Don’t Panic

A Fool In NH Column Heading

If you are like me you are a six-foot two bald guy. If you don’t fit that description, than you might be like me if you are old enough to remember the days when you would be strolling through the parking lot of the local supermarket and would be aroused from your reverie by the honking of a car horn.
You would stop and turn to try and see where the honk came from. More often than not it could be traced to a car where sitting behind the wheel might be a friend or neighbor that you have not seen in a while.
You might wave your hand and give a smile in recognition or, if the mood strikes you, walk over and reconnect in conversation.
Those days have long since gone. Now when we walk through the parking lot our ears are filled with the various sounds of not only honks, but beeps and whistles as those there with us are pressing the buttons on their key fobs to lock their car doors.
No longer do we look up when we hear the noise. No longer do our Pavlovian instincts lift our heads in anticipation of a greeting from another human. We just take the sound of the honks and beeps and whistles with a grain of salt and keep our heads down and go about our business. If someone was trying to get our attention we would never know.
Of course, we will look up when one of those others holding the key fob and not paying attention, accidentally presses the panic key, setting off a flurry of whoops and screeches and flashing car lights. I have often thought of using this method when recognizing an old associate across the parking lot but have thought better.
I did accidentally push the panic button one afternoon and had to suffer the slings and arrows of horrified looks of those others in the parking lot who had to put up with the unwelcome noise my distraction causes them. After all, they had never done anything so foolish themselves.
That moment did give me an idea thought. The F.A.T.S.O. panic button.
F.A.T.S.O. is, of course, a support group I cofounded that helps new transplants to the area adjust to their first winters here. It stands for Flatlanders Adjusting To Solitary Oblivion.
I thought that the F.A.T.S.O panic button was a great technological leap forward for our group. We have been sort of stuck in the past for the last few years. (The past, of course, being anything pre-2010.)
In order to understand how the F.A.T.S.O. panic button works, you have to understand the basics of the group.
After living here a few years, some Flatlanders feel confident enough to leave the group; to venture out on their own with the confident feeling that they can handle winters without much problem. These are the ones who we are most proud of. They are ready to survive on their own.
It is the ones that have only recently moved here that the panic button will be designed for. They have spent a few beautiful warm summers here as yearly vacationers and finally took the plunge to live here year round.
It is those first couple of winters that will hit them the hardest.
Where did all the people go? How come all of the restaurants are closed on Monday and when they are open, how come they close at eight o’clock?
Of course, these wouldn’t be enough problems to justify a panic button, but others would. Problems that they weren’t at all ready for. A roof rake stuck on the roof, the locks on the car are frozen while in the car, a sudden snowstorm is coming and there is only one can of beer in the house.
These would justify a panic button.
Most of these problems force a need for interaction. There is a feeling of isolation in new F.A.T.S.O. members. They will feel more secure with the thought that there can be a human body there for them simply by pushing a button.
So we will give the panic buttons to all new members. It will be wirelessly connected to a very powerful horn we will install outside of their homes. Once the need for help appears they will be able to press the panic button and send a long, sharp blare across their neighborhood.
Of course, none of us who are involved with the management of F.A.T.S.O. will hear it, or we just might be too busy to respond anyway. One thing is for certain. Everyone else in their immediate vicinity will.
We don’t think they will really be pushing the panic button all that much.
Some things just have to be learned the hard way.