At some point after the 9/11 attacks, when we still lived in Westchester, NY, we created an escape box.
Somebody on TV must have recommended doing so. The idea was, in case of another attack, or an explosion at the nearby Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant, or an irreversible increase in the local deer population (Lyme disease was deemed a threat to our American way of life), we’d have all our important stuff in one portable metal box, ready to grab and go at the first sign of catastrophe.
When we moved to Connecticut in 2011, we took the metal box with us. The only time we had ever opened the box was to get our passports for those rare occasions when we were traveling abroad, like to Canada. Beyond those, we had only a vague idea of what was in there.
Recently, however, my daughter Casey and her husband Alex began looking for an apartment so they could move from their current residence, which is our basement. Evidently, in order to rent an apartment these days, you need to provide documents of the kind I imagine are required when applying for employment at the NSA. These include a copy of a Social Security card, receipts from a previous rental, marriage license, and, for apartments in New York City, proof that you’ve been vaccinated against any roach-borne illnesses.
Since Casey and Alex had no rental receipts, they had to present a notarized letter from their current landlord, namely me. I’m not sure what such a letter would prove, what with it being from somebody with the same last name and all, but I dutifully sat down to write it.
“What does it need to say?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” was the reply. “That she lives here.”
I’m a writer, though, so I felt I should embellish it. I wrote:
To whom it may concern,
This is to inform you that Alex Krupp and Casey Hallen have lived with us for over two years. Before that, Casey lived with us for the better part of 27 years, minus four years when she was at college. I can attest that her residency was without incident, except for an awkward period in middle school when she drove us crazy.
Like most of my clients, Casey made me do a bit of editing.
But, anyway, back to the Escape Box. We had to actually open it on the theory that we would have placed her Social Security card and marriage license in there. This required that we go through the contents for the first time since we tossed everything in there. Here’s what we found:
- As expected, current passports for me and my wife Barbara.
- A clear plastic tie-close envelope with nothing inside it. Fortunately, it was clear, so I didn’t have to disturb the tie to find out it was empty.
- A pink plastic tie-close envelope with copies of statements from all our bank and brokerage accounts, not a single one of which still exists.
- A yellow plastic tie-close envelope with copies of my birth certificate and copies of Casey’s, Barbara’s and my Social Security cards. (Yea! We found one thing we needed!)
- A floppy disk. We have no idea what is on it, and have no means by which to find out.
- A small clear plastic case which once held a bankbook. Now it held Barbara’s and Casey’s actual Social Security cards, Casey’s first driver’s license (expired in 2007), and a Passport Services Information Card with one of our passport numbers (I don’t know whose) and instructions on what to do for consular issues overseas. (“Contact the nearest U.S. Consulate.” Duh.)
- A paper envelope with: 4 canceled bankbooks (thus revealing where the small plastic case came from); a receipt for Casey’s interim driver’s license in 2006; the receipts for the checks we got when we closed out the bank accounts from the canceled bankbooks; and proof that Barbara served jury duty in 2000. (It’s anybody’s guess why we thought any of that would be essential in the event of a sudden evacuation.)
- Five additional canceled bankbooks. (You’d think we’d have a lot more money than we do given all the bank accounts we had.)
- A copy of Casey’s passport (so that Barbara and I would have it while Casey was traveling to exotic places like Haiti, Indonesia and SXSW.) Also copies of hers and Alex’s driver’s licenses.
- A copy of my passport and Barbara’s (in her case, expired).
- A receipt from when Casey served jury duty in 2010, which I have no recollection of her doing.
- A MapQuest printout from 2/9/2003 with directions from Albany, NY to Stratton, VT. I know why we were going to Stratton: Barbara’s sister’s in-laws had a house there, so that was where we were going to go in the event of an imminent threat to the entire New York metro area. I do not know why we thought we’d be traveling there from Albany. Maybe one of us was considering a run for state office.
- A blue plastic tie-close envelope with copies of long-expired passports and credit cards, including one from my niece, Errin, who, I remember, once went with us on vacation to Mexico. I understand the idea of leaving copies of passports at home in case you lose yours while in a foreign country, but I don’t know what good it does if all the inhabitants of the home you leave them in are with you in the foreign country. Also, I gather the different tie-close plastic envelopes originally had some sort of color-coded organizational method, but, if it did, it’s long-forgotten and definitely not obvious.
- A small envelope with receipts for stuff we bought in Mexico.
- An American Airlines boarding pass stub.
- Voter ID cards for a state in which we no longer live.
- A very small envelope with the key to the metal box, which would be good to have, but not inside the box.
And that was it. No marriage license. Which meant that had to be in the fireproof file cabinet in the basement where we kept things we felt we wouldn’t need on our emergency escape.
I suppose I’ll now find out what’s in there. Considering the stuff we apparently thought was critical to take with us, I can’t imagine what junk we decided to fireproof.
See you soon.