Panic Now and Avoid the Rush

Last week there was a gunman in a tree at my elementary school. Except, replace gunman with some sad bastard who lost control of his RC helicopter.

Poor Greg was just out playing with his new toy when the wind grabbed it and sent it hurtling into one of the many, many evergreens flanking the school. So he walked through the gate and climbed the tree to fetch his helicopter.

That’s when the panic began. There’s a man! On campus! IN A TREE! With a remote control helicopter that looked, from a panicked distance, exactly (not at all) like a gun. A few extra-concerned peasants began to hand out the pitchforks and build a pile of kindling below the tree. Greg is just lucky he climbed down and wandered off when he did.

I understand the panic. I would expect nothing less; if our mom was there, she’d have joined in with gusto, or at least stoked the flames. The man is lucky some overzealous gun nut didn’t go full vigilante, and the Everett PD didn’t send out the SWAT team…or someone with a long pokin’ stick. The incident didn’t even rate a local news reporter interviewing some local boob in front of the tree. ”

In response to this singular and egregious transgression, the school decided to heretofore lock all the gates surrounding the school. Keep in mind the fence and gates are just tall enough to thwart under-motivated marauding Pygmies.

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The Great Wall of China was clearly overkill

Soak that in. To stop this tree climbing madness, they locked the gates on the chain link fences. There is no barbed wire topping these fences. I have to think, a man dead set on tree climbing is going to find a workaround. Like, and I’m just spitballing here, climbing the fence. These climbing types are not easily discouraged. They’ll climb anything they can get their hands on: Trees, fences, churches, large dogs, even taller people.

Now parents, on the other hand – parents walking a mile in the rain to pick up and or drop off kids, taking the same route they’ve taken since day one and coming upon a locked gate…Well, it turns out parents aren’t easily discouraged by gates either. A few moms turned around and jogged cursing to the main entrance to arrive just a few minutes late. A few other moms just jumped the damn fence. One ambitious mom even foisted her golden retriever over the fence, rather than risk looking like “that mom who forgot her kid.” (I love that look that big dogs get when you pick them up, it’s the perfect mixture of confusion and sudden lack of trust of their master).

One intrepid dad (a fireman who really should have known better) tore down the fence in an inspired moment of Incredible Hulk like rage, at least that’s what the PTA rumor mill is saying. I guess it’s possible he just bent the thing back a little so he could slip through, but that’s not how the story was relayed by a shocked witness to the destruction. Rumor around campus is this dad’s gone completely off the deep end. Is there anything more terrifying than a rogue fireman?

Next thing you know he’ll be climbing trees.

And if you don’t have the fire department to get things out of trees? Well society pretty much collapses. The police could try, but they would just drive the hook and ladder in incompetent circles as they tried to make sense of the owner’s manual of the Cat-Grabber 2000. Or they would just shoot him. Meanwhile, Crazy Tony the  fence thrashing fireman who used to drive the CGF 2000 would taunt them from his tree, yelling insults he had saved up since the last softball game.

FOX news is right – overreacting really is more entertaining than that other thing. What’s it called, again? Oh, that’s right, rational thought. Not everyone in trees is looney.


18 thoughts on “Panic Now and Avoid the Rush

  1. I’m a tree climber (and fence, and roof, and people, and rocks, and occasionally the odd bit of furniture), and I can attest that we are all a bit looney. Especially those of us who are afraid of heights and climb anyways…
    In other words, this was hilarious! Thanks for the laughs.

    • I’m embarrassed to say I fell in with a bad crowd at one point and could often be found climbing various structures, both natural and man-made. Mount Whitney was my rock bottom moment. It’s an uphill battle, but I think I’ve kicked the impulse.

      • I’ve been to the top of Whitney twice, much to my shame… And, I applaud your efforts in kicking the impulse. I still, in the summer, can be found climbing moutains. It must be the company I keep (dad and brother)…

  2. Great post. It is amazing how overzealous the public takes things. We had a similar incident at our son’s elementary school. They have woods around part of the back of the school and playground, and on the other side of the woods is an apartment complex. Oh no, someone “saw a man with a gun running around in the woods”. That poor guy just out walking through the woods to get to the grocery store would have been extremely surprised when picked up for threatening the school. I am concerned, but some of this is toooooo over the top. Thanks for openly stating it.

  3. Almost Iowa mutters to himself, “Geez, should I say something?”

    His wiser nature answers, “No way, whenever you do you go off on a pedantic rant.”

    His actual nature, who is anything but wise, says, “Go for it man, pedantic rants are what you do best.”

    Having spent three decades in law enforcement, I can speak with meager authority on matters of security. Even a low fence offers an astounding level of safety. No security can keep out the determined but minimum security keeps out 90% of the mildly determined. Think about it, your house may have a steel entry door with a dead-bolt the size of a car spring – but you probably still have a nice row of windows covered by quarter inch glass. Even a baby with a baseball bat can get through that if they were so inclined….it’s how my kids got out of the house.

    But it is how security works…..

    Now as for panic, that’s how school administrator work.

    • My mother has the deadbolts and the alarm system and the surveillance cat. She’s been robbed three times. My dad hasn’t locked his front door in 20 years. He gets robbed never. I had meth heads scramble up the side of my house and slide in through a 12 inch bathroom window, but I still lock my front door. And a six inch steel door could contain the Duke boys of Hazard county when the walls were drywall. I still say they shouldn’t lock the damn gates.

      • Excuse me, but your dad was robbed – actually his golf clubs were stolen out of his unlocked car. Fortunately the thieves tried to sell them back to him a few days later.

  4. [Begin second pedantic rant]

    Great walls like Hadrian’s Wall and the Great Wall of China were built more to keep things in than to keep things out. In the old days, barbarians were more set on stealing livestock than invasion. They were too few in number to take on an army but they could easily slip over a wall. What was not so easy was getting a cow over the wall on the way back.

    [End second pedantic rant]

    • Also why, at my own school (as a kid) the fence had barbed wire. Facing in. Back then, they weren’t worried about people getting in, they were worried about kids getting out. Nobody goes to middle school by choice.

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