Fear-tainment

It’s spring in the Midwestern United States – which means “Severe Weather” season.  Which also means “Local Television Stations Jack-up Ratings Through Alarmist Fear Mongering” season.  A storm ten counties away is “Breaking News”.  Annual segments on “Tornado Preparedness” are broadcast.  Recommended “Tornado Safety Kit” items posted online at television station websites.
 
If the local news channels devote this much bandwidth to an issue, then by the Glory of Idiocracy, this must be serious fucking ju-ju!
 
Coincidently, it’s also “daisyfae Gets Cranky With Storm Pussies” season. 
 
Mom was a Level Five* Storm Pussy.  With the threat of thunderstorms, we were forced to stay indoors.  She held watch at the windows, television blaring, clinging to the latest updates.  With the advent of weather radio, she monitored the static-encrusted drone of the invisible weatherman as he described ‘a line of severe thunderstorms’ a hundred miles away.
 
She would bemoan the fact that we didn’t have a basement for safe shelter.  Pace and wring her hands, jumping with each flash of lightning, clap of thunder or ping of a hail stone.  Massive amounts of energy spent on the endeavor of ‘worry’.  Zero energy spent doing anything useful – such as locating flashlights in case of power failure or filling a jugs with water. Since our water was supplied via electric well pump, we couldn’t even flush the toilet without electricity.   That might have been helpful.
 
She had no plan to respond to an actual, honest-to-fucking-god tornado**.  Listen, watch, pace, wring, bemoan.  Repeat as necessary.
 
Growing up with this, i acquired storm anxiety.  It stayed with me until i took my first Probability and Statistics course.  Maybe it was an example tossed out by an instructor, or just conversations with my very rational husband, but i realized it was extremely unlikely that i’d ever suffer ill effects due to weather.
 
In “Freakonomics”, the authors take a run at this phenomena.  Even though we are FAR more likely to die of heart disease, cancer, stroke, and auto accidents, humans are irrationally worried about “death by windstorm”.  The authors discuss our natural propensity to be less afraid of things we control.  You are more likely to die in a car than an airplane***, but we fear flying because we’re not in control. 
 
Fast forward a few decades.  Mom still has storm anxiety – as do all of my siblings****.  i have learned to place myself into a “mental bunker” and not respond when they start yammering about scary weather, and death from the skies. 

Unfortunately, i still haven’t learned to do this on facebook.
 
With the first storm of the season upon us, i saw a dozen postings regarding weather.  Not limited to just theater people, or high school friends who grew up with me, there was no single representative demographic.  Unable to restrain myself, i went to several of these threads and posted the following:

over your lifetime, the odds of dying of heart disease are 1:5, cancer 1:7, stroke 1:23, auto accident 1:100… tornado? 1:60,000

math. trust it. oh, and we probably need to rethink the bacon… damn it.

(reference here)

Not surprisingly, this was completely ignored.  What?  Facts and figures?  It seemed to be a buzzkill, as several active commentary threads shut down after i hoarked up data.
 
It finally occurred to me that there’s more to this baseless fear.  Being scared is fun – that’s what gets our asses on roller coasters, our butts in theaters for zombie flicks and why humans jump out of perfectly good airplanes for sport.  When you’re afraid?  You KNOW you’re alive…
 
Who am i to deny people the chance to feel a rush of blood coursing through their veins?  The thrill of staring down death – and surviving to fear another day?
 
