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Panic button

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Brian Wilson

“Oh, by the way Dad, the health department called for you a couple hours ago. I told them you were at work and they should call you there.”

That was the message my son greeted me with when I came home from work on Thursday afternoon.

I have to admit that my initial reaction was very similar to when you are driving down the highway and suddenly see a squad car turn on their lights and siren behind you. The instant panic of, “Oh no, they got me” is present even though you know you weren’t speeding or doing anything else that you should not have been doing.

In a more normal time, a call to my house from the health department might be because they want to give me a heads up about a press release coming out or to ask about some activity that I might be involved with.

In the current climate with COVID-19 quarantines, I immediately worried that I had been contact-traced and would have to sit home for two weeks reporting my temperature twice a day.

There is never a good time to be quarantined, but there are times that are far worse than others.

I fantasized briefly about not returning the phone call thinking that maybe if I went underground and skulked about in the shadows of society for a few years they would forget about me eventually. Maybe I could finally put to use some of those prepper bug-out skills I have been obsessively learning about over the past several years, since social media algorithms determined I must be a grub-eating survivalist nut. Well at least I have a good spruce tip beer recipe to drown my sorrows.

Fortunately, reason returned quickly, and I called the health department to nervously ask them what they needed only for them to let me know that no one from their office had called my house that day. Lingering out there, but unsaid, was the question of why I would think the health department would want to call my house. What did I know that they didn’t?

It reminded me the first time I flew internationally and was grilled in the airport by the U.S. customs agent because I didn’t list the value of the souvenir cowthemed t-shirt on the form. I thought for sure, I was going to be sent to the hoosegow for that one, but I happened to still have the receipt for it in my wallet so they finally accepted it had negligible value. In fairness, it also had very little in the way of artistic or cultural value too, being purchased mainly because it caught my eye and I was always taught it was polite to bring gifts home to people when you travel. If I remember correctly, it has since transitioned into being a dust rag.

After getting off the phone with the health department, I decided to check the caller ID on the phone to see if maybe it was another office that had called. Turns out that it was the city of Medford calling letting me know a temporary liquor license for the Kiwanis Club was ready to be picked up. I am thinking that I need to invest in new phones or have my son’s hearing checked to avoid city and county being confused in the future.

On the other hand, it never hurts to make sure your bug-out bag is ready, just in case.