South Florida Hospital News
Wednesday June 3, 2020

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September 2018 - Volume 15 - Issue 3



Publisher's Note

Not Quite “Shouting Fire in a Crowded Theater” … But Pretty Close

Our Saturday morning started relatively normally. Lox, eggs and onions (better known as LEO to us regulars) for me at our weekend hangout – Palm Beach Bagel in Boca. When in doubt on Saturday and Sunday at 8:30, we’ll be there. And that’s usually where Carol and I chart out our day’s chores (in reality Carol does the charting while I think of ways to procrastinate.) Well this particular Saturday, with September fast approaching and hurricane season well underway, Carol decided it was high time we did something about fueling our mega-generator for whatever might come our way over the next few months. After last year’s tangle with Irma with no a/c, etc. for about a week, we’d learned our lesson.
Enlisting Andrew on our way, our first stop was our local Target to load up on new 5 gallon gasoline containers … and I do mean load up! Our generator holds 16 gallons for a 10-hour run. And that’s a lot of fuel by any standards. So when the Target manager and other shoppers spotted 3 shopping carts loaded with gas containers, batteries and water, they did a real double take and panicked. The first question: “When is the storm coming?” Second question: “What category?” My first response: “What storm?” only confused the poor listeners more until we explained we only were hurricane prepping and there was absolutely nothing in the forecast unless you were somewhere in the Hawaiian Islands. I really think the manager was halfway to the inventory computer to start ordering more hurricane supplies … and if we’d been in Kmart, we’d probably have heard, “Attention, Kmart shoppers …”
And then there was the gas station. We had attached our extended luggage rig to the back of Carol’s SUV, so we could transport all 14 containers each trip. As the station patrons watched us filling container after container, the panic grew. Amidst a lot of cell phone googling and gaping, a half dozen people stopped to ask about the coming storm, etc. Even the Wawa employee came outside to see if we knew something he didn’t. But the ultimate was when the Broward County patrol car pulled up next to us also to inquire about the coming storm. Once again, I quickly pleaded innocent to causing a gasoline panic and let everyone know I’d be making two more gasoline fill-up trips, until we’d achieved our goal of enough fuel to see us through 3 days of power, if and when we needed it.  
People often argue that some speech is unprotected by making comparisons to shouting fire in a crowded theater. And in fact according to Supreme Court Justice Holmes, “The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic.” So even though it wasn’t my words that caused the panic that Saturday, my 14 innocent red gasoline containers certainly did.

Charles Felix can be reached at

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