The sky is falling

I woke up this April morning to find a fresh blanket of snow on the ground. It seems this bad weather just won’t take a hike. My column from January seems equally appropriate today.

This recent spell of bad weather has people perplexed. First there was a bout of bone-chilling temperatures followed by a warm spell and then hurricane-force winds. Even environmentalists have had to change their predictions of global warming to climate change. It makes one wonder if they are really clear about their own message. Their sombre warnings remind me of the hype leading to Y2K (remember that?) which fizzled to nothing except a huge resale of unused generators. But for me the scariest of times was the threat of the Cold War.

I was grade 4 and had been invited to an older cousin’s birthday party. My excitement mounted as the day approached as this was going to be a “big girl” party and I would be privy to teenage juicy talk about hair, make-up and dating. Imagine my disappointment when the conversation focussed on an impending nuclear disaster. Apparently the school lesson that day had been about the Cold War, nuclear weapons, fallout shelters and the terrible aftermath. My anxiety level rose as I listened to what possible destruction lay ahead of us.

As I nervously headed home from the party I kept checking the evening sky for incoming missiles. Meanwhile I was frantically trying to comprehend how my family would survive since we lived in an older house with a cellar instead of a basement. Using that as a fallout shelter didn’t seem possible. That night sleep did not come easily as I envisioned the terrible disaster awaiting us.

The next day, and for several after, I went to school on a mission. I had to warn my friends to save them from annihilation. At recesses and noon hour I preached about the evils of the Cold War and I described in great detail the devastation that would greet us, if and when we emerged from our fallout shelters. My friends listened with wide eyes and open mouths.

A few days later my parents received a phone call from my teacher who had a request. Could they please stop their daughter from scaring the other children with her rhetoric about the Cold War? It seems I had become the Chicken Little of the fourth grade and my message of impending doom was far scarier than any actual attack. There I was proclaiming, “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!” with little understanding of the message I was delivering.

Sometimes the real problem is the messenger not the message. And sometimes, just every once in a while, I wonder if the person who said, “Don’t shoot the messenger!” ever had to deal with an ill-informed fanatic!


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