Thursday, August 30, 2012

Past Deadline: Take Cover Immediately

I understand why people might not want to watch or read the news.

I am not one of those people. I like the news or, more accurately, I like to be informed. I like to know if it’s time to evacuate.

You may have noticed the news isn’t always good. In fact, it seems to be usually bad. Bad news gets the most play. There are many reasons for this – all coming back to what humans respond to and what sells the advertising and makes the money, of course. Not to mention the fact people can’t seem to get along, which makes for plenty of bad news.

My empathy for people who don’t bother to watch/read the news has grown a little since becoming a parent. It’s hard to reassure children about this big, bad world after they’ve wandered through the room and heard a snippet of bad news about movie theatre shootings or tornadoes or droughts or bush fires. I can understand why there would be news blackouts in some homes.

Frankly, I have found it to be much nicer to eat supper on the patio and listen to the birds and have conversations about non-violent or non-scary things than to have the news droning in the background.

When I was growing up, my parents always had the news on during supper. It was mostly just background noise, but when the weather came on we would have to hush. I’m not sure why – maybe because Dad was a conservation officer and worked outside a lot.

The news was bad back then, too. There was, after all, a Cold War and acid rain and the Middle East (always). But the world was a little different.

I don’t think we “felt” the news with the same intensity as we do today. Things that were far away were usually really far away. Now, with Twitter and Facebook and other social media, we can instantly know when bad things happen far away to people we don’t know. We quickly learn what those strangers think about the things that have happened. Sometimes we get told how we should feel about these things.

I don’t think the news affected me in any profound way when I was the age my kids are now. It droned in the background. We didn’t have to evacuate. In fact, I don’t remember my parents looking particularly concerned over anything except the weather. (You’d think we were farmers.)

To this day, though, I find myself desperately wanting to listen to the weather when it is presented on the news, only to glaze over during the report and promptly forget it. I suspect this is some sort of residual effect from my childhood.

I am much more likely to just look out the window and deal with whatever weather is happening.

Besides, if I need to know how the weather is expected to change in the next few hours, I can always go online.

On Twitter, I have subscribed to @OntarioWarnings (see “knowing when to evacuate,” above). It frequently issues weather warnings – in ALL CAPS. They always say something like: “SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING ISSUED FOR EAR FALLS, PERRAULT FALLS, WESTERN LAC SEUL, PIKANGIKUM, POPLAR HILL, MACDOWELL. TAKE COVER IMMEDIATELY.”

I keep watch for our area and I wonder if I should go hide in the basement if I see “LANARK COUNTY.” “Take cover” is not really defined – it could mean “Don’t stand under a tree, dork” or it could mean “Head for the storm cellar, Dorothy,” which would make for a fairly unproductive day.

The ALL CAPS…so intimidating and shouty.

Maybe I should just unfollow and go sit on the patio.

Like I say…I understand why people might not want to watch or read the news.

Published in The Perth Courier, July 26/12

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