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Posts Tagged ‘miscellany’

What are you afraid of?

Most of us are afraid of things that very rarely happen, according to a recent poll of nearly 1,500 North Carolina residents by Elon University.

Well, except for being shot in a public place. That USED to be pretty rare, but a majority — 51 percent — perceives that it’s at least somewhat of a possibility now, and more than a third, 37 percent, feel they are very much at risk.

The poll asked people how safe they personally feel about 37 hypothetical risks. “Shootings in public” topped the list of what people felt least safe about. Only 7 percent said they felt very safe.

But close behind that was terrorism, with 33 percent feeling very unsafe and only 7 feeling very safe.

What’s most odd about that is that there is very little difference how people in our state’s big cities feel about the risk of terrorism and how those in sparsely populated counties feel. In fact, more rural residents — 34 percent — than urban residents — 30 percent — feel very unsafe, even though there has never been a terror attack in a rural part of the United States for the very obvious reason that in order to inspire terror, there have to be a lot of people hurt and a lot of TV cameras nearby to broadcast the news. It would take over an hour for some TV crews to get to Pineola in Avery County from Charlotte.

Things make a little more sense if you combine the “very unsafe” and “somewhat unsafe” answers.

Then the thing that the most people feel at least somewhat unsafe about is walking along roads that don’t have sidewalks, 66 percent. Only 5 percent feel very safe about it.

People are very slightly more afraid of snakes (a total of 56 percent feel either very or somewhat unsafe) and ticks (57 percent) than tornadoes (51 percent).

The same amount of people, 16 percent, feel equally unsafe about dogs and deer, but more (31 percent) feel very safe about deer (only 27 percent feel very safe about dogs).

And again, urban and rural residents feel exactly the same level of risk about deer — 4 percent very unsafe in both, even though there are a lot more deer in Kings Creek than Raleigh.

People are least afraid of trains: Only 4 percent feel very unsafe about trains, and just 8 percent feel even somewhat unsafe.

On the other hand, people feel pretty darned safe about driving — only 5 percent very unsafe and 20 percent somewhat unsafe — even though there are literally hundreds of traffic accidents each day across the state and being a good driver has little to do with it — at least half of the drivers involved do nothing wrong. Some multi-car wrecks have only one driver at fault, and if something falls onto the road — a tree, a jumping deer, a big rock thrown by an angry teenager, a fish dropped by an eagle — then no driver is at fault.

But the poll left a lot of areas of risk uncovered.

For instance, what about your coffee shop exploding, not because of terrorism but plain old natural gas? It happened in Durham on Wednesday and killed the shop’s owner, injured nearly 20 people, destroyed one big building and damaged several others.

What about losing your job by accident? Just happened to a judge in Texas because he told someone he planned to run for higher office, and the Texas state constitution says a candidacy announcement by anyone holding a judicial office amounts to an official resignation. (Seems like a judge ought to be familiar with that, though.)

Perhaps most importantly, what about the risk of bees living inside your eyes? Just this past week a woman in Taiwan went to her doctor about pain in her eye, and the doctor found four sweat bees had somehow gotten into her eye socket, surviving there by drinking her tears. We have sweat bees in every county in North Carolina — you stand far more chance in Sawmills of encountering sweat bees than terrorists, and now they know humans are edible.

Good luck if your eyes don’t itch for the rest of the day.

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A column earlier this week by Eric Frazier of the Charlotte Observer raised the idea of moderates banding together to form a third major political party based on their shared interests “in safe, incremental social change, protecting business and the economy, a strong defense and pragmatism in foreign affairs. They want the trains to run on time and the stock market to rise while everybody more or less gets along.”

I can see them now, gathering for their first national convention in Peoria, or perhaps Omaha, a place the party leadership feels is representative of middle America. Some perhaps suggested St. Louis, but that has been too much in the news for all the wrong reasons. Why remind people of all that? Phoenix would have been out because others feel that its vast sprawl and congested freeways seem a bit too much California Lite. Indianapolis would be too urban and gritty.

The party chooses a medium-sized convention hall, nothing grandiose, and fills it with beige banners emblazoned with the party’s interim motto — a temporary selection made as a compromise — printed in a plain, unadorned font, “Can’t we all just get along?”

The first day’s convention action item: Choose a party symbol.

Suggestions for the party symbol, the iconic image that would be the party’s visual counter to the Republican elephant and the Democratic donkey, range from the mythic phoenix and griffin to the more prosaic bald eagle.

As sensible moderates, party delegates agree to hold a series of votes to winnow the selection. Eliminated in the first round are all mythical animals, which are deemed to carry an implication that the party is not realistic, which is, if nothing else, the main thing moderates are all about.

Eliminated in the second are such African animals as the hippo, which many feel would appear to be just a blob when reduced to red-and-blue iconography at the presidential debates, and the rhino, which the moderate former Democrats object is too reminiscent of a Republican elephant. The moderate former Republicans don’t quite agree but want to be reasonable.

Everyone kind of likes the eagle, but the eagle is everywhere already. It adorns sales flyers as much as political pamphlets. Stephen Colbert has helped cement it as the symbol of pistachio nuts, and the moderates agree they should avoid that association.

A large plurality then backs choosing an American wild stallion reared up on its hind legs.

But the moderate former Republicans object that a horse is awfully close to the Democratic donkey. If you reject the rhino, it’s only fair to sideline the stallion. The stallion-backers mildly try to make the case to keep it, but then others also object about the stallion being wild. The party is supposed to be for moderates who favor reason and practicality. “Wild” is another thing. Let the Republicans and Democrats be wild.

Finally the voting narrows to the only proposal not eliminated: a black lab. No one’s particularly enthused about it, but no one hates it either, and isn’t that the essence of compromise? Plus, black labs are tremendously loyal and reliable dogs, and unfailingly friendly to everyone – no decent person would hate a black lab.

That settled, the delegates break for the day and head for an evening at Applebee’s to toss back a few light beers and prepare for the second day’s action item: considering an alternative to the temporary motto. Among the options: “Half a loaf is better than none,” and “If no one ever settled, your mother would still be single.”

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