IS IT SAFE?
By Simon Wood
I was thinking about the perception of safety the other day. My wife, Julie, doesn’t like it when I leave the front door unlocked when we’re in the house. She doesn’t want anyone storming the castle gates while we’re at home, so she puts her faith in a deadbolt. A two inch slug of steel not even an inch in diameter will keep her from harm. She doesn’t worry (but probably will after this blog) that there’s nothing stopping evil doers from chucking a rock through any of our floor to ceiling windows and entering the house that way.
I started thinking about other safe things in our lives.
When the little red man tells me not to walk, I don’t. The little red man knows all about danger. That’s why he’s red. When I ignore his advice, my heart rate shoots up a few beats.
The same applies to stop signs at a four-way stop. I put my faith in the driver of the eighteen-wheeler coming from the other direction that he’ll obey what it says on a red octagon and not plow into me.
Down on the Bay Area’s subway train system, BART, a row of yellow bricks keep me safe from the speeding trains if I stand behind them. And I do feel safe. The moment I stand on those yellow bricks, I feel queasy. I’ve put myself in danger. A train could hit me. Someone could bump me and send me sprawling onto the electrified rails. Those yellow bricks are just yellow bricks, but they have some power behind them. It’s really silly. My safety can’t be measured by the width of a row of yellow bricks. There are so many other contributing factors that can take their toll on me.
How many of us fear earthquakes, tornadoes, being struck by lightning, shark attacks or an in-law coming to stay? While these things exist, there’s little chance of them affecting us.
I look around me without my safety goggles on and reexamine my environment. There are so many things I perceive as safe. Harm won’t come to me because I’m not putting myself in harm’s way. Theoretically, that is. But boy, isn’t it a tenuous belief system? I am safe on the sidewalk because sidewalks are safe. There’s nothing to say a car won’t plow into me or I won’t trip and fall into the road, but I don’t think about these things because the sidewalk is my talisman.
It all comes down to perception. If I perceive danger everywhere I go, then I will see danger everywhere. Perception is reality. If I think safe, then I am safe. I guess there’s a little bit of the Pavlov’s dog syndrome at work inside us all.
Fundamentally, we all believe in a safe world and it is when all of us agree and on how to act. But what if someone doesn’t? Where’s our safety then? In jeopardy is the answer.
I quite like it when my thinking goes off the rails like this. I cross my eyes and I see the emperor without his clothes on. This is useful when it comes to the stories I tell. I like to pick at a character’s world until it unravels by attacking all the things that they hold dear. Basically, I break down their perceptions and belief system. Life is a tightrope and I like to twang the cable while there are people on it—fictionally speaking that is.
The notion of safety tends to play a part in the stories I tell. I don’t focus on global terror or category 5 hurricanes or anything like that because it’s too abstract. I don’t have any experience with something like that and it’s too infrequent to worry about it. I like to focus on the what-ifs of daily life. What if someone ignores a deadbolt and breaks in through the window? What if a waiter steals my credit card number and uses it? These are things that can happen and if the situation snowballs how can that one incident keep coming back at me to make the situation worse? My latest book, Terminated, deals with a vindictive employee who terrorizes his female boss and dismantles every part of her life, from her family to her reputation amongst friends and colleagues. It’s a real life threat that we can all identify with. It’s something that could happen to any of us and something we’d be little prepared to combat. Look at your own workplace. How would you deal with one of your coworkers turning on you? What damage could they inflict on you and your livelihood? It’s scary to daydream about, but it’s a scenario that could happen and that’s what makes it all the more powerful. We could all fall prey to circumstances we couldn’t imagine and would have to struggle to overcome. An act of terrorism, while real, thankfully happens rarely. A minor dust up with a stranger is far more likely, and therefore scarier.
I hope I haven't given any of you worriers out there something new to worry about. Now, sleep tight and I'll see you in your dreams.
Yours in perfect security,
BIO: Simon Wood is an ex-racecar driver, a licensed pilot and an occasional private investigator. He shares his world with his American wife, Julie. A longhaired dachshund and five cats dominate their lives. He's had over 150 stories and articles published. His short fiction has appeared in a variety of magazines anthologies, such as Seattle Noir, Thriller 2 and Woman’s World. He's a frequent contributor to Writer's Digest. He's the Anthony Award winning author of Working Stiffs, Accidents Waiting to Happen, Paying the Piper and We All Fall Down. As Simon Janus, he's the author of The Scrubs and Road Rash. His latest thriller, Terminated, is out in mass paperback. Curious people can learn more at www.simonwood.net.
Tuesday, June 08, 2010
Posted by BookBitch at 6/08/2010 02:35:00 PM