I was on my way home last night shortly before 2:00 am, and I needed to stop at the library to drop off a few materials. Rain had been falling for part of the evening lining the empty streets with small rivers of water. I pulled into the parking lot and turned my car off, not bothering to lock the doors as I walked the short distance to the building. As I neared the bushes that surrounded the sidewalk, my paranoid alter-ego showed up in full force and requested (yes, I know, I have a problem) permission to ask a simple question:
"What would happen if you set your panic alarm off right now? Who would come?"
While I didn’t really feel any pressing danger in that situation, the question stuck with me the entire drive home. I tried answering it multiple times, but each reply was the same. I honestly have no idea who would answer that call. It wasn’t even because there were no people in the immediate area, I concluded, but rather I couldn’t think of a time I saw someone cast a glance when the familiar honking and flashing lights suddenly began. After pondering this a while longer, I came to a startling realization.
Nobody cares about car alarms any more.
Let’s be honest with ourselves and think back to the last time we heard a car alarm go off. Did we look to see if anyone was in trouble, or did we simply shake our head and wonder why they let their kids hold the keys? Can you recall the last time you saw someone stop what they were doing and go check to make sure everything was alright? I couldn’t – actually I couldn’t recall doing so myself for some time, which disturbed me even more.
I think what has happened is twofold. On one side of things, people have really done a bad job not pushing that button by accident. I know I have been guilty of that, and I’m sure you or someone in your family has as well. This slow desensitization is bound to take hold over time, and I’d even go as far to guess that we’ve heard someone "cry wolf" 21 times (thus breaking the habit as the theory suggests.)
That said, I believe there is a deeper issue other than misplaced pressure placed on a tiny remote. Society itself has reached a point where we don’t listen to the warning signs from those around us. We don’t stop to see if people are okay, we don’t want to get involved, we don’t like to consider the potential commitment it could lead to. What used to be an emergency-only feature became the subject of pranks and noise-generating mischief in our high-school years. The device designed to assist those in need turned into a toy.
Next time you hear a car alarm, spare 5 seconds and look to see if everyone’s alright. Chances are it’s a simple mistake, but do you really want to take that chance? Were that person me, I’d feel better knowing someone would check to be sure.