Categories
fiction

Porch Missionary

A knock on the door last week, too damned early in the morning…a woman with pamphlets, a forced smile, and a bible.
“Hello, I’m spreading the good word about a 3-day conference in–”
“Is this a god thing?”
“Why yes, it’s a 3-day conference in–”
“We’ve already got a grail!”
“What?”
“Never mind. You have encyclopedias?”
“But…what? It’s a 3-day…”
“Vacuum cleaners? Brushes? I could use a good brush! Steaks?”
(Confused) “Ummm?”
“You don’t have any of those?”
She shook her head.

“Can you get students to paint my house real cheap?”
“I don’t think you understand.”
(Leaning into her space a little bit.) “Are you implying I’m stupid? That I can’t possibly understand? That’s hurtful, from where I’m standing. I think I do pretty well with what I’ve been given: the best that I can. You don’t need to be mean about it.”
“I’m sorry I didn’t mean to–”
“Maybe you should just try the neighbors; they’re real zealots. I hear they drowned a witch, last place they lived. They definitely burn books–religiously, you might say–and other things. ”
A wink.
“What?”
“It’s a pun. I told you I was smart. Not that I’m an angel myself. I’ve danced a bunch and, between you and me, I’ve eaten more than my fair share of owls.”
“Owls?”
“Yup. Owls” A nod. “That just between you and me, mind.”
A step back, almost certainly subconsciously. She looks over her shoulder at the street–no backup there–and no witnesses–and turns back to me, squints a little, then backs to the edge of the porch stairs before spinning towards the street. A hand on the railing, and she’s gone. Down the rickety stairs, scurrying away, glancing worriedly over her shoulder, she skitters up the street.
I wave heartily, call after her, “Good luck! Have a blessed day!”

Categories
Commentary Uncategorized

Should I Fear Storms With Names?

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They said it, not me.

For the past three years, The Weather Channel has adopted a widely criticized advertising strategy of giving names to winter storms.  They’re not doing it to make you safer, or even to make it simpler to take about storms. What they want to do is get you talking about these storms and, more importantly, clicking on links to their web pages. Why? Because no respectable meteorological organization uses, or even acknowledges, those names.  So, when you hear that a winter storm called Lovemuffin is “bearing down on the east coast,” for example, then google “Lovemuffin” you’re going to end up at a Weather Channel site–or a cooperating site that is financially connected to the Weather Channel. Heck, they register these names as proprietary. In essence, they’ve found a way to “own” the news.

Even worse, in order to drive interest in their sites, the Weather Channel adopts a hyperbolic reporting posture. Every storm becomes the potential storm to end all storms, every squall threatens to become a blizzard, every blizzard the fresh dawn of a new ice age. Accompanying stories urge us to take measures that may increase our chances of survival–make sure your shovel is solid, buy flashlight batteries and candles, extra toilet paper, rent some movies, load up the shopping cart with Diet Coke and Oreo cookies.

Fortunately, they have not gone unopposed. A Facebook page, called STOP The Weather Channel From Naming Winter Storms–It’s Stupid emerged to challenge this scourge, and plenty of news articles, commentary, and essays have likewise pointed out the ridiculous and cynical nature of the Weather Channel’s ploy. Accuweather has spoken against the naming  storms, and the National Weather Service has refused to acknowledge the storm names.

In the mean time, it is difficult to know, without carefully inspecting every weather report for its sourcing, just how we should react. Is there really a horrifying, dangerous storm on the way, or is a media outlet just trying to keep their ratings up? And then, when that turns out to be the case, when do we pay the price after so much crying wolf, when will we become so immune to the hysteria that we fail to heed the warning–and how many will pay the price?

I put a million links up there–a million, count ’em–as references, but this essay is particularly interesting and enlightening.