i give up.  Back to trying to teach my fucking dog to sing…

~~~~~~~~~~~

* That is an SP-5 on the “Sucks at Math” scale.

** It was her youngest child who eventually came up with a “tornado safety plan”.  Based on the annual “Spring Tornado Preparedness” drills at my elementary school, i wrote it all down – when I was about 10 years old.  “Open windows.  Grab blankets from bedrooms.  Close doors to bedrooms and bathroom.  Shelter in hallway.”  She didn’t seem that interested in the plan – told me that what we really needed was a basement.
 
***  They do their math by “deaths per mile traveled over a lifetime”.  The risks are fairly even…  Smarter statistics.  That’s why they are two very rich men (i hope).
 
**** Florida sister has weathered several hurricanes.   Her ‘disaster preparedness’ methods are pretty solid by now.  “Go to liquor store.  Put up storm shutters.  Drink.  Repeat as necessary.”

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27 thoughts on “Fear-tainment

  1. You cannae beat the sound of a singing dog hitting the high notes as the front of the house exits directly through the back extension wall.

    Life is grand until it hits you in the arse!

  2. We moved my mother here to Texas from California a year after Dad died. She is irrationally afraid of thunderstorms, to the extent that she’ll sleep on the couch in the living room during one because she fears lightning is going to come in through her bedroom window, hang a left turn, and electrocute her in her iron bed.

    This from the woman who survived the 1933 Long Beach, Calif. earthquake.

    I think she’d rather have earthquakes because she never knew they were coming until they happened. So there must be something to what you say about the over-hyping of severe weather.

  3. yep yep…today we had tornado warnings on our tv for cities over 80 miles away..but because our town is so small the warnings are for the local channel which is in a completely different state. My neighbors all panicked last year as I was mowing the lawn because the tornado sirens were going off..um..ok.. the sun is shining over me..pretty sure I can turn it off and get in the house in a timely manner…The “cloud” was about 20 miles away outside of the town but since all the sirens are linked, the in town ones went off also. crap…all of it..(though this town did see and F5 about 5 yrs ago)
    When I was a kid..we stood outside and watched the tornado go past about a 1/4 mile away since it was still in the air and not touching…coolest thing I ever saw.

  4. jimmy – i’d feel really shitty if any one of those storm pussies i know got nailed by a tornado. well, for about five minutes, anyway…

    texastrailerparktrash – although natural disasters can be pretty damn traumatic, most people who get tagged don’t die. maybe if you put a ground-strap on her bed? nah… wouldn’t work.

    rob – it’s not rocket surgery, this stuff. logic. that’s it! and i have a couple of ridiculous irrational fears (the random paralyzing fear of heights and a ‘squealing girly stand on a chair’ fear of spiders). but i don’t pretend for a second they are rational. i own my irrationality.

    hisqueen – during the spring/summer i pay closer attention to the weather forecasts because i drive a nekkid jeep. rain is annoying. but like you, i find “Accu-Door” forecasting best. Open window. Look outside…

    stephanie – i can’t decide if the storm pussies are worse than the snow pussies. it’s a toss up…

  5. Most people really do suck at math. Not only that, if you tell them the facts, as you well know, they do not want to know. Lost in their own little world I tell you.

    Best example I ever saw was from a political cartoon. A guy at a bar is smoking a cigarette. He saw the stat that for smokers the odds of getting lung cancer go through the roof. This cartoon guy proclaims loudly that he would never get cancer. The odds are too long.

    With his next breath he tells his buddies that he is buying a lottery ticket for the multi-million dollar jackpot because he can beat those odds.

    TAG

  6. When I moved to Cincinnati several years ago, I was watching on the TV an update for a very severe Storm and possible Tornado. I went into panic mode for a while until I realized that by looking at the map I wasn’t familiar enough with the territory of southern Ohio and Northern Kentucky to know where I lived….so I went to bed. That was about 16 years ago and I still go to bed when there’s storm. huh!

  7. There’s nothing more scary than a goddess on a rant ……. they usually arrive with little or no warning …… why, only the other day, just after a comment I made about the TG’s hair …….. oh never mind ……. it doesn’t matter …….. suffice it to say I sheltered in the shed until the storm had blown over ……

  8. Like when I was a little girl and my dad would hide in the basement and then leap out, cackling, and scare the bejeesus out of me. And then I say ‘again, again’.

    We like a little fear. Keeps us focussed on the things we’d rather think about. You know, rather than why we’re leading such souless, shitty lives.

    oh, maybe that’s just me.

    BOO!! MWahahahahahaaha.

  9. First of all, Doug Stanhope is great. He appears regularly on the Howard Stern Show and discusses his crazy life.

    There’s no doubt about it; weather is a big thrill. There’s nothing sexy about getting into an auto accident. That’s so pedestrian (ha). But having a big tree crash through your house? Now, THAT’S some drama. And a powerful clap of thunder? That’s some biblical shit. I likee.

  10. TAG – that’s exactly it… when you provide facts, offer to look something up (hell, even on Wiki), or try to find ground truth? you get glassy eyed stares… ugh!

    renalfailure – hadn’t seen the video. he does a much better job… oddly enough, my spawn have invited me along to go see doug stanhope this weekend (he’s touring the region). can’t wait! he’s a rip…

    carlae – i enjoy sleeping during storms. waking up to thunder and lightning and rain on the roof… we’re in houses. it’s safe here, folks! you developed a perfectly rational response! congratulations!

