Dec. 21, 2012, may seem a ways off, but it’s never too soon to plan where you’ll spend the Mayan apocalypse. Luckily, a niche hospitality industry has started taking shape, providing disaster-survival alternatives to the grotty backyard bunkers of old. The best-known may be Vivos, a California-based company that plans to charge up to $50,000 a year for a spot at one of its all-inclusive underground “assurance of life” communities. With dining, a screened guest list, and protection from electromagnetic pulses, members can ride out all manner of catastrophes in style.
Of course, $50,000 is a lot to spend on survival lodgings, even with an atrium and subterranean gym. What’s the smart planner to do? We’d suggest starting with the guest reviews.*
*Note: Reviews are 100% made up. Vivos, on the other hand, is real; many details are from company literature.
“Traffic was a nightmare”
According to the brochure, it should have taken my family and me about five hours to drive from our home in Akron, Ohio, to the Indiana shelter we’d booked into. It ended up taking a little over 118 hours and 27 minutes. For me, the stress of knowing there was a killer comet headed our way was compounded by the extremely vague directions we got from our contact at the facility, who also failed to mention the possibility of us being accosted by gangs of snaggle-toothed deviants. When we did finally arrive at the shelter, our room wasn’t ready. Not impressed.
“Rude concierge, bad taste”
We got to our shelter shortly before a postglacial crustal rebound and were told that there was no place for my expensively compiled wardrobe, or even for my husband’s pump-action Remington Rimfire, leaving us with no means of personal protection other than a can of hair spray and a modified spork. We found the desk staff to be brusque and officious in the extreme, which set the tone for the remainder of our stay. As for the “bright and cheerful” jumpsuits provided by the facility, the best I can say is that they were perfect attire for the end of the world.
“Cuisine so-so, but happy to be alive”
While my family and I were glad that our eyes hadn’t been burned out by the extinction-level solar flares, we would have appreciated a more agreeable menu. The beef was stringy, the powdered fruit was powdery, and the potato pearls had more in common with pearls than potatoes. By month six, even the chef’s signature dish, a very passable turkey tetrazzini, stuck in the craw. Now and then, the chef would procure a few “rabbits,” which he’d prepare with a haunted look.
“Nothing super about the accommodations”
My girlfriend and I booked our deluxe shelter to escape an erupting supervolcano and were pleased by the overall absence of skin-searing magma in the facility. We were, however, a little disappointed by our “semi-private” suite, which we shared with an overweight asthmatic from Arkansas, who spent most nights either snoring or weeping or both. When I confronted the manager about the cramped conditions, sandbag-like mattresses, and pitiful water pressure in the shower, I was tasered. Unacceptable.
“Not quite luxurious, but passable”
Promises of “luxury” amenities at our shelter turned out to be a bit misleading. The decor resembled a middling airport hotel--leather couches, dark wood furnishings, bucolic landscapes on the walls. After 10 months or so, a combination of wear and tear, the odd suicide attempt, and a number of insanely violent altercations had taken the sheen off things. That said, frayed armrests and a few blood spatters were a minor inconvenience, given that the world outside was seething with anthrax, smallpox, and flesh-eating pathogens yet to be identified. No swimming pool, sadly.
“Bring a book”
The company literature boasted that our shelter contained “well stocked educational and entertainment materials.” What they neglected to mention was that you’d spend the bulk of your time here lining up to use the toilet. And when you weren’t doing this, you were either watching “Training Day” for the 88th time or fashioning shivs from pool cues, which were necessary when someone hogged the Facebook ledger. Some days, there would be a pet fight to entertain you. Or you could sit and watch the radiation sensor, or underline the word “scream” in the facility’s collection of crime thrillers. All in all, a dull 12 months.
“What a mess”
We checked out of our shelter on day 369, after a somewhat unsatisfying breakfast of bat-and-barley sausage. Having packed up all the hairs we’d shed during our time at the facility, we offered a brief farewell to Nanny Broomstick and joined the other guests on the stairway leading to the airlock, beyond which, we were told, the 450 mph superheated winds had receded to a level that was “doable.” In the brochure, it was stated that we’d emerge from the shelter to “reestablish a new society on the surface.” So, as that big metal door clunked open, there was a sense of excitement and anticipation in the air. Boy, were we disappointed.
Chris Wright is a writer and editor living in London.