How Working at HMV Over the Holidays Prepared Me for the Inevitable Zombie Apocalypse

It was Saturday, December 22nd, 2012 and I had been charged with the task of restocking the campaign DVDs and blu-rays in alphabetical order. We had all been given strict instructions to work efficiently and fast. Today was anticipated to be the worst day yet. Everything up until this point was a cake walk.

The gates weren’t scheduled to open until 10:00am but even as early as 9:23 I could see the throng of milling, listless bodies shuffle about just beyond the gates.

“Are you guys open yet?”

Shit. Must stock faster, I told myself. I had been at this for an hour, repairing the damages incurred yesterday and I was only on “Daddy Day Care”. I worked distractedly, one eye never leaving the hoard at the gates. I was already sweating.

At 9:56, I looked up from my work. It was almost time; none of my peers were ready. I sure as hell wasn’t  The throng beyond the gates had grown to about 150 and the gate would be opening in three minutes. I will never forget the way they just slithered back and forth behind the Plexiglas, never once breaking eye contact.

There was no time left to prepare. We had to make our stand here and now or die. It was as simple as that.

Luckily, I survived the Christmas season but it wasn’t easy. There are still nights that I lay awake and all I can do is think back on the horrible things I saw and that I did.

I was working in an HMV store, one of Canada’s leading sellers in CDs, DVDs, and fan memorabilia in a central shopping mall near a major city. In other words, I was in the worst possible place to be during the holiday shopping frenzy.

This experience, although traumatizing, taught me some skills that I plan to use when the Zombie Apocalypse finally hits. And I’m willing to share them with you, reader because any way I can think of to best prepare people the better it will ultimately be for the chances of the human race.

RULE #1: MAKE A PLAN, ASSIGN ROLES, AND STICK TO THEM 

I believe that human behaviour when in a frenzied situation is a good indicator as to what zombie behaviour will look like; I refer to this as zombie psychology. In both cases, holiday shoppers and zombies have but one goal: To get stuff/brains right fucking now.

Whether you’re making your stand in a retail outlet or a street barricade made from demolished cars, a semblance of order will help in two very important ways.

Firstly, a unified force communicates. If everyone has a task and knows what each of their other comrades are doing, the odds of survival rise tenfold. This includes knowing who to call for ammunition/quarters, who will be relieving you for your break/mental breakdown, and, most importantly, who is in charge. Also, in terms of base safety, six sets of eyes working together see more than six sets of eyes working alone.

Secondly, a well-orchestrated strike force can funnel their focus to eliminate a mindless horde as efficiently as possible whether that means selling them stuff or debilitating their central nervous system with a hunting rifle.

What you must never ever do is break ranks, even for the easy kill. As soon as a weakness is spotted in your defenses, the zombies will capitalize on it.

I witnessed a co-worker taken down tragically when he thought he’d help a woman by ringing her purchase through without her having to wait in the massive line-up since she was elderly and had reserved the CD months prior. This action was regarded as favoritism by the frenzied crowd and before he knew what was happening, about six shoppers had descended on him in a fevered rage. It was so terrible to watch.

“MAINTAIN YOUR POSITIONS! YOU CAN’T HELP GARY NOW!”

If the rule is that all shoppers must wait in line, then all shoppers must wait in line. No exceptions.

RULE #2: DON’T ATTRACT UNNECESSARY ATTENTION TO YOURSELF

Assuming that Christmastime shoppers exhibit similar behavioural patterns, I have a theory as to how to avoid attention in the midst of the zombie apocalypse.

I should start by stating that I believe that Hollywood is responsible for distributing some false information in regards to zombie psychology. We see often, in films and television, zombies that are able to perceive the living as a target simply by the living person’s presence. Do they smell the living? Are they detecting active brain patterns? There’s often no inclination as to how the zombies are able to perform this but I think, if anything, the living dead will lose sensory abilities rather than gain them. If we couldn’t necessarily smell a living person or read brain patterns in life then why would we after the body begins to break down?

