Who doesn’t like a good panic? It could be a localised one, as when you see a spider in the bath, or a widespread one, as when we were told that at the stroke of midnight on December 31, 1999, life as we knew it would end with planes falling out of the sky and computers going haywire. This latter was the Y2K panic since computers didn’t know how to handle the two zeroes following the 20 and would assume it was 1900 (and we thought computers were smart!)

How ancient Y2K sounds now; we remember earlier panics in greater detail, like the floods from which a bearded man looking like Russell Crowe rescued all the animals, birds, bugs and earthworms.

Now here’s a good panic — let’s call it the Bristol Cheese Toastie panic. It is restricted to one park, Monk Park in the north of the city, and it involves that Bristol speciality, the cheese toast. It tells us something about human nature, and since that is the best kind of nature and one we deal with here, let us examine the case further.

There is fear in the city that toasties might lead to biker gangs running amok, schoolchildren playing truant and the sky falling on the heads of local passersby. I made up that last possibility, but is it any more ridiculous than the other two, which are genuine concerns?

This fear has led to the local council refusing permission to run a hot food snack van in the park, the theory being that it would attract the afore-mentioned biker gangs and entice children from the nearby school who don’t think much of the food being served there. Ice creams are fine, but toasties are a no-no. It appears toasties are the lifeblood of gangs which go around terrorising neighbourhoods. “Fill ‘er up,” says the gangster, pointing to his plate of quickly devoured toasties, and roars off to harass the citizens. There’s material here for a Hollywood movie. Perhaps to be released in the year 2038.

Now there’s a year for panic. And here’s The Guardian: “The 2038 problem is caused by the limitations of the 32-bit systems. At 03:14:07 UTC on 19 March, computers still using 32-bit systems to store and process the date and time won’t be able to cope. The computers won’t be able to tell the difference between the year 2038 and 1970.”

Ah! recognition problem again. This is why computers will never take over the world. It’s so easy to confuse them.

It’s too early to panic you might think. But getting off to an early start is necessary to prolong the panic. Puts the Bristol toasties problem in perspective, what?

More from Suresh Menon:

25,000 books for the antilibrary

When not going to a party can be fun

World Re-gifting Day: Let’s formalise it