It’s a little troubling to realize that if I’m ever mugged the only person I could call for help would be my dead grandmother. Despite her best intentions, I just don’t think she’d be all that useful. I suppose I could write it on a piece of paper and keep it in my wallet, but if I got mugged I bet they’d take the wallet too. My dog has a little microchip that identifies who she belongs to if she ever gets lost. Perhaps I could get one of those.

So I look up Preppy’s number, enter it on the form, and then I’m struck by a surprising follow-up request: SECONDARY Emergency Contact. This is just unfair. It was hard enough managing to identify who would be my one-and-only in life, and now I gotta choose a backup?

But there is real wisdom here: Preppy and I don’t tend to answer unknown numbers because it’s usually people wanting money, so if I was attacked by a bobcat and someone called to tell him about it, he’d likely let it roll over to voicemail. I would need the back-up person to actually respond to the bobcat attack phone call.

“Tell me exactly what would be expected of me in this role,” says my pal Mandy on the phone when I call.

“You’re just the person they call if they can’t reach Preppy. It’s nothing huge, I just gotta have a backup person.”

“But what if we can’t find him and you need to be unplugged from something? Do I have to make decisions about your power supply?”

“You’re reading way too much into this. Why would you not be able to find my husband? Where would he be?”

“I don’t know. Why are you being attacked by a bobcat? Where the hell were you?”

“You don’t have to be my back-up. I can call my sister.”

“Oh, no. Now I’m excited. But who makes the decisions on plugs if the bobcat gets Preppy too?”

I was not expecting my first workday of 2011 to feature mediation on my mortality. I have absolutely no idea who would make the plug-or-unplug decisions if that bobcat managed to get us both. Who would feed the dog?

The only person with a key to our house is our friend Ginger in Colorado, which is about as efficient as a dead grandmother in terms of quick response. Why haven’t I thought of these things before? In spite of the façade created by marriage and home ownership, I am absolutely horrible at being a grownup.

When I get home, I share my to-do list with Preppy. I need to learn his phone number. We need to give house keys to a few of our friends, set up a living will, write out instructions for Daisy’s care, and fill out our organ donor cards. Also, I want one of those fireproof boxes like my Dad has, and I’d like to find out what goes in it. Something horrible could happen at any moment. He takes this in.

“You don’t know my phone number?” he says at last.

I concede that I do not.

“Why don’t you start with learning my phone number?”

I’m pretty sure I can do that. Just in case I can’t, I’ll write it down, and put it in my fireproof box. And then I’ll tell Mandy where it is.


Topher Payne is an Atlanta-based playwright, and the author of the book “Necessary Luxuries: Notes on a Semi-Fabulous Life.” Find out more at

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