Out There: What, me worry?

While I appreciate the need to educate the public about the dangers around each and every corner, there is such a thing as overkill.

Cartoon Out There 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Cartoon Out There 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
So there I am in my bleakly cluttered study at home (actually the bomb shelter, aka “safe room” in my apartment), in the midst of writing something about Hizbullah’s takeover of Lebanon, the troubles in Egypt, and how the Palestinians really do want my residence in Ma’aleh Adumim.
Deeply concerned by these developments, I kick back for a second, place my feet on the desk, close my eyes, turn on the radio and wait for some soothing music to wash over me.
But before the music plays, first come the public service announcements. Oh, goodie! The first tells me not to feel too secure in my house, because a California-style earthquake is just a shot away. And the second says Israel is experiencing the driest winter since whoknows- when, warning that the country is – pure and simple – drying up.
Another service spot reminds people who were treated for ringworm with high-dose radiation from 1946-1960 that they are eligible for government compensation. And yet another starts with the sweet bark of a dog, continues with the warning that rabies kills, and ends with an ominous admonition: A dog not immunized is a dangerous dog.
Hearing a dog bark in the distance, I suddenly flinch, wondering if it had its shots.
I turn off the radio because I know what’s coming next and don’t want to hear it: The 30- second spot about how hundreds of people die each year in work-related accidents in their home – falling off ladders and into bathtubs – followed by the menacing spot about the need to pay attention at the wheel; not to text and drive. That ad, if memory serves, ends either with the sound of a crash, or a tally of the number of people killed on the roads so far this year.
And those are only the public service announcements. You really want to fret? Wait till the news starts.
WITH ALL that evil lurking out there, who wants to leave the house? But then again, how can you stay in the house with the earthquake a-coming, and home accidents just waiting to happen? While I do appreciate the need to educate the public about the dangers around each and every corner, there is such a thing as overkill.
Must we really worry about everything? I remember as a kid having a standing joke with my dad about killer bees. He came across a little story in the local newspaper about killer bees heading our way from Mexico, and put it near my cereal bowl in the morning. “Killer bees” became our shorthand for the idea that just when you thought everything was fine, there was always something to worry about.
The radio spots, like those killer bees, represent that voice out there saying, “If there isn’t enough for you to worry about already, consider this...” That’s right, if the thought that Syrian missiles might fall from the sky doesn’t bother you enough, start thinking about the earth moving under your home. And if Hassan Nasrallah’s rabid tirades don’t sufficiently shake you up, keep in mind the neighbor’s dog – possibly suffering from rabies – roaming outside without a leash.
And then, just as I’m internalizing it all, trying to compartmentalize it so I can continue to function, Skippy – one of my four kids – calls to say he wants to go rapelling down the face of some cliff near the Dead Sea.
“Sure, son,” I say, extremely agitated by now.
“Just pile it on, keep those worries coming.”
“Okay,” he volunteers. “My friend and I are going to hitchhike down to that cliff.”
“Cute,” I respond, before sharply hanging up the phone.
Skippy’s call came just a couple of days after his older brother phoned from a post-army trek to New Zealand, telling us he had felt three earthquakes that day in Christchurch. A week earlier he called to tell us he left Brisbane, Australia, just before the roads became impassable because of biblical floods pounding that land.
“I worried about him less when he was in the army,” I told The Wife. She responded by telling me I was once a much calmer man; that when we met in college, I used to worry less.
“Well, that’s a no-brainer,” I thought. “In college I had nothing to worry about.” Which, of course, is just selective memory. Sure I had what to worry about. It’s just that none of it – tests, grades, date prospects – really mattered.
Now it does.
“I envy you,” I distinctly recall telling an older, married, gainfully employed friend at the time, when I was just a year out of college, single and without any serious job prospects.
“You’ve got a wife, kids and a job. What do you have to worry about?” “My wife, my kids, my job,” he said wisely, not kidding.
It’s amazing, actually, that people in this country are as normal as they are, what with all the external threats to lose sleep over – nukes, terrorists, Hamas, Hizbullah – coupled with all the internal dangers, like earthquakes, drought, car accidents, ringworm and kids going off to the army.
And that’s before you even begin factoring in crime – Lord knows we’ve enough of that – and everyone’s own personal frets and concerns about spouses, and illness and money.
Given all that, our relative normality here is nothing short of miraculous, quite a testament to the strength of the people.
Now I know there are those who will counter that we are absolutely not normal, that we are – in fact – quite nuts. If you want proof, just go to the grocery store, ride a bus or stand in line at the post office.
Pick up Time magazine – or Haaretz, for that matter – and you can read how we’re all racists, and that the country is on the fast track to Peronian Argentina. Or pick up a Torah sheet in the synagogue and read how we’re all spineless lefties with no values or national pride.
But amid all the screeching coming from the wings, there is a wide swath of normalcy in the middle that is remarkable, considering everything with which we are bombarded, and with which we bombard ourselves.
I’m just worried sick that the normal middle will disappear.