Andy Zawaki, Time Traveler Clinton Township, Michigan
At the entrance of the Cryonics Institute, in wooden frames, they gazed at us - portraits in two neat rows. The portraits reflect how the people in them wanted to be remembered. Many of the elderly had chosen pictures of themselves from the prime of life. NASA has something similar, a wall with portraits of astronauts. The only difference is, the people in the Institute’s portraits are not astronauts; they are time travelers.
With dreams of immortality, a math professor, Robert Ettinger, started the Cryonics Institute in 1976. In an unassuming building in Clinton Township, Michigan, the dead are frozen in liquid nitrogen until future generations develop the technology to bring them back to life.
Pointing to one of the portraits, the caretaker, Andy Zawaki explained, “That lady is Mr. Ettinger’s mother. She was the first patient. The second patient was Mr. Ettinger’s wife.”
Ettinger himself became patient 106 just last year at the age of 92. “He got sick,” said Andy. “He just kinda wore out. They hired nurses to sit with him around the clock so we would know the moment he died and start the cooling."
Along with the Ettingers were other families, and even their pets: dogs, cats, parrots, a hamster named Leapy. In another part of the facility were fire-proof file cabinets filled with the patients’ possessions. Like pharaohs bundled into well-stocked tombs, everyone planned to resume their lives exactly where they had left off.
“You know,” said Andy, “people talk about the end of the world coming. Well, the end of the world comes every day for the people that die, ‘cause once you die, nothing matters anymore. It’s game over, man.”
“I’ll tell ya, when the time comes you see these old people hangin’ on every single day because there’s hope. They hope they’re gonna be able to be cured. They hope they can go back to what they were like when they were younger. My friend’s in the veteran’s hospital and he’s gonna be 90 this month, but he still talks about things as if he’s ever gonna get home and do it again and I know he’s not, and he knows he’s not, but you still have that hope.”
“There’s another friend of mine who’s frozen now. He had a stroke. He was only 77. He used to say that when you get buried you know you’re gonna rot, and if you get cremated, you’re gonna be ashes, but when you’re signed up to be frozen, you don’t know. There’s just the little bit of a possibility of hope, and for my friend, that changed his whole outlook.”
$28,000 buys a place inside one of the massive metal vats, called cryostats. Each cryostat holds six patients, upside-down, swathed in sleeping bags. Encased in white insulation, the cryostats look like the stout stems of mushrooms growing out of bare concrete. The storage room holds nothing else except a small row of cubbyholes, numbered for anonymity, where loved-ones can leave flowers.
“A lot of people come in,” said Andy, “and tell me they expected lights and dials and people monitoring, but we want it as simple as possible because we don’t want to rely on all that stuff. These storage units start at about nine dollars per person per year in liquid nitrogen. They’re very cheap.” The laboratory has a kind of science-fair quality to it. Everything has been assembled by hand.
Andy lives at the Institute. He sleeps on a fold-out couch. Sometimes his girlfriend drives in from Standish to visit. “It’s nothing great and fun to be here 24 hours,” Andy said, “but it is convenient for emergencies. People say ghosts and this and that, but I never get a strange feeling in here. People say, "Aren’t ya afraid of dead people?” I say, I’m afraid of live people. Live people can hurt ya.”
“We’ve had threats come in. Some people say, “You’re playing God.” I say, you play God anytime you take a cancer treatment. I don’t think it’s playing God. I think it’s just an extension of medicine. These people who die on the operating table for two minutes, drown for an hour, or freeze for a thousand years, as far as God’s concerned there is no time limit. It’s eternity.”
“Myself, I was raised catholic. I still go to church. Personally, I think if the pope ever really thought about cryonics, he’d have to find in favor of it. Catholics are pro-life. So, if cryonics is proven to revive life, then it proves you were never really dead to begin with. So it’d almost be a sin not to.”
“They’ve made cartoons about it. St. Peter tapping the one little angel on the shoulder sayin’ you’ve gotta go back - they just thawed ya out. And the guy’s looking at him cause he’s got golf clubs or something like he’s playing golf - doesn’t wanna leave.”
“Anyway, the legal definition of death is when the doctors give up. We’re not giving up.”
When asked why he wanted to be frozen, Andy said only, “I don’t wanna die.” As for the kind of future he expects to find after emerging from his long sleep, all he could say was that he hoped it would be good.
He recalled when he first learned about death. “We had a collie and she got hit by the school bus - slid on the ice and it hit her and killed her. So we’re crying. I was in kindergarten. My brother was in first grade. It was a long, long time ago. What I remember was, dad had her on a sled. We just thought, stand her up, she’ll walk, stand her up, she’ll walk. She was laying on her side, dead, but there was no external… no blood out of the nose or mouth. She wasn’t squashed. We just could not convince dad to stand her up and she’d walk. And he wouldn’t do it! Stand her and hold her! But we were just convinced. I just couldn’t get a grasp on that. We was convinced she was still alive or would be alive if you just stood her up.”
tumblr i know you’re good at doing things for people. so i have a job:
i was chatting on omegle earlier and had a great chat with two boys (and a brother) who were the funniest shits ever. unfortunately, the disconnect button was accidentally hit and i have no way of finding them through the omegle feed again.
here’s what i know:
they go to Chippewa Valley High School in Michigan.
the little brother ( i think he was 12) said he was an “italian-polish mix” and was walking around with crutches (but he didn’t need them)
one of the boys had darker skin and short black hair. the other one looked skinny, white and had an almost bieber-esque hair style (dark brown hair).
i think they were at the skinnier kids house, and the kid had a dog named Rocky. It was a black lab.
the skinny kid kept talking about duck dynasty and they all dubbed me patricia.
i think i heard the names ‘ryan’ and 'trevor’ thrown around. but i’m not sure
If anybody knows who these kids are, pLEASE contact me. i’d love to talk to them again! (if you know them, i was the girl who typed really fast, we kept saying spongebob quotes and my name was “patricia”. I named the skinny kid “kidney stone”)
After torrential storms in the Metro Detroit area dumped 5 inches of rain in 3 hours, local parks in Clinton Township had to change their offered activities; hiking turned to swimming and soccer turned to water polo.