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Hello, I'm your very own Count von Count

As an easily programmable species, we have been hard-wired to raise our anxiety threat level to orange during countdowns.

We wait in anticipation for the ball to drop on New Year’s Eve.

We see the blinking red numbers on a bad guy’s bomb tick down, and our breath shortens as Bruce Willis or Jack Bauer attempts to diffuse the ka-boom.

Heck, we hesitate in the grocery store when we try to calculate whether we’ll use the entire half-gallon of milk before the expiration date.

In case you haven’t noticed (and, honestly, how could you not?) we’ve been running our own countdown on the front page of your daily fishwrap since Sept. 25 as a reminder of when Southern Oregon’s fire season began in 2018, and how soon our valley would be fearing flaming flashpoints as we lie tucked under blankets of smothering smoke — flame and smoke being two of our three most aggravating annual visitors, depending on how you feel about Californians.

Judging by the response we’ve received, most folks fall into one of two camps.

Some appreciate that we haven’t let up in writing stories about the dangers of wildfires and the environmental and economic impacts that come with the season, and what our elected officials are doing to mitigate them.

Others, perhaps worn down by having to cope with the hovering crisis, have said that the daily countdown box — with its fire-truck red numbers and background image of the smoke to come — simply agitates the agita with which we live.

And to them, I apologize ... for you see, the daily reminder is my fault.

Well, not completely; the idea for the box and its message came from above. But its red border? That was me (first seen on Sept. 28). And the smoke-filled backdrop (Sept. 29), which comes from a fire outside of Merlin? That was me, as well.

And the responsibility for seeing that the “ DAYS UNTIL THE 2019 FIRE SEASON” number drops on a daily basis? The vast majority of the time, I’ve been Count von Count — which, if you are even faintly familiar with the truism about “journalists doing math,” has been a lot harder than it looks.

I, too, have a love-hate relationship with the box. Given the day, and my mood, I’ve fallen into either of the two divided camps. It led me — once — to consider revenge.

When we reached “99 DAYS ...,” I briefly superimposed a tiny beer bottle in the lower left corner — until the better angels of my nature intervened, and I just resorted to singing the song for myself.

Last night, for instance, I sang “20 bottles of beer on the wall, 20 bottles of beer.” Whistling in the dark, as it were, while we wait for the eventual party guest who arrives too early and leaves long after the fun is over.

Dark humor, though, steadies morale only so long. For, once that clock stops ticking

We face that moment that ignites our fears and our anxieties, right? When Bruce or Jack cuts the red wires instead of the blue, in hopes that stops the explosion, or when we tempt fate by pouring one-day-late milk into our coffee.

We don’t know what this fire season will bring, or how long it will be. We only know that the governor wants to spend a couple hundred thousand dollars studying it, and that political players back East are playing politics (imagine that) with stalled disaster-relief legislation efforts in hopes their “side” comes out the “winner.”

Try to sell that soap to the folks who are still cleaning what used to be Paradise. You’ll see how quickly moods can sour once patience reaches its expiration date.

Of course, while most see natural disasters (even human-caused ones) as, well, disasters, others see opportunity.

Consider that America’s secretary of state told a conference in Finland this week that increased melting ice could make the Arctic great again, since it would open up more passageways for travel and trade.

“It houses 13 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil, 30 percent of its undiscovered gas, an abundance of uranium, rare earth minerals, gold, diamonds. Millions of square miles of untapped resources, fisheries galore,” he exclaimed to a mouth-agape audience that no doubt saw this as confirmation it was right to resist the siren call of the secretary’s boss — who once wondered why the U.S. didn’t get more immigrants from places like Finland.

Diamonds in the dust? That’s what we could tell the people of Paradise, or those in Tornado Alley, those who find themselves along the shores of the shrinking Great Lakes, or what’s left of Puerto Rico ... well, apparently not Puerto Rico.

If disasters are our destiny, let’s make some money from them.

Who knows what treasures await. Cleared out tracks of land for golf courses or, if we’re lucky, a more direct, asphalt-ready route to the coast.

So, in 20 or so days (give or take) the fire season will be upon us, reshaping the landscape and the ecosystem for decades to come — or until next year’s fire season, whichever comes first.

As for the future of our little red box? That’s yet to be decided. We could start the countdown over again; after all, Jack Bauer saved the world from ticking time bombs seven times.

Or we could just look for another disaster. Someone’s always predicting we’ll get hit by an asteroid. And there’s the 2020 elections.

“541 bottles of beer on the wall, 541 bottles of beer ”

Might not be enough.

Mail Tribune copy desk chief Robert Galvin, who was told there would be no math, can be reached at rgalvin@rosebudmedia.com.

Robert Galvin