If you see a flashing red light, run. Run fast. You never know what it might be. Don’t stop to check it out. Perhaps it’s a bomb? After all, that’s what happens to a society when daily terror alerts, local news and a war in Iraq all conspire to keep us fearful, docile and obedient. That’s certainly what happened Tuesday when a bartender at the Swan Lake Resort in Plymouth, Indiana (population: 10,728) saw a flashing red light. Without investigating — after all he thought it might be a bomb — he called police and 35 hotel guests were evacuated.
So why is this here on a beer blog? Because it turned out the blinking light was from a Pabst Blue Ribbon promotional sign suction-cupped to the window and not, happily, a terrorist cell run amuck. Now Plymouth may not be in the middle of nowhere, but you can probably see it from there. The nearest big town is Fort Wayne (not exactly a giant either, at 220,000) 84 miles from there and Chicago is 100 miles away. So yeah, when I see a blinking red light my first thought has got to be terrorist attack. What else could it be?
I don’t mean to necessarily make light of this, but who believes a small town in the midwest almost no one has ever heard of is going to be al Qaeda’s next target? The resort manager was quoted as saying that “the unintentional false alarm is part of living in the post 911 world.” [my emphasis] Now maybe this is because I use words all day, but unintentional? It wasn’t unintentional, which means “not deliberate or intentional; inadvertent.” The alarm was sounded deliberately. A light was seen, a judgment made, and the authorities alerted. Calling it unintentional is just to placate their guests who had to leave their rooms for half an hour.
“Our employee saw something unusual and reported it,” resort manager Doug Leedke said. Was this a new bartender? A new sign? Was the bartender not familiar with POP advertising materials generally? How did he get from blinking light to bomb? What was thought process that would have led him — or indeed anyone — down that path? I live only a few minutes from a site that has been mentioned as a potential target several times — the Golden Gate Bridge — and I almost never think anything about it in those terms. Should I? I don’t think so. I don’t want to go all que será, será, but beyond taking a few obvious precautions, there’s not really a lot I can do.
Another news source reported that the “bartender called authorities about the suspicious flashing light at 12:30 a.m. Monday, and guests were evacuated about six minutes later, said Doug Leedke, general manager of the resort in Plymouth. Six minutes later!?! There must not be an awful lot of crime in Plymouth because I don’t think there’s anywhere in the Bay Area that I could get authorities to do anything in six minutes, which is not to disparage our fine boys in blue here.
Sadly, none of the reports showed a picture of the Pabst ad, and I sure would like to see it so I can decide if this really is as ridiculous as it appears. I searched Pabst’s website hoping to stumble across it but no luck.
Something similar just happened a few days ago when a kindly old woman in Japan left a six-pack by way of thanks at her local police precinct. Again, their first thought was also bomb, and everybody was evacuated until the bomb squad could confirm it contained malt, hops, water and yeast and not nitroglycerine.
I think the beer industry should adopt the slogan “beer not bombs” in an effort to stave off this wave of bad publicity. We need to create a positive message. We can’t have people seeing beer and their first thought is it might explode. I’m not aware of an epidemic of infected malt that would cause gushing on the scale where people would start wearing crash helmets when they shop for beer. So we should be able to safely predict that your beer won’t explode. Fingers crossed.