Pedestrian Emergency Kit

Named “Pedestrian” as a sort of pun on that word’s double meaning, this is a kit for the flâneur, to address quotidian emergencies. This is not a wilderness survival kit. This is a kit to carry every day, designed for the modicum of preparedness required by the meaningful connections between human activities forged by urban living.

The Altoid tin, being an easily pocketable accessory makes an ideal container for this kit.

Because contemporary urban life involves periodic interactions with security kabuki, the tools included shouldn’t include anything ostensibly dangerous. I think the TSA rules provide a decent guide to what security checks at your local courthouse, library, or grade school might panic about, so the tools included should comply with those rules (I have not yet checked to confirm that they do).

1) Two Hydrocolloid Adhesive Pads

These act as breathable artificial scabs, protecting big cuts from both foreign substances and nerve endings from sudden jolts.

I include these as a reaction to the time I stepped out of a bus onto a patch of ice, instantly falling down and gashing my palm just enough that it didn’t make sense to attempt going to work without applying something like this.

The bandages fit neatly in the bottom of the tin, but their wrapping will need to be folded up around them.

2) Two of the biggest normal size medicated band aids.

The biggest normal size fits nicely in the kit, and can be made to fit a wide variety of cuts. The medicated part is insurance against getting caught in a situation where you don’t have access to a means to wash up: I once cut myself on the edge of a seat on the 34 trolley in Philadelphia.

In a pinch, a piece of a band aid can of course be used as tape if needed as well.

3) Soap or hand sanitizer

In my kit I included a packet of papery soap slivers I happened to have. These are not as common as they used to be, but I would probably include a small vial of hand sanitizer instead if I found a small enough one. Imagine you’re out for brunch, and the bathroom is out of soap: you know you’ve been handling the escalator railing on the Metro – a proverbial petri-dish of filth. Or, imagine you bump into your sweetheart and want to celebrate your affection for that person by pushing the boundaries of public decency: you don’t want to communicate any microbes to him or her from your filthy hands.

4) Splinter tweezers

There are wood things in cities, and some of them are splintery. Being prepared for the inconvenience of being disabled from the manual dexterity necessary for most urban jobs and recreations is a bummer. Keep some of these handy so you won’t stay out of the workforce for long.

5) Glasses repair kit

The reason to carry this is obvious if you wear glasses, but it’s an awesome thing to have on hand even if you don’t. Remember, urban living is about connecting meaningfully with other people: even if you don’t wear glasses, someone you know does, and may need a repair at some point. Moreover, the kit contains a tiny screwdriver and tiny screws which may be useful for any number of objects and devices you might encounter.

6) Two or three safety pins of varying sizes

An emergency repair to a lost trouser button, split seam or tear can quickly be effected with these. Did I mention that the edge of the 34 trolley seat in Philadelphia that cut my leg also tore a very big hole in the pair of nice Italian wool pants I was wearing at the time? I couldn’t afford to replace them or have them mended, but I could at least get through the rest of my day by popping a safety pin in them.

7) Sewing kit

A card with some needles and a few colors of thread, and maybe a needle threader will come in handy if you a) use up all your safety pins or b) have a presentation, court hearing, job interview, business lunch or other reason to look more than ordinarily presentable in the near future.

8) Folding sewing scissors

You never know when scissors will come in handy, from using the sewing kit to snipping the plastic loops off of new purchases or cutting open a tenacious blister pack. You can’t carry a pocket knife many places these days and these can be convinced to accomplish some of the things you would use a sharp blade for. They fit nicely in this tin, and comply with TSA regs.

9) Fresnel magnifying card

I don’t often need to magnify anything, but this fits nicely here, and if it can save a lot of trouble for anyone you might encounter, it belongs in the Pedestrian Emergency Kit. Urban living is about people using resources more efficiently, and doing things together they couldn’t do separately. If I have a magnifier on hand someone else needs, I’ve saved that person a trip, eyestrain, money, frustration, etc.

And who knows, maybe I’ll need to magnify something for myself at some point, anyhow.

10) Zebra T-3 Ballpoint Pen

There may be a way to get a more ergonomic pen to fit in the Altoid tin more neatly, but I find the T-3 a pretty excellent middle ground between extreme portability and decent ergonomics. It has to be sort of snapped into the tin on the diagonal, but it definitely fits without bumping up the lid.

The sorts of emergencies where pens come in handy are rarer with the increasing ease of electronic person to person payments, but you still may find yourself needing to endorse the check grandma gave you for Christmas on a Sunday night, and you’re not likely to find a pen near a lot of ATMs.

I have also been to a merchant who did not have pens to offer customers to sign their credit card slips. That was an awkward moment. Luckily someone in line did have a pen.

11) String

A length of tough string fits anywhere, and it’s gotta be useful for something. A shoestring would take up more space, but would definitely be a nice thing to have – exposure to salt in winter weakens shoelaces, and I’ve had them pop apart as I was tightening them on several occasions. My usual solution is just to tie a knot in them, but if you can fit a spare shoelace, I say why not?

12) USB drive

Use one with some good capacity – I’d say 8GB at the very least. Since more and more stuff is in the cloud these days, USB drives seem to see most of their utility in moving files too large to upload from one computer to another. Exactly the kind of pedestrian emergency I’m all about with this kit.

Use a service like UNetBootin or pendrivelinux to put a live linux distro on it. Then if something goes wrong with your computer you can boot into the linux distro on the USB drive and either try to repair the problem, or just keep working from there.

I put PortableApps on my 32GB drive. Having not only all my work but all my programs configured the way I want them on this drive is a great incentive to take this little tin wherever I go. Of course it also means you’ll want to backup and secure the drive as well.

14) Tampon

Applicatorless (OB) will fit the best, but telescoping (U-Click) will be more comfortable for more people.

I’m not a woman, I don’t menstruate. If I use this for myself, it will obviously not be for its intended purpose. But if someone needs a tampon in a pinch, there’s one here. And that’s what the Pedestrian Emergency Kit – and urban living – is all about: being ready to assist your fellow flâneurs with the mundane emergencies we can anticipate but too often find ourselves unprepared for.

What are some of the unintended purposes I might wind up using one for? I don’t know. Maybe sopping up a huge spill, or staunching a gushing wound.

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