Fear sells. The Weather Channel figured this out the first time Jim Cantore held onto a light pole during a "potential" tropical storm. As he dramatically screamed above the wind, leaned towards the pole and held his free leg perpendicular to his body, battery sales exploded.
We ran to Lowe's without noticing the fact that the local weather guy standing next to Jim spoke calmly, stood up straight and didn't have a hair out of place.
Mothers have influenced with fear since the beginning of time. I bet Eve could have been heard saying things such as:
"Cain, if you cross your eyes they'll stay that way," or "Abel, put down that stick, you're going to put your brother's eye out," or "You're going to go blind if you keep pulling on that thing."
Fear grabs us by the throat and creates new sales genres. Thanks to horror movies, we now have ghost hunters who record conversations in dark, empty houses, take pictures of orbs and sell electromagnetic equipment.
My first horror movie was The Exorcist, a flick that probably increased the sale of carpet cleaner while decreasing the sale of pea soup.
My second was the 1976 version of The Omen, which increased the purchase of tricycles by scary little boys.
But my final and most traumatic horror flick was the 1978 film Moment by Moment, which was a love story involving John Travolta and Lily Tomlin. Enough said.
Fear is an easy way to make us pay a lot for a little.
We pay thousands of dollars to cover our lives in plastic due to the reported plague of bed bugs. Remember the saying, "Goodnight, sleep tight, don't let the bed bugs bite?" Obviously, the little critters have irritated humans for centuries. But due to alarmist sales tactics, one bed bug sends people into feargasms, running to companies who show up in unmarked vans to remove clothes and mattresses.
It's not like there is a swarm of killer bees in our home.
By the way, I've been waiting half my life for those killer bees to show up. Every year I hear they're in Mexico or Indiana and they're coming our way, ready to sting everybody to death.
We have so many things to be afraid of; it gets a little exhausting.
Remember when moms used to let us outside without a clue as to what we were going to do? My sister put me in a metal trash can and rolled me down a hill, which seemed fun until it started picking up speed and hit a big rock. But I'm still here to talk about it, perhaps a little less coherently than before.
Today, kids can't get a toy without a dire warning about small pieces that could be swallowed. Slumber parties no longer include "light as a feather, stiff as a board" levitation games because ghost hunting enthusiasts have made us afraid of inviting in negative entities.
We are afraid of our own children. Or perhaps we're afraid that they're not going to shine brightly enough.
Fear has changed us. Reported violence that crosses our screens every day causes us to close up. We rarely offer rides to people stuck on the side of the road; we no longer trust those who come to our door needing help.
We are afraid that people are deflating footballs. We hear a car backfire and we duck.
Rather than looking for ways to help, we are looking for reasons not to shoot.
I believe that the plethora of real-time news and weather from across the world has made bad things appear larger than they are. We used to know the news about our neighbors. Now we know if an underaged boy in Toledo was looking at porn. It's just too much.
I think we need to keep perspective, and ask ourselves:
Has someone come into my home and shot anybody lately?
Has taking a certain drug ever caused any part of me to swell (insert Viagra joke here)?
Have I ever poked my eye out -- with anything?
Has Satan caused my head to turn a 360 when meeting with a kindly old priest?
Have I ever been blown off a light pole directly into the path of a hurricane?
If you can respond affirmatively to any of these questions, then you can justify your negative reaction. For example, I still have a fear of seeing Lily Tomlin and John Travolta in another love scene. But don't absorb the fear of something that has never happened to you. It's wasted energy.
And as far as Jim Cantore goes, I did have a tree come through my house (along with fourteen other oak trees lost on our property) in a hurricane. But Jim was not holding onto a pole in that one, and said that hurricane would be fairly mild. We don't always know what life will bring.
What we do know is that stopping our life because we're scared creates a very grouchy, fussy, violent society. And as long as fear sells, it will continue to be used as a marketing source.
To keep your heart-rate down, do a spot check every now and then. The next time a salesman tells you how many mites are positioned in your carpet, realize he's probably selling a vacuum.
And consider the last time a mite actually ruined your life.