Somewhere along Highway 58, between the armpit of California and the nostril of the world, there’s a man in a car camped out on the side of the dusty thoroughfare. He’s eating the last stick from a pack of Slim Jims he picked up at a gas station and plotting his next move.
He’s got a photo album, two towels—he did watch The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, thank you very much—and a teapot he happened to be carrying when the very important message came through. And he assumes the rest of his possessions and acquaintances were destroyed in the massive fireball/nuclear plant meltdown/mass murder/runaway taco truck/Godzilla attack that prompted SLO County’s Office of Emergency Services to send this message around 4 p.m. on June 27:
“CIVIL EMRGENCY IN THIS AREA UNTIL 4:10 P.M. PREPARE FOR ACTION. SLO OES.”
- "THE ONLY THING WE’RE PREPARED FOR IS SNARKY FACEBOOK COMMENTS.":
There was no word on the type of action we were supposed to prepare for. Luckily, I have a lot of bubble wrap lying around. Just in case, I also spent most of the weekend trying to clean out my browser history, and I haven’t been able to wash the smut out of my fingernails ever since. But judging by the reaction on social media, at least I’m not alone in the futile absurdity of my response.
There’s the guy who’s still driving down the 58.
Others threw their children in closets.
There were a lot of fat, angry pets stuffed into carriers in anticipation of their flight.
A few frantic citizens claim to have noshed down cyanide capsules. These are probably the same people who tried to wrestle angry felines into containers. Those with better memories narrowly avoided the same fate and remembered that they were supposed to take iodine capsules.
And let’s just say I’m glad I don’t live too near any rabid gun humpers, who were likely running around like children on a snow day, thrilled to finally have the opportunity to “defend” themselves.
A few truly brave souls turned to the Office of Emergency Services’ social media outlets and website, which proved spectacularly uninformative. It was, however, the most action the emergency action page has ever seen.
Ten minutes later—around the time the “civil emergency” was supposed to end anyway—everyone received a message explaining that the first notice was a mistake and that there was no civil emergency, which still failed to explain what constitutes a “civil emergency” and how the hell we were supposed to “prepare for action.” If ruining a perfectly good pair of pants is preparation, then I made the right move.
So what’ve we learned?
The only thing we’re prepared for is snarky Facebook comments. Oh, and that the SLO County OES website goes down faster than a professional soccer player.
Granted, there are many ways to terrorize a community—trust me, I’ve been doing it for more than a quarter of a century—so the social trolls among you who feel handicapped because you don’t have access to the same resources as the Offices of Emergency Services, follow this simple advice: CD$B.
I’m sorry, are you one of those people who has trouble reading super-awesome acronyms?
Calm Down and Buy a Billboard. That’s the best way to legally demoralize the community that I can think of. I know, because recently, every time I’ve driven past the railroad depot off Santa Barbara Street in San Luis Obispo, I’ve had to look at an enormous ad of a thin woman pinching “fat” on her side. Now I’m all for telling healthy women that they should be ashamed of their bodies if there is a single ounce of fat that can be vacuumed or sliced out. That’s why we make magazines and watch television shows that enforce delightfully unattainable standards.
That’s why, if you happen to know someone young, vulnerable, and maybe predisposed to self-doubt or lack of confidence—basically anyone under the age of 140—throw her in a car and take a slow roll along the route where this and other similar billboards sit. Casually point out the model clutching her belly “fat” for all she’s worth (an image used in this case for Adara Med Spa, but one I’ve seen repeated in a variety of places—even in this paper’s own pages), and if she doesn’t reach for any cyanide capsules left over after the “civil emergency” scare, then I don’t know how to bring young women down.
Of course, if you really want to instill terror in people, just tell them that five men averaging 69 years in age just decided that your boss gets to determine which medical treatments and medication your insurance covers based on their beliefs—but only if you have a vagina, which apparently now constitutes a lifestyle choice in this country.
I’ve never really felt inclined to start a business before, but I’m now looking into getting a license to sell secondhand Beanie Babies out of my goldfish’s fantasy castle, mostly because I can’t wait to hire employees and tell them that their insurance plan will only cover surgeries in which the employee eats a bowl of spaghetti the night before—on account of my strict adherence to Pastafarianism.
Shredder’s got Godzilla on speed dial. Send skyscrapers to email@example.com.