Thursday, September 17, 2009

Communication Is A Fascinating Way To Communicate...

Driving to work (45 minutes one way) each morning affords me lots of time to think. One thing I do is to pray. It may be that more people draw closer to God while driving on Houston freeways than anywhere else. Besides praying, I formulate column outlines in my mind and later transfer those columns to paper. Also I enjoy listening to the radio.

In a previous column I told you about listening to my car radio while trying not to exceed the freeway speed limit. Remember that weird announcement I shared with you? It went something like this: “And now for some good news for all of you who are driving north on I-45. The fatality accident that blocked the north-bound lanes for more than two hours finally has been moved to the shoulder. Now you should have smooth sailing on to Conroe.” I mused over the announcer’s choice of terms. Was that traffic update good news to the family of the deceased?

There is another type of news bulletin that comes over the airways on occasion. This one gives rise to some questions. Recently I heard the following:

“We interrupt this program for an emergency weather alert from the United States National Weather Service. ‘(tone)Buuuuuuuuuu…(noise)Braaaaaaack… Braaaaaaack…Braaaaaaack.’ This is an emergency weather alert from the United States National Weather Service. ‘Buuuuuuuuu’ There are extremely high winds in excess of 70 miles per hour approaching the South Houston vicinity. You are advised to take cover immediately. Secure outside lawn furniture and pets. ‘Buuuuuuuuu’ This has been an emergency weather alert from the United States National Weather Service. We now return you to our regularly scheduled programming, ‘ Braaaaaaack.’”

First I want to commend the personnel associated with the United States National Weather Service for all of the valuable services they provide. They do a great job of keeping us updated on what is happening in our world of weather.

However, I do question the procedure of making emergency weather alert announcements on the radio. While it is great that we can have those alerts in times of danger, think about it.

Winds traveling at 70 miles per hour are covering in excess of one mile per minute. Winds traveling at such high speeds really are covering ground. I timed one of these radio weather alerts recently and here are the results. The announcement that told of the impending emergency alert, the “Buuuuuuu’s,” and the “Braaaaaaacks.” and the second announcement that the alert was now ready to be shared, took almost 20 seconds.

My question is: How many people listening to their radios were blown away in the rapidly approaching high winds? By the time the final “Braaaaaaack” sounded, the wind storm may well have rushed through injuring many who were waiting to hear the weather alert. It seems like the alert could just say, “We interrupt this program for an emergency weather alert from the United States Weather Service.” The tones and noises could be saved for a rainy day (pun intended).

Then there is that radio commercial for a popular prescription medication. The disclaimer goes so fast that it cannot be understood. But if you record that disclaimer and play it back slowly you will hear, “Side effects may include daytime drowsiness, dizziness, lightheadedness, constipation, diarrhea, dry mouth, memory loss, fast/pounding heartbeat, unusual tiredness, new or worsening depression, and on rare occasions may cause mental/mood changes, rash, itching, swelling, trouble breathing and thoughts of suicide. If you notice these or other effects not mentioned, contact your doctor or pharmacist immediately.”

I ask you, “Which is better…the malady or the cure?”

Communication is a fascinating ability of God’s creatures. Isn’t it also fascinating how we can at times get it so messed up?

Winston Hamby


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