We're All Going to Die; Get Used to It
Did you hear about 18th Street being closed yesterday morning near I St. NW? Yep, police blocked off the road after a suspicious package was found. And what was the suspicious package? Here, in full, is the story that ran online yesterday:
D.C. police responded to a report of a suspicious package this morning at 18th and I streets NW that turned out to be an empty can inside a newspaper box. The investigation created traffic jams through the morning rush, but everything is now all clear.
D.C. police and fire officials were called to the scene about 8 a.m. and closed nearby streets to set up their emergency response.
Alan Etter, a spokesman for the D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department, said the agency sent a battalion chief and equipment to the area "in case it was something harmful."
The scene was cleared at 9:45 a.m., and all streets have been reopened.
An empty can. Inside a newspaper box. Just imagine if it had been something really scary, like a Starbucks cup under a park bench or a cigar box on a fire hydrant.
This happens time and time again. If it isn't a misdirected UPS shipment that has us quaking in our boots, it's the possibility that we might catch a relatively mild form of an illness that many of us already deal with every year. We close streets. We close schools. Why?
Because we don't want to die.
Waa waa. Iddle American society is afwaid of dying.
There's a value in not wanting to die, of course. If we didn't give a hoot about living or dying it'd be hard to get things done. Our culture wouldn't progress. But it seems to me we've lost some balance. We're reaching the point where our obsession with not dying is taking some of the joy out of living.
I remember, not long after 9/11, walking down L St. with a colleague and pondering the possibility that something nearby might, at that very instant, explode. If you were in Washington then you may have experienced similar sensations. We were being advised to stockpile duct tape and plastic sheeting and it seemed like a terrorist dirty bomb might be ticking behind every azalea.
I wondered then if perhaps rather than going all "duck and cover" on us, the government shouldn't have said something along the lines of, "These are tough times and we think it's possible, likely even, that we will be attacked again. You may be killed. You may want to come to terms with that, to put your affairs in order and make peace with your deity. We will, of course, do our best to protect you, but we don't want to get to the point where we shut down city streets because of empty cans inside newspaper boxes. That would just be ridiculous. They may kill more of us, but they can't kill all of us. And besides, no one lives forever. Now's as good a time as any for you to learn that."
But maybe that's defeatist. No politician in America could afford to be so real. So we wear our lanyards and we shut down our streets and we close our schools and we tell ourselves we've cheated death for a little longer.
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