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from The Miami Herald

March 9, 2003

What, you worried? Don't be alarmed by this holiday


It sounds like a bad joke: Amid terror alerts, warmongering and stock-market tensions, along comes a quasi-official ''holiday'' called Panic Day.

Lose it, South Florida. Surrender to fear. Tell your loved ones you just can't take it anymore. Lock yourself in a duct-taped room.

Today's holiday, advertised on hundreds of Internet sites and duly noted in a fair number of office datebooks, is the tongue-in-cheek creation of a Lebanon, Pa., man who thought the nation needed a bit of mirth.

''Let it out,'' said Tom Roy, who, when not trademarking holidays, helps produce the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire.

"I think the bottom line of the whole thing is: Would my hero, Mark Twain, be proud of me for doing this? Yes. Because we all take ourselves way too seriously. Life's too short.''

If frayed South Floridians can draw a bit of comic relief from Panic Day, all the better, say emergency officials.

''There is a point where you can stress out too much about all the things going on in the world,'' said Tony Carper, emergency operations director for Broward County. "It's human nature to worry about the things you can't control.''

Panic Day is among the most popular of 72 whimsical holidays coined by Roy, an actor and one-time radio personality. Among the others: No Socks Day (May 8), No Housework Day (April 7) and, in case you missed it last Monday, What if Cats & Dogs Had Opposable Thumbs Day.

Roy looks for concepts 'that appeal to everyone, like `Mom,' '' and for days that aren't already claimed by a well-recognized holiday.

Roy's holidays compete with more than 12,000 others for recognition. Most are generated by special-interest groups, trade associations, lobbyists, self-promotional authors or celebrities. All appear in Chase's Calendar of Events, the bible of annual celebrations.

But Roy's are funnier than most. Cartoonist Jim Berry (Berry's World) paid tribute one Nov. 19 to Have a Bad Day Day. Television personality Willard Scott built a commercial around Be Bald and Be Free Day for motel chain Days Inn.

Roy began inventing holidays in the late 1980s as a radio talk-show host in Lancaster, Pa., when he discovered an entry form in the back of Chase's.

He submitted Northern Hemisphere Hoodie-Hoo Day, bidding Northerners to emerge from their homes at noon on Feb. 20, wave beach blankets at the sun and yell ''Hoodie-Hoo! Hoodie-Hoo!'' to seek the return of warm weather. Hoodie-Hoo Day is now marked in all 50 states, Roy says, although it has not caught on for obvious reasons in South Florida.

Panic Day was ''either the second or third'' holiday Roy created.

It commemorated Roy's own panic attacks as a young actor, and the group-therapy sessions that helped him regain his footing.

The date, March 9, is purely arbitrary, chosen mainly because it wasn't already claimed by another major holiday. But every year, Roy said, a confluence of world events leads some observers to conclude that he is prophetic.

''Every year,'' Roy said, 'someone calls me and asks, `Did you create Panic Day because of all the stuff that's going on in the world right now?' ''

For what it's worth, Roy himself thinks most people are panicking more these days about the gas-pump meter than the latest crop of international crises.

''The bottom line is like Winston Churchill said: the only thing we have to fear is fear itself,'' Roy said.