I spent a small portion of my Labor Day sitting on the couch, eating a bowl of my wife’s healthy cereal, and watching CNN’s breaking coverage of Hurricane Gustav. It was a great diversion to the ten hours of yard work that I eventually ended up doing, which resulted in a blister (ouch), a broken weed eater (dang), and an unplanned trip to the Wal Mart (yes, I know, it’s just “Wal Mart,” not “the Wal Mart,” except I was in Roxboro, so it was most definitely “the Wal Mart”).
So anyway, it was Monday morning, and ol’ Gustav was just miles away from the Louisiana coast. I know this because the Media People told me that it was. I’m very grateful for the Media People. Without them, nobody in America would know exactly when we need to panic. But because of the Media People, we can take the subtle cues from their drumbeats in their music and the intensity of the illustrative graphics on exactly when we need to riot and buy all of the bread we can find.
On this particular past Monday, all of America could rest comfortably knowing that Anderson Cooper was on the job…
I’m here in the French Quarter, just millimeters away from the eye of the Storm of the Century. We hope to be the first to bring you footage of the carnage that is sure to unfold. As I stand here being whipped about by the wind, I … OH NO! My Starbucks cup just BLEW OVER! There is soy latte everywhere! I’m going to have to retreat to safety while the control room replays that clip several dozen times in the next hour.
And then at the bottom of the screen, the following caption appears: Anderson’s Shoe Dampened, Thousands Expected To Be Displaced By Wayward Beverage.
My favorite part was watching our three presidents talk about how the other guy probably wasn’t doing enough to help hurricane victims. In the coming days, I hope to see meaningful footage where each of them fly over the affected area and frown out the window as they airdrop replacement coffee to Anderson.
And speaking of that bottom-of-the-screen headline, my favorite (true!) headline was this: Gas Prices Rise An Entire Cent In The Wake of Gustav.
A cent?!? Are you kidding me? Gas prices go up a cent if Exxon’s president gets heartburn from a bad burrito.
Gustav had been downgraded for about twelve seconds when CNN’s on-call symphony had created another dramatic musical score for the for-real-this-time-we-really-mean-it Storm of the Century, Hanna. I’m not exactly sure how a storm that’s still a thousand miles away in the Atlantic could affect my Tuesday schedule, but sure enough, yesterday I got to make a trip to Food Lion to buy bottled water. My precious wife is determined that this is the week when we will finally get a real live North Carolina hurricane. (She watches the Weather Channel the way teenage boys look for half-smoked cigarettes in the ash bins outside the Wal Mart.)
We’ve lived in North Carolina for eight years now, and we’ve yet to see any decent hurricane action. The closest we came was in 2003 when Isabel came roaring…um…meandering through. Our little seminary apartment was sheltered under some ginormous trees, so we packed up some Cheez Its and a couple decks of cards and took shelter up the hill in our friends’ apartment. All afternoon we sat, waiting for the power to go out, for the food to get scarce, and for society to break down and the pastoral looting to begin. The wind worked up to a frenzied 16 miles per hour, and the seven rain drops that fell almost drowned one of the seminary’s pet cockroaches. But other than that, Isabel was a colossal disappointment.
Now, I know that this is the kind of post that can generate a flood (get it?) of rebukes. Some of you share my wife’s fascination with Jim Cantore. Some of you sit in rapt attention whenever Greg Fishel (who is actually the antidote to mainline media panic) talks about millibars and outer bands and tracking maps. And of course, I do know that there have been scores of storms that are much, much worse. I know that just before we moved to NC, there was a pretty bad hurricane that did lots of damage.
The point of this post is not the point you might think. I don’t want Hanna to be bad. I didn’t want Gustav to be worse than he was. I just want the news goobers to stop creating scary music and predicting the end of mankind as we know it every time the ocean churns or a VP nominee changes her hairstyle or Jen breaks up with Ben, or Mark, or whoever. I want Anderson and Wolf and Katie and Campbell to stop telling me when I should run for my life and stockpile wheat and start cleaning my gun. I want everybody to just calm down, take a deep breath, and let me decide if I should be worried.
Editor’s note: isn’t it time for the spiritual correlation to this story?
Unfortunately, no. Today is just a nod to the insane world of the media. And typing is cheaper than therapy.
I’m suddenly in the mood for Cheez Its and a soy latte.