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.
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.”