makes me sneeze, and they just strike me as hugely unoriginal), so I wouldn’t even spend twelve cents and some pocket lint on a dozen roses, but every guy in any kind of relationship is expected to fork out absurd amounts of money to send his sweetheart the same crappy flowers everyone else is getting. I love chocolate and candy, so I have no issue with that, but you know what I love more? Half-priced candy on February 15th. I can overlook the pink and red. Going out to dinner? I hope you’re prepared for overcrowded restaurants, terrible service, hastily cooked food, and being rushed out the door to make space for the next pair of suckers.

I’m not one of those, “I don’t need a special day for romance! I’m romantic every day!” kind of people. I’m actually sort of anti-romance, which drives my husband crazy, because he’s a romantic, thoughtful kind of guy. I think I might just be too jaded to appreciate the traditional trappings of what people tend to see as “romantic.” And since Valentine’s Day just takes all of those clichés and wraps them up into one nauseatingly pink and red package, I just stay home, watch TV, and wait for it to be over so I can enjoy my cheap chocolate.

A girl’s guide to surviving the zombie apocalypse

So, I mentioned the other day that I have an actual plan for the zombie apocalypse. This isn’t such an odd thing these days, what with the recent popularity of zombie movies and TV shows. It’s important to note, however, that this plan has firmly been in place for at least 10 years, before the resurgence of zombie popularity. Romero got me, and he got me good. So here’s what you need to know about surviving the zombie apocalypse, my style.

1. Exodus: First things first, you need to get the fuck out of wherever you are. But you need to be smart about it. Panic is not the friend of someone who’s going to survive this. You need to plan a bit. Expect to be on foot, without easy access to food or water or communication. If you’re at home, more’s the better. Load up on non-perishables, a canteen, comfortable shoes, and whatever survival gear you can get your hands on. You’ll need at least a knife at bare minimum in the beginning. If you have a car, that’s great, but understand that you’re going to either get stuck in gridlocked traffic with everyone else fleeing, or you’re going to have to abandon the vehicle once you run out of gas or get a flat tire. The other important part of fleeing is to have an idea of where you’re going. We’ll talk about that in a bit.

2. Weaponry: Sorry, dudes, you’re going to need to kill some zombies if you want to live. And while guns are all well and good, lots of people don’t have access to them, and they require ammunition, which will eventually run out. This is a good time to get medieval. Axes and swords are excellent for your purposes here. Granted, you’re going to need to get a lot closer than with a gun, but movies don’t really show you how hard a clean head shot is, even with a decent gun and someone who knows how to handle it. Blunt force is preferable. It’s messier, sure, but it’s more of a sure thing. In the absence of an axe or sword, consider things like golf clubs, or baseball or cricket bats. You’re going to need to move up to something sharp, though, so keep that in mind.

3. Company: There’s strength in numbers, sure, but you need to be very cautious with who you choose to spend the zombie apocalypse with. They should have some sort of skill or resource that you do not, and you need to be able to trust them enough with your safety and your stuff so that you can get some rest every once in a while. Also, keep in mind everyone you ever knew is probably dead or undead. You’re going to be upset about this, but don’t go getting attached to people, because they’re just as likely to end up lurching around, trying to eat your brains, as everyone else. Be smart.

4. Stronghold: You need to figure out where you’re going. Keep in mind, anywhere that makes clear sense, like a military base, or that random castle outside of town, is likely already spoken for. What you’re looking for, ideally, is somewhere that’s on high ground (zombies don’t seem to be much for climbing), somewhere that’s fairly clear around the perimeter, so nothing can sneak up on you, and that’s easily defended by a fairly small number of people. Limited access points are helpful as well, but you can’t have everything right away. That may need to come later on.

5. Organization: You and your intrepid band of survivors need to get your shit together. You need schedules for sleeping and eating and guard duty. Someone needs to be in charge of food and supplies. And everyone needs to carry their own weight. If you aren’t contributing, you might as well just be zombie bait.

6. Ingenuity: The zombies will probably find you. I’m sorry, but it’s true. You need to come up with some clever ways of keeping them back. You have time now, and hopefully more resources, so start thinking more broadly. See what fire does. If it kills them, use it. Can you devise a trap and take out a dozen or more at a time? Get to it. Hell, have a little fun with it while you’re at it.

7. Waiting: Ok, you’ve fled, you’re stashed away, you’ve got defensive capabilities, and a pretty good system for keeping not dead or undead. At some point, the zombie herd is going to be thinned out. Don’t confuse this with being safe; just understand that eventually, there will be fewer and fewer of them. Waiting sucks, so go back to your ingenuity step and start coming up with ideas: ways to fortify your defenses, methods for improving everyday life, little things like that.

8. Rebuilding: I’m not talking about procreating here, people. Not yet, anyway. Babies are little resource suckers, and they’re useless in hand-to-hand combat. I’m talking about the fact that now that you aren’t killing the undead every few minutes, you need to start looking to the future. What’s important to remember here is that we’ve likely lost most of what makes modern life modern. We’re going to be pitched back into a mostly agrarian society, and you need to have some idea what to do. Useful skills here include: irrigation, animal husbandry, alternative energy, crop sustainability, textile manufacturing, and structural maintenance, among many others. Basically, all the skills you have now will be completely useless.

So, to recap: You need to run, you need to eat, you need a sharp weapon or six. You have to get used to being without technology, and you have to do it quickly. Be wary of other people, but accept that you’ll never survive on your own. Remember that everything is harder than it looks in the movies, and you won’t have a screenwriter to pencil in the guns a-blazin’ white knight to save you just in the nick of time. You need to save yourself. You can do it. I have faith. And if we both get out of this alive, you’re welcome to make a home for yourself in New Nonzombonia.