No doubt you have heard about the fierce nor-easter that is about to level the East coast. It is all over social media and the news, causing a bit of a panic. Even my mother-in-law, who thinks Instagram is a new diabetes pill, is panicking. With barely three inches of snow on the ground, she is insisting that we all strap ourselves down and huddle in the basement.
My regular followers know that I live in semi-rural Pennsylvania, where we go about our business with snow and only stay off the roads when the precipitation is as tall as we are. If you can still see the top of a sheep’s head, go ahead and go to the WAWA, a chain of convenience stores here that all Pennsylvanians must visit at least once a day or we die.
Still, we seem to be getting a bit soft lately. This weekend, the food stores were packed with people hoarding eggs and milk, something I really never understood. Something deep within the human genome, there are a couple of letters that associate snow with a worldwide cow and chicken apocalypse.
A recent review study by psychologist Regina A. Shih, and her colleagues at Johns Hopkins University, suggests that some people may have a genetic predisposition to panicking. Then of course, there is the group panic. Just as though we were a bunch of prairie dogs poking out from our holes, when one in the group sounds the alarm, all react. Suddenly, we all want eggs and milk; we want them now, and we want to get them before someone else does.
Panic in groups can have deadly consequences, especially when it converts into mass hysteria. The most notable example is probably the Salem witch trials of 1692-93, when the panic of four teenage girls resulted in the death of 25 people. A more interesting case is the Dancing Plague of 1518. One day, out of the blue, numerous people got up and started dancing for no apparent reason. They danced for days and nights on end, never resting, for about a period of a month. Numerous deaths there, too. It was in July, in the Holy Roman Empire, so I am guessing no snow.
I’d like to think that had I been in either of those situations, I would have been the voice of reason. I would have told the residents of Salem that they were probably eating some trippy grain, but the truth is that while shopping at the warehouse store for the box of three dozen granola bars to keep my teenager alive in between meals, my little heart really wanted to also get that Costco slab of three dozen eggs.