Don’t worry. Everything’s going to be OK.
PG&E told me so.
Me and PG&E were curled up, spooning on the couch, PG&E’s breath softly rustling the hairs on the back of my neck.
“PG&E?” I asked meekly.
“Yeah sweetie?” PG&E said, its strong arms wrapped tightly around me in that way that always makes me feel safe.
“Are you going to kill us all?”
“Of course not. You know I’d never hurt you baby.”
Well you know, that’s me. Easily wooed like Kate Hudson in any movie she’s ever been in. Actually, I predicted it all well beforehand. Days before the Japan nuclear power plant went to hell—back when everyone was terrified it would explode—I was walking around with my psychic cap on telling people I’d bet two months’ pay (read: two expired arcade tokens) that within days we’d be seeing my favorite type of story: Will it happen here?
It’s like shooting journalistic fish in a barrel with a grenade launcher. Something bad happens somewhere else and you send a bunch of cub reporters out with their gullible faces on to ask industry insiders, “Hey, are we totally boned?”
You can write the story from here. It’s like newspaper Mad Libs.
“The Fukushima Daiichi plant disaster can be attributed to its cooling pumps failing. But Diablo Canyon utilizes adjective plural noun, which ensure the plant is protected.”
I filled in magic unicorns. What’d you go with?
Maybe I’m just old school, but I thought the last reliable source in a story like this is always the person who’s in the hot seat. Because if anyone is going to provide unbiased information on the vulnerability of Diablo Canyon in an earthquake, it’s going to be PG&E. Makes sense, right? I usually ask my lawyer if she’s charging me too much. She says, “Get outta town.” I asked my landlord if it’s a bad sign that I smell gas every time I turn on the sink. He’s all like, “No, that’s totally normal—and you still owe me rent.”
So when a nuclear power plant on the other side of the world explodes—one that sits on the coast, like Diablo Canyon; and one that sits in a seismic war zone, like Diablo Canyon—why in the hell would I want to ask people who work at Diablo Canyon anything about safety? What are they gonna say? “Oh crap. I hope you’re flexible, because if a big enough bird smacks into one of our reactors, you’re going to need to put your head between your legs and kiss your ass goodbye.”
In fact, that’s exactly what’s been happening. Reporters have been flocking to PG&E like scared kids to their parents after seeing the boogie man. PR frat boys like Kory Raftery are being thrust into the limelight to explain that all the stuff that went wrong in Japan won’t go wrong here. Then he puts some powder on the reporters’ bottoms, stuffs a sack lunch in their backpack, and scoots them off to a story about a woman who dances with kittens.
Maybe I don’t get it. I’m thick in the head or something. Sure, it’s worth taking this disaster and using it to look in our own backyard. Or maybe we’re all bored, and after Oprah declared us happy, we need some new and shiny impending catastrophe to feel important. But like my grandpappy always said, “Ask your grandmother; I’m tired.”
Lucky for me, I once read a Snapple cap that said anything worth doing is worth doing right. In other words, rather than asking a company if they could ever, potentially, poison the Central Coast, hold off for a bit and examine whether there are actually similar problems here.
It’s called journalism. Now shut up while I crack a few juvenile funnies.
Just in case we really are royally buggered, here’s my bucket list:
• Get a pedicure from Chuck Liddell.
• See a picture of the Eiffel Tower, in person.
• Go sky diving on the moon.
• Lick every wad of bubblegum in Bubblegum Alley.
• Write a fan episode of I Love Lucy.
• Revive Mardi Gras by riding a pony down Higuera Street naked.
• Reclaim all the missions in the county for Spain, then sell them to Portugal.
• Start my own wine label that sells beer. Cheap beer.
• Record an album with K$sha.
• Tour Diablo Canyon … maybe later.
Really though, it’s easy to capitalize on a disaster of this scale. Crap out a few gimme news pieces, and move on. On our end—being a paper that regularly covered Diablo Canyon before it became known to people other than Sam Blakeslee—we’ve had to sit back and wonder what we’re going to do now. Do we just shove some more coal into this fire and print 1,000-or-so words and little to no information? Or do we go the fun route and just scare the pants off of everyone?
Headline: “The end is nigh!”
Subhead: “Maybe not, but here’s a bunch of pseudo science, guesswork, and cleverly crafted PR to confuse you further.”
Maybe I’ll stick an intern with this one.
The Shredder predicts Bob Cuddy will reprint these ideas in his Tribune column two weeks from now. You’re welcome, sir. If you’re in need of a muse, contact the Shredder at firstname.lastname@example.org.