Safety basics: Every parent has the talk with the kid. So, what do we do if someone pulls up in a rusty van and says your parents sent him to pick you up? Scream and run! No, first we throw this military surplus grenade in the vehicle, then we scream and run. Remember? One potato, two potato, toss and go ... .

OK, how do we feel about clowns? Their painted smiles mask an unspeakable evil. That's right. What do we do if someone offers us a famous local maple-flavored candy bar? Kick him in the Nut Goodies! Right. Also scream and bite, and -- honey, put down the Hello Kitty doll and listen now -- you claw out his eyes.

Now, just let me check your implanted GPS chip ... . OK, have a great, carefree day full of the innocence of childhood!

I know, I know, it's overwrought. In the old days, kids would roam from dawn to dusk, and Mom would pack them a lunch and a .45 and say "Be back by August." Now we overreact.

But then you read a story about some miserable perv who does attempt an abduction, and you realize that it does happen, and you walk the kid to the bus stop for the next few weeks.

Dad, you don't have to. It's OK. Dad, c'mon. I'm 27 and I'm a police officer! I know, but when you have kids you'll understand.

Paranoia? I get it. It took me a few years to stop watching out the window to see if my child got on the bus and was not spirited away by a team of invisible Molester Ninjas.

So you read that a Minneapolis citizen called 911 last week to report a child abduction after seeing a man carrying a screaming, kicking child, and you think: Vigilance! Bravo!

Then you read the details: He was carrying her into school.

Unless you really thought he was moonwalking to make it look like he was going into the school, that's an overreaction.

Other things NOT TO CALL 911 about:

• There's a man at the mall who likes to have kids sit on his lap, and he promises them things. Old guy, white beard, red-and-white suit.

• There's a guy who drove up to the school and he's getting kids into his vehicle! I don't know what he promised, but they all got in, like, 20 of them! He drove north on Lyndale -- it's a big, long, truck-like thing, painted yellow with black stripes! Hurry!

On the other hand, if you see clowns scaring children, you might want to call. Unless you are eating peanuts and just enjoyed the lion act. • 612-673-7858