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What If You Survive the Apocalypse and Only Have One Pair of Contacts?

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My biggest fear goes something like this: The apocalypse or an apocalyptic event happens. There are earthquakes, asteroids, nuclear wars—whatever, it doesn’t really matter. After the flames finally stop raining down and the world has settled into an ashen plain of sorrow I come to a startling realization: My glasses are at home and I’m wearing monthly disposable contact lenses.

I would be at a competative disadvantage should I ever have to enter "survival mode" without the aid of glasses or contacts. Even the smallest and weakest of children who happen to be blessed with normal eyesight would leap above me on the food chain. I would be susceptible to naturally occurring apocalyptic hurdles and booby traps —a comically obvious net placed on the ground could very easily be my downfall.

Assuming my glasses (as well as the home in which they were sitting) were washed away by a river or lava or something equally inconvenient, I would be reliant on the lenses hugging my eyeballs to guide me through the end of the world.

How Long Will My Contacts Last?

If properly cleaned and stored overnight, my contacts remain comfortable for about a month. Given that the apocalypse will probably be pretty dusty, I can't bank on having that much time. In order to prepare for this scenario, I spoke with Gary Heiting, OD, the Senior Editor of AllAboutVision.com. He said that, depending on the person, a pair of monthly contacts can be worn anywhere from one to three months (although three is pushing it). Wearing contacts longer than recommended greatly puts you at risk for serious eye infection.

In fact, infection is the greatest contact lens-related threat I'd face after the apocalypse. Acanthamoeba keratitis, for example, is caused by a one-celled organism that can dig its way into your corneas and eventually eat away at your vision. According to Dr. Heiting, the most likely causes of this kind of ailment are handling lenses with unclean hands or direct exposure to contaminated water.

Cleaning Contacts In The Filthy Apocalypse

I assume clean water will be tough to come by after the apocalypse (especially if I am in some sort of Waterworld-type scenario—surrounded by water but none of it is suitable for washing my hands, the cruel, cruel irony), so Purell would have to do. Dr. Heiting said that, in a pinch, antibacterial hand wash is fine, but you have to be very careful to ensure that all traces of alcohol have completely evaporated before making contact with your eyes. Still, soap and water is always the best bet.

I'll be able to loot a drugstore for saline solution (and snacks and sports drinks), so, for a couple of months, I will have good enough vision to wander the charred Earth and look for roaming bands of survivors whose trust I will undoubtedly have to earn with a series of daring deeds ("That was close..." "You're telling me!" That kind of thing).

What About Fresh, Packaged Lenses?

Even with Purell and fresh saline solution, my contacts won't last forever—soon, it will come time to find replacements. Naturally, I’m going to want to loot either A) an optometrist's office or B) a contact lens manufacturing plant (by this time I will have become very good at looting). Unfortunately, even in sealed packaging and taken directly from the assembly line, these contacts won't last for an eternity.

Contact lenses have expiration dates, and I asked Dr. Heiting how concrete those were. According to a source in the contact lens industry, manufacturers must prove that the lenses are stable up to that date (usually around three years after production). It's not like milk, in that the lenses will necessarily go bad once that time comes, but it's still a risk to wear expired contacts. Dr. Heiting said he can't recommend wearing expired contacts, "except perhaps in cases of dire emergency when the risk of very poor uncorrected vision outweighs the possibility of lens parameter changes or possible contamination."

Well well well, looks like I'm in business. A pair of factory-fresh lenses will last around three years, so I should be okay until civilization is rebuilt. When that time comes, I can visit my optometrist for a long-overdue checkup.

How To Ensure You're Never Up Apocalypse Creek Without A Paddle

Now, there are precautions one can take to ensure that they don't have to worry about their contact lenses during the apocalypse. Dr. Heiting recommends that you consider eyeglasses an "emergency medical device." Keep a pair on you at all times and you'll never have to worry. Still, having glasses isn't a 100% guarantee that the end of the world will be a breeze:

The best bet for a comfortable and crystal-clear apocalypse is LASIK or other types of refractive surgeries. Dr. Heiting says that many firefighters, police officers, and other first responders get these procedures done because they are faced with harrowing situations daily that can be made all the more difficult by cumbersome glasses or finicky contact lenses.

See you after the apocalypse—I'll be the guy dodging booby traps and reading faraway street signs with no trouble.

