This is an illustration prepared for Mars One.
The Mars One project is looking for volunteers to begin colonizing the red planet by 2023, which fills me with a creeping dread. This is not due to the thought of signing up for a one-way ticket to a cold, desolate, uninhabitable space rock where one might perish from lack of oxygen or water if Mars One's systems are unable to mine useful molecules from the Martian soil, but because that's one hell of a move.
Recently, I've been in the midst of relocating my living situation—otherwise known as "moving"—and it has been like a complicated six-dimensional chess game played on the back of a bucking rhinoceros while ducking bombs of fecal matter hurled by the monkeys from the Lincoln Park Zoo.
It makes you realize that all the possessions you own are essentially garbage. You spend all this money to rent a U-Haul truck to ferry around furniture that the Salvation Army rejects outright. My roommate Pat and I spent an afternoon getting told by charity that my stuff was not worthy to be in the living rooms of the disadvantaged and working poor.
Yet owning garbage is almost better than owning nice things because at least you don't feel bad when your garbage gets broken, scraped, mangled and fractured during the move. DIY moving requires a certain innate disregard for the material world. You'll get that motherloving couch down the stairs no matter what damage is incurred by the couch, the stairs, small children or any piss-ass pets that get in the way. If a dog gets cut in half by a cumbersome dresser Pat and I are sliding down from the top floor, so be it.
Then there's the 50 people a week dropping by to check out your apartment, who, in the age of the camera phone, are recording every inch of your place, including all those incriminating bedside tissues and DVD copies of Helen Mirren movies (or, you know, whatever it is you find erotic or whatever ...).
This is why I'd never colonize Mars. The packing alone would drive me out of my mind. Do I take my "Fight Club" poster even though the corners are all torn and there might not be room on the wall in my geodesic settlement dome? What about that end table we had in the bathroom? I kept my copies of The Onion on it, but the new bathroom might have a magazine rack, and then I'll feel stupid for having dragged the end table all the way to Mars—although, damn it, it does have a handy drawer.
It stresses me out just thinking of that scenario.
In the end, this will probably turn out to be the basic story of humanity: our current apartment, Earth, is crowded, falling apart, full of poison, the A/C's broken, and it's heating up rapidly, but moving to a new place? Way too much trouble. Humankind would be on Craigslist for days.
RedEye special contributor Stephen Markley is the author of "The Great Dysmorphia" and "Publish This Book."
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