It isn’t unusual for me to get at least 100 emails a day, but last Friday beat that average by a mile. In a little over 10 hours I received 365 emails, 223 of them from well-meaning friends and relatives, warning me to stay away from all Walmarts for at least 24 hours. Rumor had it that a gang initiation shooting was planned. Some claimed the initiation demanded that the inductee shoot a woman and child. Others said the requirement was to shoot two women, and they swore they’d heard about the gang plan from “Uncle Roy”, who served on a local police force.
Instinct tried telling me it was a hoax, but that little voice became increasingly hard to listen to as the volume of emails grew. By that evening, I was so tired of hearing about it that I wanted to purposely go to a Walmart, meet up with this so-called gang, and tell them to go get a life. Geez!
The following morning, as suspected, the local and national news reported that the gang shooting warning was indeed a hoax. From all reports, in a matter of one day, text messages and emails about the initiation had made its way across dang near every state in the Union. Evidently a lot of people got caught up in the rumor, even 911 operators. A handful of them were fired for forwarding the message to friends and family because they feared the rumor to be true. A couple even elaborated on the ‘facts’, claiming they’d heard about the threat from their supervisor.
Oddly enough, news reporters revealed that this gang shooting at a Walmart threat had been an annual occurrence since 1996. It was an urban legend that simply refused to go away.
That bit of information got me to wondering….
Was one person responsible for cranking up the rumor each year? If so, who? A disgruntled employee? An independent business owner who lost his or her shop when the big W moved into town? With all the tracking, tracing, bugging technology available today, it’s hard to believe that the culprit’s identity is still unknown. And even more mind-boggling to me is why, after thirteen years, are people still falling for the same story? Granted, it was the first time I’d ever heard of it…or was it? We’re bombarded with so much negative hype everyday that it’s hard to keep track of what happened when or who’s threatening whom, where.
Overall, you have to admit that it’s kind of cool that folks are watching out for each other in some small way. Maybe the forwarded emails were much ado about nothing. But wouldn’t it be nice if forewarning spread that quickly about REAL issues—a jump in gas prices—bank failures—job layoffs? Maybe one day . . . hopefully.
So ‘fess up—did you get warnings to stay away from Walmart, and if so, did you believe them?