This column appeared in The Herald-Sun in January 2014:

I was almost finished building the new toy box for John Michael last Saturday when our smartphones buzzed about a tornado warning in Durham.

Soon, we found out that – although it’s not a comfortable fit for all involved – it’s possible to cram two adults, a baby and a nervous Great Pyrenees into our downstairs guest bathroom.

The storm blew through quickly enough, I’m happy to say. We just had a few limbs knocked down by the wind; nothing major.

But we were ready for that crisis. We knew it was coming.

It’s the storms we can’t track on radar that really worry me most, though.

A hair-trigger motorist just looking for a reason to rage. A troubled youth driven inexplicably to kill his classmates in school. A man stymied by the legal system, afraid of losing custody of his child, waving a gun around a public square.

Or an ex-cop apparently so gung-ho about movie previews that he’ll shoot someone over texting.

The incident in Florida, in which retired Tampa police officer Curtis Reeves is accused of shooting Chad Oulson, struck especially close to home for me. The theater where it happened is smack dab in the middle of territory I used to cover for the newspaper. Oulson, the man who died, was just a few years younger than me.

Both men were in the theater with their wives to watch an afternoon showing of the Mark Wahlberg movie, “Lone Survivor.”

Officials say Oulson was texting his 3-year-old daughter during the previews when Reeves, 71, confronted him and then left the theater, presumably to complain to a manager. When Reeves returned, the men exchanged more words and Oulson allegedly threw popcorn at Reeves.

Police say Reeves shot and killed Oulson in response.

Over the years, I’ve grown quite leery of watching movies at the cinema unless it’s a movie that really begs to be seen on the big screen. Originally, it was the rising ticket costs and the insane concession charges that turned me off. Then came the people chatting around me like it was their own living room. And then the texting and the phone calls.

Now I’ve got to worry that I’ll somehow offend an unbalanced guy in the next row and turn into target practice?

We might be better off hunkering down in that guest bathroom, watching movies on Netflix while we
wait for people to flip their friendly switches back on.

Problem is, I think we’d be in for a long wait.

Wes Platt can be reached at or 919-419-6684. Follow on Twitter at @HS_WesPlatt. Connect on Facebook at

By Brody

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