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ALCOR - I’m a happy (but not impatient) customer

Posted: Fri, February 08, 2013 | By: Special Guest



by Alan Brooks

“It was sunny in Los Angeles, I was working the afternoon shift…”

Joe Friday’s voice said that, in my dream. I came out of a trance. The Amtrak train was pulling into early-morning Flagstaff Arizona hours late, which was a plus, wouldn’t have to stay there all night. The sun was beginning to come up. It was May and Flagstaff was cold; it was about 7,000 feet up in the mountains. A stack of brochures advertising voyages to the Grand Canyon was in sight.

“Perhaps Flagstaff would be a good place to live?” came the thought.

What worried me most about signing up to be cryopreserved (back then, in 2002, it was called cryosuspension) at Alcor was proximity. It didn’t make sense to sign up and be thousands of miles away at the time of my approaching demise. However, the Alcor materials packet stated that sudden death was uncommon, and reading between the lines, one could expect to die in a hospice or some other institution. Oh, great, dying a slow death in a hospital or something, was the immediate correlation. But… no pain, no gain.

Now it was time to board the familiar Greyhound bus for the last leg of the journey to Phoenix. I had been to Alcor a few months earlier, to pay the $175.00 deposit and give the facilities the once-over. The first visit was a blur, had gotten into a bad mood by not being able to find Alcor; getting to the corner of Scottsdale Road and Thunderbird was a cinch, unfortunately, I spent hours getting lost on Acoma, the street Alcor is located: Acoma winds all around the Scottsdale Airpark. By the time the Alcor building was in sight, I was sweating like a pig, in a towering rage, and had a headache.

Lesson #1 is, it is always best to take a taxicab to Alcor the first time out.

Question is, why did I sign up to be cryopreserved? Can’t exactly remember, it is comparable to attempting to remember why one got married years ago. My overall thinking revolves around how if one is going to die, why not try something different? It was based on - I wanted to be a futurist since 1976, and being cryopreserved was a vague yet intriguing way to be a part of it. 

Also, the Alcor staff was fairly reassuring. I am suspicious to the point of latent paranoia, yet observing that the backbone of Alcor was men in their sixties bolstered my hope. It wasn’t merely a career to them, it appeared, they wanted to be cryopreserved themselves. 

Only thing I remember doing on the first visit to Alcor was reading a book by Robert Ettinger in a closet-sized library; I read the book too long, so a staff member said it was time to hit the road.

Now it was May, and the worries on this second trip to Scottsdale were flooding in. “What if Alcor goes bankrupt someday?”, was one worry. A possible fire in the facility was another one. Then there was climate change: what if Phoenix became unbearably hot? Why couldn’t Alcor have been located in a central location such as Kansas?

“Tornadoes”, came the inner reply. Stop worrying!, came the command; after all, worry too much and you’ll never go outside for fear of being hit by a car or murdered. 

So the rest of the way down the mountain road to Phoenix prompted pleasanter thoughts of palm trees and Mexican culture. In a sense the trip was full-circle. I had hitch-hiked from the east coast to California in the autumn of 1976. California was the In-place to go. The Eagles “Hotel California” hinted dark pleasure; also the lingering aura of the Sunset Strip, swimming pools, the Beverly Hillbillies, and Dragnet. Yachts at Newport Beach filled with swingers drinking wine. That sort of thing.

In ‘76 I had no trouble hitch-hiking until I got to Phoenix, an irate Phoenix policeman threatened arrest: “what the Goddamned are you doing here on the Interstate highway?” He also threw in a remark how the jails in Phoenix weren’t the safest places to be. The policeman grabbed the backpack without asking and searched it for dope. But no such luck for him, only some Rock ‘n’ Roll cassettes he eyed angrily as if they were property of the Communist Party. At any rate, the strong, undeniable, lasting impression was that Phoenix was a Rightist city. Yet it ultimately didn’t matter at all, for the purpose now was to be cryopreserved in Scottsdale—not run for Alderman or be a community activist.

The second time ‘round was far better than the first. Took the bus north on Scottsdale Road to Thunderbird and walked the mile and a half to Alcor, which is located in a very pleasant neighborhood, there’s even a sign reading, “Scottsdale, Most Livable City In America”. Even allowing for Chamber of Commerce hype, Scottsdale is in fact a good city; IMO much better than Phoenix though it must be pointed out at once that in summertime when the mercury reaches 118 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, the scenery doesn’t seem so pleasant anymore.

Sorted through all the many papers it takes to be an Alcor member, and then witnesses were summoned to observe the signing. I had chosen a life insurance policy payable to Alcor at the time of legal death—for the patient must be legally dead before cryopreservation. The Alcor president asked me if I’d had a tour of the facilities. I stammered about not remembering so he led the way to the patient care bay, which looked fireproof. More reassurance. The president had a look in his eye of ‘this guy is another weirdo’, so I tried to appear somewhat knowledgable, guessing “it’s better for the patient to be preserved young, eh?”

The president brightened; “yes”, he answered authoritatively, “the better the patient condition at time of suspension, the better the odds are.”

“So smoking cigarettes isn’t really such a bad idea after all”, I joked.

The president grimaced: he must have heard space-cadet jests like that dozens of times.

In the going-on eleven years since then, Alcor has added fees, including for remote standby, to facilitate transport to Alcor at time of cryopreservation. The sums are substantial, however for an older person the financial cost can appear worth it. I see sickness as coming at any time, many of the patients at Alcor surely

assumed they would live to be well over 100 years of age, but now there they are, frozen in ‘dewars’ (containers). We all like to think bad things should only happen to other people, yet somehow it doesn’t work out that way—does it?

To find out about becoming a member of Alcor, click HERE 



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