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Big Questions
Where Does the Phrase '… And the Horse You Rode In On' Come From?
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Horses may no longer be the dominant form of transportation in the U.S., but the legacy of our horseback-riding history lives on in language. When telling people off, we still use the phrase “... and the horse you rode in on.” These days, it’s rare for anyone you're telling to go screw themselves to actually be an equestrian, so where did “and the horse you rode in on” come from, anyway?

Well, let’s start with the basics. The phrase is, essentially, an intensifier, one typically appended to the phrase “F*** you.” As the public radio show "A Way With Words" puts it, it’s usually aimed at “someone who’s full of himself and unwelcome to boot.” As co-host and lexicographer Grant Barrett explains, “instead of just insulting you, they want to insult your whole circumstance.”

The phrase can be traced back to at least the 1950s, but it may be even older than that, since, as Barrett notes, plenty of crude language didn’t make it into print in the early 20th century. He suggests that it could have been in wide use even prior to World War II.

In 1998, William Safire of The New York Times tracked down several novels that employed the term, including The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1972) and No Bugles, No Drums (1976). The literary editor of the latter book, Michael Seidman, told Safire that he heard the term growing up in the Bronx just after the Korean War, leading the journalist to peg the origin of the phrase to at least the late 1950s.

The phrase has had some pretty die-hard fans over the years, too. Donald Regan, who was Secretary of the Treasury under Ronald Reagan from 1981 through 1984, worked it into his official Treasury Department portrait. You can see a title along the spine of a book in the background of the painting. It reads: “And the Horse You Rode In On,” apparently one of Regan’s favorite sayings. (The book in the painting didn't refer to a real book, but there have since been a few published that bear similar names, like Clinton strategist James Carville’s book …and the Horse He Rode In On: The People V. Kenneth Starr and Dakota McFadzean’s 2013 book of comics Other Stories And the Horse You Rode In On.)

It seems that even in a world where almost no one rides in on a horse, insulting a man’s steed is a timeless burn.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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Big Questions
What Could the Repeal of Net Neutrality Mean for Internet Users?
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What could the repeal of net neutrality mean for the average American internet user?

Zouhair Belkoura:

The imminent repeal of net neutrality could have implications for Americans beyond the Internet’s stratification, increased costs to consumers, and hindered access to content for all. Net neutrality’s repeal is a threat to the Internet’s democracy—the greatest information equalizer of our time.

With net neutrality’s repeal, ISPs could be selective about the content and pricing packages they make available. Portugal is a good example of what a country looks like without net neutrality

What people may not realize is that a repeal of net neutrality would also give ISPs the ability to throttle people’s Internet traffic. Customers won’t likely have visibility into what traffic is being throttled, and it could substantially slow down people’s Internet connections.

What happens when this type of friction is introduced to the system? The Internet—the greatest collective trove of information in the world—could gradually be starved. People who experience slower Internet speeds may get frustrated and stop seeking out their favorite sites. People may also lose the ability to make choices about the content they want to see and the knowledge they seek.

Inflated pricing, less access to knowledge, and slower connections aren’t the only impact a net neutrality repeal might have. People’s personal privacy and corporations’ security may suffer, too. Many people use virtual private networks to protect their privacy. VPNs keep people’s Internet browsing activities invisible to their ISPs and others who may track them. They also help them obscure their location and encrypt online transactions to keep personal data secure. When people have the privacy that VPNs afford, they can access information freely without worrying about being watched, judged, or having their browsing activity bought and sold by third-party advertisers.

Virtual private networks are also a vital tool for businesses that want to keep their company data private and secure. Employees are often required by their employers to connect to a VPN whenever they are offsite and working remotely.

Even the best VPNs can slow down individuals' Internet connections, because they create an encrypted tunnel to protect and secure personal data. If people want to protect their personal privacy or company’s security with a VPN [they] also must contend with ISP throttling; it’s conceivable that net neutrality’s repeal could undermine people’s freedom to protect their online safety. It could also render the protection a VPN offers to individuals and companies obsolete.

Speed has always been a defining characteristic of the Internet’s accessibility and its power. Net neutrality’s repeal promises to subvert this trait. It would compromise both people's and companies’ ability to secure their personal data and keep their browsing and purchasing activities private. When people don’t have privacy, they can’t feel safe. When they don’t feel safe, they can’t live freely. That’s not a world anyone, let alone Americans, want to live in.

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

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