Her Ladyship

Notes from the gutter.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Emergency broadcast system

This morning, Texas Public Radio stopped its show right at 7AM on the dot to run a test of the emergency broadcast system. I was surprised to hear it - I thought they'd stopped doing that once the Cold War ended. I have memories of having my Saturday morning cartoons - THE VERY BEST KIND - getting interrupted by that damn test, but I don't really recall hearing it since. The Texan informed me that all radio stations have to do it, but Texas Public Radio is one of the few that actually does it at a time when people might be listening. With that, he drops me off at the gym and heads off to school.

I get through my cardio routine and head over to the free weights. Ever since my beloved iPod died, and my lazy ass hasn't gotten around to getting it fixed, I've been forced to listen to whatever's playing over the PA system at the gym. Generally, that means a lot of crap. Today, however, they were streaming quite a bit of good dance music - oldies, from way back in 2000. I was grooving along to the beat when I heard the emergency broadcast system go off again. This time it was stranger, because I'm pretty sure that my gym has satellite radio, which I didn't think was bound by those kinds of regulations. I wonder if the government knows something.

This all brought back, ahem, fond memories of growing up in the Cold War. Not to get all crotchedy about it, but I truly don't think kids today realize how scary that was. Sure, now we have to worry about terrorism, but let's face it: a majority of the U.S. population is secure from attack. I'm not downplaying how awful September 11 was. I lived in DC at that time and in fact lost my job because of it (long story). But there is nothing like the threat of thermonuclear war to ruin your day.

And a lot of it was I'm sure played up - trying to keep a docile population accepting of its government and so forth - but a lot of it was legitimate too. I grew up in southern California, a place that put a lot of emphasis on earthquake drills, but even we were raised to accept that a nuclear war could occur.

To indicate how inculcated we were to this idea, a vignette: When I was 12, an Aeromexico airliner collided with a twin-prop in the airspace above my hometown. Everyone on board was killed, as were people on the ground unfortunate to be in the aircrafts' paths. But when I heard that plane screaming towards Earth, my first thought was, well, it's finally happening: the Soviets have launched a nuclear attack. And I just waited. I mean, what are you going to do at that point?

The sad thing is that while the possibility of a full-out nuclear exchange is considerably less these days, a lesser (and yet still poisonous) version still is likely. Things haven't changed as much as we'd like to think.


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