So It Wasn’t a Bomb

Back when dystopian teen novels were, well, novel, the question “how would you fare in a Hunger Games situation” used to crop up in conversations all the time. I assume people asked because answers and their accompanying explanations would, theoretically, indicate how people perceive themselves and others. Except I don’t know if I’ve ever heard anyone say anything beyond a variation of “dead,” so either the question adds no real value whatsoever or I’m hanging out with the wrong people. (Or the right people, upon second thought.)

Anyway, I’ve never shied away from my role of “first to die.”

An actual question and response on a business organization application last semester

Q: If you were stranded on a desert island with a group of people, what would be your role?

A: Food.

(If you were wondering, the org rejected me.)

As you can see, I’ve accepted my lack of survival skills. But after what happened Friday afternoon, I’m reconsidering that assumption.

I went to the dollar movies with Mom to watch Hidden Figures, a film that tells the untold story of three black women who were integral to NASA’s efforts to send the first men into space. Upon entering, we were the only two people in the theater. True, we’d arrived on time—and you never arrive on time to the movies—but even when “20th Century Fox” appeared, signaling the start, only three more people had joined us.

It was just the five of us for a while, so I immediately noticed when a tall man slipped into the back during an Octavia Spencer scene. Maybe I paid so much attention to him because I’m already paranoid about movie theater violence, or maybe it was because he’d entered over an hour into the movie. Either way, I became hyperaware of his every movement.

Trying to discreetly eye him while facing the front, I contorted into a variety of positions and somehow glimpsed the man drop what looked like a heavy-looking backpack beside one of the seats and then leave the theater. An unattended item left in a public place by someone quickly leaving the area, the backpack raised red flags.

Image result for backpack bomb
I… am going to hell.

It signaled a potential bomb threat.

The next few minutes saw me wage an internal battle with myself, trying to decide whether I should stand up and expose my paranoid self or turn back in my seat and “discreetly” illuminate the backpack—to ascertain that I’d seen correctly, because it did seem unlikely he was planning to bomb just five people—with my phone’s flashlight. A difficult decision because the latter would possibly lead to everyone’s fiery death but would save me some face. After much twisting and turning, I decided on the flashlight.

 

Image result for black backpack
And there it was.

It was, indeed, a backpack. I shot out of my seat, muttering “that man dropped a backpack” to Mom. I must’ve looked very serious, because she followed me out unquestioningly (which I maintain was equally, if not more, shocking than there being a potential bomb.)

Me: That man, the one who came in just now, he left a backpack. You saw it.

Mom: I didn’t even notice. I heard him come in because he was so late, but how did you see what he was doing? Are you sure he wasn’t one of the people from the beginning?

Me: Yeah, I’m sure. There were five people and I saw him for the first time just now.

Mom: … Is that him?

I whipped my head around to see Backpack Man walk past us, elbow-deep in a bucket of popcorn. He gave us a quizzical once-over, clearly wondering what we could be gossiping about outside the theater.

Me: Yes… *starts to wheeze-laugh*

Backpack Man reentered the theater. The sound of crunching kernels was cut off by the door swinging closed.

Mom: He was just getting food! He just put his things down! Why are you like this?

Me: *expresses my shame through laughter*

So, in terms of innate survival skills, I got the short end of the stick. My common sense is lacking. I have zero sense of direction. I don’t know how to start a fire. But what I do know is how to recognize where there aren’t bombs, a skill I would say is preceded by few in significance, except, I guess, pinpointing where there are.


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18 thoughts on “So It Wasn’t a Bomb

    1. So sorry I didn’t see this comment–neglected a whole batch, apparently! That’s the end goal, but I’m thinking it would really suck if I accidentally died before then anyway. Paranoia about too much paranoia. Excellent.

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  1. Don’t sell yourself short! If it was a bomb, you’d be a savior! Most people wouldn’t notice at all. My over-militant friend from years ago used to run these little exercises with me all the time. How many exits are in this room? How many men, how many women, how many can you take? Where is the best place to find a weapon? All sorts of fun Jason Bourne type stuff. Years later, I still haven’t stopped. I scan every room I go into. Ever.

    Keep it up, and keep up the writing! I love your straight to the point style 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aw, thanks! Although I’m pretty sure the amount of time I spent trying to decide whether or not to check might’ve doomed us anyway. I always wanted to (read: just thought about) doing exercises like those after I read this spy novel. How many people can you usually take?

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  2. I was a a pre-release screening of the movie “Patriot’s Day” about the Boston Marathon bombing, sitting in row two because It was nearly a full house. About halfway through the movie an older, large-ish woman sitting two seats away got and exited the aisle. i didn’t pay much attention other than to move my feet out the way. We were mid-row and didn’t follow he progress, figuring she was just going to use the bathroom or get water since she left her backpack or bag on her seat.

    Fiften…thirty, forty minutes went by and she didn’t return. I glanced at the guy sitting on the opposite side of the backpack but we were too far apart to whisper anything.

    Considering that this was a movie about backpack bombers, i was getting concerned, even though the woman seemed a most unlikely mass murderer.

    When the lights came up and nothing had exploded, I asked the guy 3 seats away if he didn’t think it was odd that the lady had left without her backpack.

    He said “Oh, she didn’t like having to sit so close to the screen right in the middle so she moved up a row to the side….there she is.”

    I’m just glad I didn’t leap up and scream “Unattended backpack!”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t know what I would’ve done in that situation (although I should, seeing as it sounds like the sort of thing that would happen to me), but I don’t think I would’ve been able to sit through the rest of the movie next to it. I mean, in my case, I left the theater and just happened to cross the guy–who knows what I would’ve done if our paths hadn’t crossed? Anyway, glad your story had a nice ending and that all of you were safe!

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  3. I’m not sure that there was anything wrong with your concern, especially with what just happened in Manchester. Sadly, I think we all need to be a little more paranoid and aware when in public these days. I realize now that it was a luxury and good fortune to grow up in a time when you never imagined that you could be a victim of an act of terror in your school, a mall, at a movie or a concert, a sporting event or in a park. Stay paranoid and be vigilant. What a buzz kill.But necessary.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. While your story was written in a light-hearted way, it is a sad fact that we need to be on alert. I think the next time someone asks about your role, you should say “lookout.” You were wrong this time, but you were looking out for everyone. Bravo.

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  5. you have a great sense of humor! I found myself laughing out loud at most of your post. but that last paragraph- honey, you are not paranoid. sadly we live in a crazy world where backpacks left behind are thought first to be a bomb and only afterwards some scattered brained person’s belongings.
    I’ve had the experience of living the other side of that scenario (don’t worry I am all good:)) and I can promise you; always choose to be the paranoid stalker with a iphone flashlight.
    all we can do is stay aware, have faith and add as much love and truth to the world as we can.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. 😦 So sad and sorry that you had to go through that (proximity does make it so much worse)! The worst part is as I was writing the post, I did consider the possibility that something would happen right after posting, just because these attacks have been becoming more and more frequent. Thanks for your thoughts!

      Liked by 1 person

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