Friday, November 19, 2010

This is only a test

I found this on Facebook tonight. It was posted by a not-quite high school classmate of mine (as in, we went to high school together but she moved at some point and graduated from a different high school.) I totally made my night. Clearly, someone decided to have fun with the tried and true way of doing this kind of stuff.

Truth be told, those "tests of the emergency broadcast system" always kind of scared me a little bit as a kid. They were always so vague about what the emergency might be - what would trigger an actual use of the emergency broadcast system vs. a test? As I got older, I figured out what would do it. The most frequent use of the EBS in Iowa was (and still is) tornado warnings. But even then, you didn't get the long tone followed by a monotone guy giving you instructions. Instead, you got the KCCI breaking into "The Dukes of Hazzard" and Connie McBurney telling people in the warning area to seek shelter immediately.

The other use of the EBS was, obviously, to tell of the imminent arrival of Soviet missiles and the ensuing nuclear armageddon. Obviously, the EBS has never been used for this purpose, but once I learned about the threat of nuclear weapons, if I didn't hear the "this is a test..." part of the test, I was convinced that as soon as the long beep was over, they would tell us that nuclear war was upon us. Do you think I might have benefited from Effexor in 1983 or 1984? Even to this day, I get just slightly anxious when the tests come on the radio. I check to see if it's on the hour which, for some reason, makes it more likely to be a test than something serious. Because, as everyone knows, nuclear attacks only arrive at 13 minutes past the hour. It's not as if I'm actually scared of it as an adult, but I think it dredges up very deeply buried stuff. It's like the 9 year old version of Dan is still waiting for the nuclear holocaust.

But all tests of the EBS pale in comparison to being woken up at 2:30AM in my dorm room at Iowa State with the air raid sirens blaring outside my window. Talk about a childhood nightmare come true! As it turns out, there was a logical explanation. There was a "malfunction" (you're telling me!) that resulted in them all going off in the middle of the night. Still, my first move was to turn the radio on. *sigh*

I'm exaggerating this a little bit for comic effect but if there's one thing I've learned over the last couple years it's that you really can't teach an old brain new tricks. Some of that stuff really is just hard-wired into us and I've spent the better part of 15 years trying to "change" that. The thing is, you can't. And ever since I just accepted the fact that yes, my brain is frequently going to attempt to write a worst-case scenario in 30 seconds or less, I've been a lot happier. I'm able to recognize it, but that sure as hell doesn't mean I have to believe it and act on it. I may not have much control over those old circuits, but what I do get to control is what I do with it. And anymore, what I've tried to do is see it, acknowledge it and then realize that it's mostly garbage. Anxious brains were great for when we were being hunted by saber-tooth tigers. Not so much in the 21st century. All they accomplish are ulcers.

So the next time I hear a test of the EBS at work, I'll think of this fancy little jingle. I dare you to not smile as the missiles fall. ;)

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