If I look tired you’ll have to excuse me. It’s probably because I jumped out of bed six times last night when that horrible weather alert noise went off on my phone. You too? Wow, who would have guessed?
Actually, it’s really not much of a guess. It’s almost daily now that we get strong storm alerts or tornado watch alerts or tornado warning alerts. And let’s not forget the occasional Amber Alert alerts from places hundreds of miles away, escaped convict alerts and grandpa done wandered off again alerts.
Mostly though, these days it’s weather alerts every other day.
I already get 15 emails a day warning me about rip tides, thunderstorms, coastal flooding and just about any other thing that might result from water falling out of the sky. It seems like now the phone alerts are trying to catch up with the emailed warnings.
I’m not anti-warnings per se, but lately it feels like my grandma has her finger on the button. “Storm warning! And while you’re at it, let’s throw in a don’t-stand-in-front-of-the microwave-or-your-kids-will-come-out-weird warning!”
Is it just me, or have we become extraordinarily jumpy about bad weather lately? Once a week it seems, schools are canceling classes or after-school care because of storms that will happen six or seven hours later.
A couple of weeks ago, nearly every restaurant in town closed down for storms that didn’t come through until they would have all been closed for the night anyway. That same night, I had just fallen asleep after midnight and our phones went off with a tornado warning alert. Immediately, I was jumping up and babbling about getting the kids from upstairs. My wife was more chill about the situation, going online to see what Alan Sealls was saying. I flipped on the TV and none of the local stations had even broken into their regularly scheduled programming, so I felt duped. All the tornadic activity was far north of town.
In an attempt to assign deeper meaning to all of these alerts, I can only assume they are part of a general softening of our society as we move further and further away from our roots as rugged individuals who didn’t lose it over every thunderstorm. For God’s sake, this is Mobile, Alabama. We’re supposed to laugh at anything less than a Cat 3 hurricane or an EF2 tornado. Waterspouts? How cute!! Take a picture! Fourteen inches of rain in half an hour? Glad I paid for the monster truck package!
Now we’re canceling school and work because of storms we wouldn’t even bother to name.
When I lived in Washington, D.C., for a few years, I scoffed at the way people would act like everyone should be boarding Noah’s Ark over a storm Mobilians would barely notice. I actually missed the violent Gulf Coast thunderstorms. I don’t remember thinking I was going to get struck by lightning the entire time I lived there. Boring!
But now we’re the same kinds of weenies, talking about weather event days and acting like we might not see the dog and kids again because a storm is rolling into town. Maybe it’s just a residual effect of the COVID lockdown, but it just seems like there’s a general attitude we’d all be a lot better off at home, just in case something — anything! — happens. Preferably in the closet under the staircase, with the TV on watching for weather updates.
Speaking of dogs, I’m not sure if there’s any sound in existence that drives them more insane than that horrific alert noise. Normally we leave a TV on for the puppy every day since she’s still kenneled and finds a human voice comforting, even if it’s the narrator from the bizarre murder investigations channel. But I had to turn the TV off before I left Tuesday because there were sure to be a multitude of weather alerts all day and we’re all out of dog Xanax.
And while I’m complaining about alerts, let’s talk a little about the alert noise itself. There must be a special place in Hell reserved for the person who came up with that ridiculously awful noise that blares out of our phones and televisions anytime there’s a storm or an old man goes missing.
What happened to the eerie howl of the tornado sirens? I far prefer that ominous siren song to the electronic, static-like alert they settled on.
It’s hard not to wonder how someone came up with that particular noise. Was there a government-run annoying noise laboratory somewhere with scientists feverishly trying to create the most unappealing sound possible? Was the screeching of a rusty dumpster lid being slammed shut edging out the howl of fornicating raccoons as the official alert noise until ol’ Steve from the San Bernardino office of the U.S. Academy of Annoying Sounds came up with that perfect combination of electronic static and bagpipe?
As a child living in the tornado magnet of Jackson, Mississippi, the tornado sirens scared the absolute bejesus out of me. So they did the job. The current noise definitely startles everyone in the room, but it’s so awful I’m just trying to grab the remote to hit “OK” so the message and noise will go away. Most of the time I don’t even have time to read the message to see if it’s just another storm or if we’re finally being invaded by aliens.
The noise might be too annoying to get the job done properly.
Or maybe we need to save this lovely sound for actually dangerous circumstances and use the magic of technology to only have the alerts go off if you’re actually in an area where there is danger of a tornado or someone is missing. I’m getting alert fatigue.
There’s also the option of going back to a simpler time when we didn’t freak out over every thunderstorm that rolls through the area. I vote we try that.
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