If you see something, say something. Alliteration. The poetry of awareness.
Since 9-11, these six words have joined to form the preeminent public safety slogan of nearly every major population center. Cities like New York, London, Paris, Madrid, Tel Aviv, Tokyo…Boston.
Major metros bleed an unspoken vigilance. While life’s pace erodes short-term memory, poignant points of pure terror leave lasting scars. Moments like April 15th, 2013 when two brothers gashed a gaping wound, only to find it embolden a region’s resolve. Boston Strong.
Here, awareness is an instinct. It has to be. The scars demand it. But that awareness runs deeper than the resonate recall of a horrifying, fateful day…
Countless obstacles abound with so many humans around.
In a city like Boston, simply getting from point-A to point-B requires a cocktail of defensive alertness and agressive assurance. Ask anyone during rush hour who’s waited 10-minutes to merge onto a rotary with a half mile of pent-up frustration on his bumper. New Englanders witness brazenly bold maneuvers that would terrify the most reckless NASCAR driver…at every intersection…every day…flawlessly executed by Moms in minivans. Nut-up Cupcake, or you’re ass is gonna get run over.
Public transportation? Anything can happen. Preparedness is primal. The acting? Adorable. All appear engaged in another text, another email. << Game-show buzzer >> Most are sizing-up surrounding straphangers through peripheral surveilance. There’s too much to consider on tubes like the “T”: Why is that guy staring at me? Where’s my pepper spray? Don’t touch your face. Remember to wash your hands when you get home. Do I have Purell? Good Lord, I hope that’s just onion I smell. Is my wallet still there? Seriously, that creep is still staring…
Even walking won’t ease requisite wariness. Red palms halt hurried pedestrians at every corner, allowing miffed motorists to continue commutes another 50-feet for the next 5-minute wait. Exposed to every potential element, those afoot observe a even higher alert: Look both ways. Again. Cross here to avoid the guilt of ignoring the homeless guy. Don’t get run over. Tighten that grip on the purse. Step aside so Captain Heavy Foot can get by. C’mon, this ain’t no Sunday stroll Granny! Why the hell did I wear heels?
Urban dwellers can take pride in the truth that they are the undeniable all-stars of situational awareness…within a 10-foot bubble. It’s acutely near-sighted. It’s unfortunate. So much more is happening beyond the bounds of the bubble, but most is lost to the static of pace and immediate milieu. Though significant for personal safety, vicinity vigilance detracts from truly seeing something.
No wonder New Englanders rarely give weather a passing glance. Unless, of course, it’s a striking blow packed with nine feet of snow. A storm of any kind is nothing more than a destructive, delay-inducing aggravation; another unnecessary obstacle on a course riddled with detours.
That said – Yesterday I saw something, so I’m going to say something.
There’s majesty in the most mundane meteorology. I looked up, far beyond the bubble; beyond the bright red lodestar demanding my patience…then pulled over to admire the approaching storm. Rotation. Clashing climates. A cold blast dropped temps 15-degrees in an instant. The swelling in my knee subsided. Awe.
You see, I lived in rural Missouri for nearly 20-years. It taught me to see beyond the bubble. To literally broaden my horizon. There, the threat is rarely at arms-length, the threat rolls-in from Oklahoma. Flooding (i.e. tragic human incompetence) is the number-one killer.
The most popular poem of public safety features five syllables:
Turn around, don’t drown.
Alliteration. The poetry of awareness.