Tim Istock column: Bombing Out

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 25, 2022

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By Tim Istock

So, I’ve seen a number of news stories recently involving bomb threats, and while in today’s world this obviously doesn’t represent anything new or earth shattering — excuse the pun — it did serve to remind me of a place where I once worked that actually had a protocol for dealing with such emergencies, and it went something like this:

1. Remain calm and keep caller on the line as long as possible.
OK, let’s see if I have this straight, someone has just rang my telly and informed me that they have a bomb set to go off somewhere in my immediate vicinity, the likes of which may very well obliterate me and my entire building to smithereens, and I am supposed to remain calm. Hmm . . Got it. I don’t think that will be a problem. I mean, I can barely keep my composure in check when my smart TV begins buffering in the middle of a Panthers
game, but hey, I doubt I’ll have a problem chilling when faced with the news that a depraved lunatic killer has targeted my little corner of the world for mass extinction.

2. Listen carefully, be polite, and show interest.
Uh . . ya think? And here I was thinking maybe I’d put the caller on hold while my co-worker in the next cube regales me with details about his trip to the Dollywood with the in-laws. And be polite, you say? Now why in the world would I want to do that? I was thinking I’d just call the bum a no good piece of cowardly dog doo doo and see if I could really get him riled up.
Oh, and don’t forget to show interest.

Listen folks, I just have to tell you, if someone contacts me and even remotely hints at the fact that I may soon be becoming one with the cosmos thanks to a strategically planted explosive device, I can guarantee you beyond the shadow of any doubt that I will be showing 100% genuine and unwavering mega interest, immediately, if not sooner.

Okie dokey, so, assuming you’ve managed not to soil your pants and/or aggravate the dickens out of the perp to the point of prompting him to actually go through with the threat as a result of your obvious, lame attempts at stalling, you are now asked to move on to the Bomb Threat Checklist, where you will be peppering the anxious caller with such questions as:

1. Me: Where is the bomb located?
Caller: Under your seat

2. Me: When will it go off?
Caller: That depends on how many dumb questions you continue to ask me.

3. Me: What will make it go off?
Caller: Refer back to the answer to question No. 2

4. Me: Did you place the bomb?
Caller: No, my aunt Edna did, but she wasn’t available to make the call today as she was out speaking to a Victims of Violence conference … of course I planted the bomb you idiot!

5. Me: Why did you plant the bomb?
Caller: Oh, I don’t know, it was a choice between watering my petunias or taking out a city block, and the petunias looked plenty perky enough today. Listen moron, why does anyone go about the business of planting a bomb for the purposes of killing innocent people … because they are crazy, which I’m beginning to think might well apply to you as well.

5. Me: What is your name and address?
Caller: My name is Theo Pozinski, and I live at 224 Elm Street
Me: Good … wait … that’s my name and address!
Caller: Indeed it is Sherlock. Two can play this little game.

Last but not least, the receiver of the bomb threat is then asked to peruse a perp identification menu, including among other items, voice characteristics (accented, male/female, nasal, etc.), threat language types (profane, impatient, angry, etc.) and background sounds (animal noises, music, street noises, etc.) and to check off those that apply to the caller in question.

I can just see the average nervous Nelly now trying to parse such a checklist…

Oh Lord, was that a British or an Australian accent? And was that anger I detected in his voice or simply impatience? Oh, and that noise in the background, it sounds like someone screaming, but it could just as easily have been a cat having its tail stepped on…

“Uh, excuse me sir, could you please repeat your threat again, and this time a little more slowly? By the way, I’m just curious, do you prefer fish and chips or shrimp on the barbie?”

Of course, they forgot to include the most likely background noise of all on their list, that of St. Peter at the pearly gates asking why in the name of all that is sane and rational you decided to opt for the impromptu game of 100 questions instead of high tailing it out to safety when you had the chance.