Friday, February 7, 2014

Pooh Sticks "Cool In A Crisis"

We had some friends over for dinner this past weekend.  It's one of the most wonderful social things that has come out of Parenthood:

We've become friends with other couples whose kids are the same age as ours.  We have them over the house, serve the kids dinner and then set them loose in the basement, or put on a movie.  The kids are blissfully happy, and the adults have a relaxing meal with a few cocktails until the children crash.

When someone spilled a drink, I leisurely got up and grabbed a roll of paper towels.  One of my friends remark that I always seemed to respond to things calmly.

It's true.

I won't say I never lose it. Never freak out.  It happens.

But I do have a reputation for being unflappable and calm.

There are two vignettes from my childhood that come to mind, time and time again.  I attribute my attitude to these stories.

I had a friend who's Dad worked for the Gas company.  He was super-funny and a great storyteller.  And even when his kids try to mess with him, you could not knock the man off his balance.

He told me this story that has stuck in my head these past 30+ years.  (I'll admit that I don't know how much he may have embellished his own story; and admittedly, I am probably failing to re-tell his story in any way that is accurate.  But I'll give you the gist, and note that his point was made, and taken).

He told the story of a major, dangerous Gas main breach.  The lower management-types on-site had been unsuccessful at stopping the flow.  One person on the scene was dead.  He arrived and asked if the shutdown protocols had been followed.

"Did you call and have them shut down #1?"

"Yes!" his panicked employee said.

"And #2?"  "Yes!" with great distress.

"And #3?"  "We did it.  And it won't stop."

"Let's call down again."  "But we did it already."

"Let's call," he said calmly, calling down to number one.  "Can you shut down number one?"  They were already shut down.

He called number two.  "Can you shut down number two?"

"Yes sir," came the reply.

As my friend's Dad told the story, he made the whoooshing sound of wind through a tunnel.   And now he made the sound of the wind, slow, stopping and disappearing.

Change of scenery now, to the 2nd vignette.

Sometime in my life, around the same time I heard the Gas main story, my family was on a vacation, and we'd gone to some enormous waterpark.

If I was 13 at the time, then my middle sister was 10, and my little sister was 5.

Amy was a tough cookie, and would absolutely not be deterred from doing anything her older siblings did, regardless of her age or size.

And that included the giant water tube.

Unlike a regular waterslide, which is usually a fast, slippery, fun ride, where you can look up at the sky as you zip down to a pool, the giant water tube was more of a long twisty pipe.  It was dark, and the ride was very very fast.  And at the end, instead of splashing into a pool, the tube ended about 5 feet above the pool, so you shot out of the tube and did a freefall into the water.

Just the kind of stupid fun a stupid, kinetic teenage boy would like.  And a ballsy 5 year old girl would insist on trying.

Of course, it was a little much for Amy, and I remember seeing her come out of the tube, hit the water and come up fast.  But the adrenaline and the disorientation were a little too much.  She just kinda flailed in the middle of the pool, in a panic.  She didn't know which way to swim or what to do next.

The lifeguards, I'm sure, were used to this.  They fished her out and she was fine.  I don't exactly remember, but knowing Amy, I'm sure she went again.

Both stories impressed upon me the notion that remaining as calm as possible in a crisis is the best way to see yourself clear out of the situation.  Panic can lead to missing an important bit of information, or can just completely obscure the path to safety.

Barring that approach, when faced with a crisis, it can't hurt to steel yourself with a hummable, light pop tune about remaining calm, from a band called The Pooh Sticks.

Hear the song on Youtube.

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