Once more, with feeling
So Andy and I were on the tube last Saturday on the way to see the Docklands. (Whatever that is, that's why we were going there.) We had just transferred to the Jubilee Line and gone about one stop when the announcer came on and said that there would be a slight delay as there was a package left on our train and they had to check it out. Harrumph! I'm glad they are careful and everything, but I thought, "Great, a delay." I noticed a tall guy in the corner of our car quickly look around and get off--he seemed sort of sly rather than nonchalant. I thought, "Does he know something I don't know?" Then I thought, "Yeah, he's probably been on a train where this has happened before and he knows the drill and knows that they will probably be overcautious and close everything down and everyone will have to find a different route to where they want to go and he'll have the jump on all of us." But I admit that my second thought was, "What if he's the one who left the package and he's getting away, should I have taken his picture?" (My camera is always around my neck ready to go.) Then I tried to see if I could replay the scene in my mind to see if I could remember anything about how he looked in case I was ever asked--I couldn't. Then I was kind of kicking myself for letting my mind wander like that when suddenly a huge reality check happened . . . A policeman came running from the next car and shouted, "Everyone get off the train right now-RUN!" Whoa! What a shock! Andy and I, like everyone else, just flew off that train and on to the platform--I couldn't believe how fast raw instinct took over. The people were quite amazing--almost everyone was calm. I can remember hearing someone wailing but for the most part no one even spoke. I just kept trying to keep my eye on Andy. After we were all off the train that quick the same immediate thought must have popped into everyone's head, "If there is a bomb right there and it blows up, we're still in a mess of trouble, it's time to mostly panic and run." That's when the policeman then shouted, "Don't run, stay calm, and exit quickly." Now that's much better. I then had to replay his first instructions in my head to see if he really had said run--because we all know that that's dangerous and practically illegal in America, like shouting, "Fire!" in a theatre. I say practically illegal, because if there really were a fire it would be okay to shout it out, right? Guess what? He really did shout, "RUN!" and I'm sure he meant it. After the first bombs hit, we were on the bus in Oxford and we all listened to the news reports on the radio and they were interviewing a guy who had been at one of the bomb sites and he talked about how he had been in the military for years and had learned to hear that little something in someone's voice when they are afraid or when the situation is desperate and that the announcer on his train had that whatever-it-is in his voice as he tried to get people to evacuate quickly but without saying why--he said he could just tell something was horribly wrong. That's just how it was in the split seconds of this policeman's voice first shouting out--it was like he bore the weight of the world and was trying desperately to save us from what he was sure was a bomb. His voice had the sound of real authority and true caring mixed together and it was very powerful. And people responded.
You know when Alma says, "Oh, that I were an angel"? With some people, you wish you could have a voice to shake the earth--to have the right mix of authority and caring so that the hearer would get the message and do the right thing. Does it take a bomb threat? It is so terrible when you can see clearly a situation that is very dangerous for someone and yet you know they won't listen to you or heed what you have to say. What can you do? Last night the kids were all in our flat and we were talking about what to do when someone you care about is headed straight for trouble and you know it but they won't listen or even believe you and I had this worrisome thought and said to Berkeley that we needed to establish a code word so she would know that if I ever said it to her it would mean she was in danger but she didn't know it and wouldn't see it but that I was sure of it and that she would just have to believe me and act accordingly. That her new brainwashing-bad-for-her-control-freak-love-interest-who-would-be- devastating-to-her-future-happiness needed to go and then she would be able to snap out of it and steer clear. Do you think that would work? She said no. Well, I'm telling you right now that I'm not giving up that easily, that there's got to be something I can say to penetrate the thick skin of my offspring. It will have to be a word they understand, but one I never say--it can't be a powerful word, or even a caring or emotional one, I will have already tried that. No, it has to be the ultimate word of warning, while at the same time meaning I know you don't believe me, but trust me on this--the other thing about it is that I have to be sure I'm right--or do I? Was the policeman sure he was right? No. In fact, we never heard anything on the news about it and had there been a bomb found on a train I think it would have come up, but whatever it was that made him get that thing in his voice is what I want to be able to have when my children need it. Or have I used it up on stupid stuff that doesn't matter--has the intensity of my voice when I'm bawling them out for something trivial already robbed me of my ability to communicate when it really matters? We call it rancour around here--I can't seem to make it go away when I feel strongly about something--it always betrays me.
The answer is perhaps somewhere in the thing President David O. McKay said, something like, "Never yell at your children--unless your house in on fire."