But, Christmas shoppers can identify irregular social cues and behaviours and therefore, we should assume, so can zombies. I noticed that while I was stocking shelves with a handful of CDs concealing the corporate logo on my shirt (the logo itself an irregular social cue), I looked like any other shopper ambling my way slowly through the store trying to find the right CDs. In these moments, the soulless soldiers would amble past me, mumbling softly, frustrated by their own inability to find the latest “Pink!” album. But, when I was finished stocking one section and was needed in another, I picked up speed, walked directly and determinedly, and revealed the HMV logo on my chest. Suddenly, 20 heads in my direct vicinity shot up, recognized that I was one of the living, and collectively began moving towards me.

In an instance where you are outnumbered by the living dead, be they angry shoppers or actual undead, I theorize that you would see much better success trying to amble your way across a vast expanse rather than trying to sprint your way across.

RULE #3: NEVER ASSUME THE (SHOPPER) ZOMBIE IS SATED

In Canada, we have a very unique holiday just after Christmas. On December 26th, all those that received hundreds of dollars worth of stuff to play with and ate one third of their body-weight in food get up bright and early to go back to the mall and buy more stuff. We call this Boxing Day. What this tells us about zombie psychology is that so long that there are brains/sales to have, the zombie will not rest.

It is safe to assume that a zombie won’t simply eat until it is full. It will continue to consume until it is overburdened with human entrails/credit card debt. It is important to point out that we can’t even be sure if zombies will even eat their food before they continue hunting or that their exists an optimum amount. It’s very possible that they might hoard first and then consume.

The only sources we have seen on this are simply the imaginings of the writers of fiction and this doesn’t help us prepare for the real zombie apocalypse when it finally hits us.

RULE #4: ZOMBIES ARE INDIVIDUALISTIC. USE THIS TO YOUR ADVANTAGE

While the brainless flesh-eaters may advance in a horde, this does not necessarily mean that zombies are acting as a unified group. Based on the behaviour I saw of the Holiday shopper, each individual of these creatures was looking to serve their own selfish end. They would interrupt other  customers  mid-question to have me tell them where “that album with the guy with the dark hair that sang on that show a few years ago” was located in the store.

“Yes, I heard you, mam. I was, uh, wondering though if you remember anything maybe a bit more specific.”

Knowing these creatures are individualistic doesn’t really help you if you find yourself halfway down the Adult-Contemporary aisle with ten shoppers coming at you from either side but it can help you if you have a means of escape. For example, by placing a shopper between myself and other shoppers, especially if this shopper had a baby carriage or is occupying a a narrow space, I am now dealing with a single shopper rather than fifteen. This was often a very good tactic to quickly help a single customer and then, before the others could move around the one being served, making a dash to the break-room to recuperate.

On a quick side-note, zombie-shoppers, and therefore real zombies we can assume, do not tend to note the presence of physical barricades. rather than walking around a shelf of Nickleback CDs, they will instead lean their body into it and attempt to get my attention by rapidly repeating “hello” or “excuse me”. A zombies sense of direction includes only a direct line to the target, not necessarily the most sensible. Make use of this.

RULE #5: SURVIVE BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY

I am not proud of this rule and it is because of this rule that I wake up in a cold sweat some nights. I have never known what a survival instinct actually was until a found myself working retail on the weekend before Christmas in a major mall. It’s nice to think that, innately we are all very generous people and that we would be willing to sacrifice it all for the ones that we care about. But the truth is, my need to live proved stronger than my want to be morally correct.

As I have mentioned earlier, shopper-zombies are really only after your brains/information but that doesn’t mean they need yours, necessarily. At one point, I found myself being overwhelmed by an overpowering surge the angry and ravenous. I knew that if help didn’t arrive in a few moments, I would be finished. That helped arrived in the form of a co-worker, Jacob. Knowing that only one of us was going to leave the situation alive I quickly blurted, “I can’t help you at the moment but Jacob can! He has a moment!”

And I ran. I remember hearing Jacob’s screams as the shoppers landed on him. All I could do was bolt for the stock room, tears streaming down my face.

Was it right to do what I did? No. But in these circumstances what is right becomes less and less of a priority. It is in these moments that the strong and the crafty will prevail and although I have seen some terrible images burned into my mind, I regret nothing.

We owe it to ourselves to survive. Because once the dust settles from all of the rabid Christmas shopping or the actual zombie apocalypse, the strong will be needed to reclaim society. It will be up to you, the survivor, to end the miserable existence of these things and start building a better, a stronger world.

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