Everything is a crisis
My father never got excited about anything bad. One time that I can remember he got upset with the farm team coach because the coach didn't let me play and my father expressed his displeasure in a way that I'm sure the coach never forgot. Dad didn't swear or shout at the coach, but he had a way of making his feelings known that left little doubt as to where he was coming from. In fairness to the coach, I sucked at sports even though I liked them, so it probably didn't make much sense to play me if he wanted to win the game. I think Dad kept things in perspective. I've written before that he told me 30 years ago or so that the trouble with Camden was that it didn't know what it wanted to be when it grew up. There you go.
Mom and Dad lived through a lot as did everyone else in that generation and they knew what was important and what was just interesting. I think they passed that on to me and in looking back over my life, it seems that the ability to recognize what was really important and what was just interesting has played a major role in who I am. Today everything is a crisis. No matter where you look, everything is a crisis. I maintain that if the people who should be doing things did the things they were supposed to be doing, there would not be many real crises. No matter where you look, there's a crisis. I think most of them are manufactured and because people have lost the ability to separate what is really important from what is just interesting, they buy into it.
Swine flu. Everybody has their pantyhose knotted up about swine flu. It's an epidemic. Thirteen people have died in Maine alone as I write this. They all had something else serious going on with their health and the flu tipped them over the edge. Maybe it will be an epidemic, but I suspect it will be about as important as Y2K was. Thirteen people is an epidemic? The state health lady is on the radio all the time telling us to wash our hands and stay home if we're sick. That's stuff my mother taught me. When I go into a public bathroom and see the sign that says "Employees must wash hands before returning to work" it irritates me. Everyone should wash their hands after going to the bathroom, OK? People go to the bathroom and don't wash their hands, while they wipe down their grocery cart with antibacterial soap. I went to a fancy wedding this fall and the servers all wore gloves. I suppose they thought it made me feel better that they were wearing gloves waiting on tables, but it worked the other way. First off the gloves were purple. The servers were neatly dressed in black slacks or skirts and crisp white tops wearing purple gloves. It's probably some stupid law like having a sign in the bathroom for employees, but all the gloves do is protect the server. If the server picks something up off the floor and then serves me my meal, how am I to know? But if the server picked up something without the purple glove, my bet is they would wash their hands before they did anything else. I'm just saying.
Government at all levels. Everything is a crisis. We just went through a deal here in Union that was a huge crisis. One of the biggest dollar items on the town meeting warrant. Uncontrolled pollution of all the water in Union. A group of us kept asking, "Can we just look at this with an objective mind?" But the reply was always, "This is a crisis and you people are costing the town money every single day. We need to act on this crisis today." Well, it wasn't a crisis at all. It wasn't even an event. Nothing ever happened, yet the townspeople were worked into such a frenzy that they voted to spend a couple of hundred thousand dollars to deal with the crisis that wasn't. A few years ago the fire chief came to the town with a crisis. One of the fire engines needed parts for the windshield wiper. Couldn't go pick the parts up at NAPA or Autozone so we needed a new fire engine at a cost of a quarter of a million dollars. Never mind that the engine was custom built and 30 years old so parts for something like that are not likely available on the shelf at your local auto parts store. There was a replacement schedule for fire apparatus in Union and a legitimate case could have been made to move this piece up in the rotation, but a crisis because windshield wiper parts weren't readily available was bogus. Probably there are very few parts for the new $250,000 engine that are available locally, but let's hope that won't be another crisis.
The weather. Everything is a crisis. There's global warming and the polar ice caps are melting, but its minus 28 degrees here in Union, Maine and low temperature records are being set. I get weather alerts on my computer for weather advisories in the Union area. Sometimes they tell me there's going to be fog. Sometimes it's rain, or wind. Pretty quick it will be snow. That's what happens around here. Sometimes it rains or it's windy or foggy, and in the winter it snows. It's not a crisis. I don't need to make special arrangements. People buy into this stuff so bad, they don't' even think about what they're doing. The next time a big snow is predicted, try buying some gas. There will be lines at the gas station. If it snows 91 feet like they're predicting, where are you going to go with all that gas? We all know it probably won't snow 91 feet, but if it does snow, you might not be able to get to the grocery store for a week or more, so you've got a crisis on your hands. You need to go now and buy a month's worth of groceries in case you can't get to the store. When was that last time you couldn't go where you wanted to go within a few hours of the end of a winter storm?
So we focus on these crises. We lose sight of what's important because we're focusing on what others tell us is a crisis. When I was serving on the Board of Selectmen here in Union, I would bring up things that were just plain wrong, but the rest of the board was always wrapped in one crisis or another so what I thought was important was overshadowed by one crisis after another. No matter how important you think something is and no matter what level of crisis you feel you might be at, regardless of what you do or don't do, the sun will come up tomorrow. Depending on your crisis, and what actions you take, you may or may not see that sunrise tomorrow, but it will come up. I think we need to focus more on what's really important and put what's just interesting where it belongs.
Bill Packard lives in Union.