    DP – a goddess on a rant is exactly 1,000 times more likely to cause you physical or emotional harm than any other force of nature. i just made that up, but i’ve also discovered that if you state random statistics with confidence, you are instantly believed (and then just as quickly ignored).

    dolce – i tend to pursue hobbies that test a few limits (motorcycle license in about a month), and like that i must maintain EXTREME concentration to keep sharp… BOOO! *cackle*

    nursemyra – a friend suggested i read Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers”, which follows a complementary thought process… i’ll probably bring it with me to Greece if you haven’t read it yet… we can swap books! Yay!

    unbearable banishment – my son loves stanhope, and i’m really looking forward to seeing him this weekend! it is partly the drama as well. stanhope’s take – ‘you lead a dreadfully boring life’ – nails it. kinda depressing… funny because it’s fucking true! (sigh)

    syncopated eyeball – i enjoy storms. wind. thunder. gentle rain to monsoon. reminds me that i’m not in charge. kind of lets me off the hook!

    kyknoord – twister is most fun if you secretly spray the playing board with cooking spray first… talk about getting a tree through the roof!

    fundamental jelly – i guess you can’t count earthquakes and fire as weather. never thought of it that way…

  11. Home on the range. That means tornado sirens and sitting in the basement. Such bonding family time.

    We rode out an F3 in 2000. Never worried till my ears popped from pressure drop….

  12. I’m really glad that’s one fear my mother does not have. I’ve played outside in more thunderstorms than I can remember. We watched tornadoes on the ridge a few miles away from the big picture windows in the back of the house. So, maybe we could have been a little more careful. I get the thrill of the storm thing, though. Especially since moving to hurricane country.

  13. se kansas – i’ve found that the people who deal with the severe weather for real (tornados in kansas/oklahoma, hurricanes down south) tend to be much less alarmist about it… around here? they hit a small town maybe once a season, and rarely do folks die. i think if my ears popped? i might be inclined to crap my pants. maybe just a little…

    silverstar – i’m not a fan of gory movies. i like something suspenseful, but can’t watch the blood and guts. pretty cool that you can roll the streets late and be fearless. you have apparently done the internal math and aren’t worried about the ‘what ifs’…

    chris – i guess in your part of the country, it’s more than casual observance. hurricanes provide as much advance warning as a snow storm, so you get to deal with the ‘grocery store blitz’ as shelves are emptied of water, poptarts and batteries…

  14. I grew up in a series of trailer parks in Minnesota. The worst storms? When it was sufficiently impressive enough to the point where even MY parents, the Ministers of Understatement, would decide that it was time to go to “the building”, the concrete structure in the center of the park. Everyone in the park would be there, smoking, playing cards, trying to run their hands under unsuspecting folks shirts…

    Tell me that wasn’t just in OUR parks!

    Pearl

  15. you are truly one of the funniest bloggers ever! you have such a comedic way with words. my mother in law (ex) does the exact same thing when word of a storm hits the airwaves. worrying every minute. she’s in alabama and she even calls me here in florida to warn me of impending weather situations two days out. as always i usually dont know.

  16. I agree with Lynn you do have a wonderful way with words! Have you written any books?

    I’m always surprised when I realize that I am not afraid of something. I have a nice tidy list of what I’m afraid of. I hadn’t even thought about tornado’s. I had a 5 year absence from my fear of heights when my boyfriend at the time took me rock climbing. I thought it would be climbing some bolder in a parking lot some where. No, it was a huge sheer wall of stone. Why I climbed it I could not tell you. My let shook violently on the way up. The person who took us laughed and called it sewing machine leg. The second part of the climb I was promised I could get to the car from. The teach was amazed at how fast I ascended. Incredible feeling at the top. Five years fear free my hands use to sweat just watching someone on a ledge on a TV show. Now I’m somewhere in the middle I suppose. I was amazed the fear actually left for 5 years.

  17. pearl – seems like a very civilized response from folks who really DID need to pay attention to the big windstorms! that’s pretty much what happens with my sister during hurricane season… once they survived Andrew? everything else was just a li’l storm…

    lynn – thank you. at least my mom stopped calling me about weather warnings for her area, which is 60 miles south. i explained that i had tv stations up here, too…

    starla – thank you, but no. i’m a blogger, and i write for therapy to exorcise a few demons and whatnot. it’s been much more fun than i expected… SO COOL that you exorcised your fear of heights, even temporarily. i’ve never done outdoor rock climbing, but expect it would terrify me! maybe there’s something to the idea of putting something enticing at the top!

  18. I had a storm fretter for a mom too. Unfortunately, we had a basement which she marched us down into at any hint of a dangerous weather. What made that descent so unfortunate was the fact that our basement was dank, damp, dark and really unpleasant, not a swank 70s finished basement with paneling, a couch and amenities. I spent hours in that hole, including the night before I took my ACT test.
    I didn’t inherit the storm fear gene from her thank goodness. I got my father’s storm gene. While we were huddled under the floor joists, he was sleeping peacefully in bed as every single dark cloud passed harmlessly overhead.

  19. squirrelqueen – ick. mom had talked of putting stairs into the crawlspace JUST so we could do the same thing, but thankfully dad ignored her… i take more of the approach your father did – sleep. it’ll hit you or it won’t.

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