Duct And Cover

My hometown has officially gone insane.

All this Code Orange bullshit has officially sent the residents of Washington, D.C. over the collective edge. These people, many of them normally senitent individuals, have become convinced that duct tape and plastic will save them from everything.

I still read the Washington Post online, because they are one of the very few truly great newspapers left in this country, but even they seem to be giving into the panic. A brief selection of the articles they’ve run over the past few days

Vague Fears, Real Concerns

Brisk Sales Of Supplies Show Warnings Have Hit Home

N95 Masks Flying Off Shelves

The Drill In Case Of Nightmare

Threat Data Termed Specific

Finally, media critic Howard Kurtz’s Code Orange Blues actually takes a step back and asks the question, “Are we really going this nuts about this?”

These people are crazy. They actually think that a room-painting mask, some duct tape, and some plastic will save their lives in the event of a catastophic terrorist attack. I have a few questions:

1. Assuming you do get your little safe room sealed up completely (which is highly unlikely), how, precisely, do you breathe?

2. The last time there was a terrorist attack, it was at 8:45am on a Tuesday, when everyone was at work or on their way there, because the confusion contributed to the chaos. Why do people think they need all this crap for their houses when things will probably happen when they’re at work?

3. For all those planning to flee the area, how do you get four hours worth of heavy Beltway traffic in D.C., all trying to get out at once, out of the city in anything even resembling a short enough time for people to get home to their duct taped rooms?

This is all so asinine. The entire plan so strongly resembles the “duck and cover” tactics they used to teach 1950’s schoolkids (“Duck under your desk if there’s a nuclear attack! Your desk will protect you from radiation! Ha ha ha!”), I call it Duct and Cover.

If you’re that horribly concerned, get a gas mask (and get trained on how to use it) and know where your nearest fallout shelter is. Those are probably the only two things that will definitely help your chances of survival in an NBC (nuke/bio/chem) attack.

Maybe part of the reason people are so paranoid is the age old “Most of the people in D.C. are not from D.C.” problem, so they’re not used to dealing with major threats all the time. People who have lived there for years and years tend to take this in a bit more stride.

The problem is, all this paranoia and panic is actually causing people to have fights. To wit, a conversation I had on IM with my mom earlier today, where she talked about odd tension between her and a friend who recently moved back to D.C. after 10 years in Tokyo and London:

Mom: …I had a weird semi-fight with [friend] when I told her I’d stay at the fallout shelter in the basement rather than drive out to her parents’ home in case of the Event.

Mom: I told her I thought the traffic on 95/495 might be a bit chaotic, since thery cant even handle rush hour spread out over 3 hours.

Me: sounds like DC has turned into the twilight zone

Mom: We are so past twilight zone.

Me: well, that sucks that you guys had a fight about it.

Mom: [Friend] humphed something about how she supposed one could just take cyanide, or you could take action for your Family. I said something about how each person had to do what’s best for him/her. I do not see myself running out of gas on 95 getting to God Knows Where only to find that’s gone too.

(blah blah blah)

Mom: Bob Ryan [the weatherman] is mumbinmg about two major storm systems dumping 5-9 inches of snow over the weekend.

Me: and i wouldn’t panic too much about all this. i know it’s easy for me to say in a place that doesn’t have quite as much of a bullseye on it, but most of this stuff is not going to have as horrible an effect as people are thinking it will. yeah, it’ll be really bad, but it’s not like it’s gonna kill everyone

Me: and yep, we’re getting that snow starting sometime tonight

Me: we’re supposed to get 4-7 here.

Mom: I’m turning off my thinking re Events–just makes me too crazy. I am praying all this blows over. Hey, I forgot to ask you what your last terms’ graes and final GPA were.

I love my mom. Everyone else is out buying duct tape, she’s harassing me about my grades even though I’ve already graduated.

I really do hope D.C. gets its collective shit back together one of these days, because while it’s kind of amusing to watch the extent to which people are panicking, it’s not really fun to know that my mom, a few of my friends, and all my friends’ parents are among them.

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