Sunday, October 16, 2005


Apparently, we're all going to die. I don't mean that in some metaphysical, philosophical way; I mean that the news media, which would never in a million years sensationalize a story, is already laying odds on how and when Armageddon will come. The fashionable predictions for the annihilation of mankind right now include the avian flu and the always-popular terrorist attack on a subway, and that means that you'll get much better odds betting on something obscure like mutant zombie experiment gone horribly wrong or a black hole collapsing the university into a singularity of infinite density and temperature. I'm personally going with the fifty-to-one odds on self-replicating nanotechnology consuming all the planet's resources for their reproduction. Of course, it'll be a bitch to collect if I win.

By the way, did you hear that New York's well-to-do got word of the subway threat before the rest of us plebes? Normally, shit like this would piss me off (the real issue is how rich people can take taxis and avoid mass transit soft targets altogether), but since the threat turned out to be nothing, I'm kind of amused how the rich folks got punked. In fact, I think we should send more spurious terror warnings the socialites' way, like someone within Homeland Security leaks a classified memo about how al-Qaeda's dumping arsenic in our nation's supply of seruga caviar or Hamas planting a pipe bomb in the Knickerbocker Club.

I used to be the type of person who'd hear that killer bees have been adapting and migrating north and east across North America and I wouldn't leave the house for like a week. Thanks to delicious, delicious drugs — and I'll also give a little credit to maturity — I've gotten better about putting that stuff out of my mind. Nevertheless, I'd appreciate it if someone would tell me what I genuinely need to worry about, because all these warnings from a zillion different sources are becoming a little more life-consuming than I'd like. Take the bird flu, for instance. Now, this sounds suspiciously like that SARS thing that freaked everybody out two years ago or West Nile virus, which I actually caught and it was the shortest cold ever. I mean, even Robitussin could whip West Nile's ass and Robitussin normally can't do shit.

So I'm no longer sure what to think, but thankfully, I'm also no longer sure that the media isn't fucking with me. With the anthrax scare back in 2001, my dad insisted that I open my mail in a well-ventilated area wearing latex gloves and a face mask. My friends don't even mail me birthday cards, but all of a sudden Osama bin Laden's gonna become my pen pal. Or how parents were freaked out two years ago when pretty blonde girls suffered a spate of wacko kidnappings, or beachgoers and the "summer of the shark" and miraculously we're all still here. By the same token, I don't recall A Current Affair saying one damn word about the weakened levees in New Orleans or terrorists flying planes into buildings or any of the crap that we actually should have been worried over.

For a relatively risk-averse person, this is tough, because I've got a finite amount of energy I can spend avoiding things that'll kill me. I made a partial list of things to avoid:

  • rattlesnakes
  • base jumping
  • Iraq
  • drinking antifreeze
  • space travel
Significant risk of death with all of those. What keeps me awake at night, though, are the things I can't really judge, like how dangerous it really is to ride my bike without a helmet or to talk on the phone during a thunderstorm. I mean, I'd hate to think that I'm wearing my seat belt all these years for nothing.