Copyright 2004 Linda Marcas - All Rights Reserved
The Summer of All Fears
Oh, dear, what shall we do? It's summertime, but the living ain't easy;
danger is all around us, and, whether we stay home or go away on vacation,
I doubt that any of us will live to see next Christmas.
I'm joking, of course. As usual, I've been paying too much attention
to things I hear and see, and wondering why I'm not hiding under the bed
with the dust bunnies, considering all the warnings and cautions I've
received in the past two weeks. It seems that none of us are safe, no matter
who or where we are. How can we enjoy the summer, when life is so
The danger might start before we're born, if it turns out that "Fetal
Keepsake Imaging," those high-definition ultrasound portraits of yet-to-be
delivered children that are done for non-diagnostic reasons, expose the baby
to too much heat and vibration. The process hasn't been around long enough
for studies to have proven anything, and the experts, of course, disagree.
Studies have shown, however, that the sunburn you got when you were six,
or the super tan you got when you were sixteen, increase your chance of
having skin cancer in your thirties, so be sure to slather your little darlings
with high SPF sunblock before you take them outdoors.
Ooooh, outdoors........ that's where the mosquitos and ticks that carry
West Nile virus and Lyme disease live, and it's looking like this will be "one
of the worst years ever" for those. Use lots of insect repellent with DEET in
it, and get rid of standing water where mosquitos breed. Don't forget that
sunlight causes UV damage to your eyes, so make sure your sunglasses
provide ultra-violet protection. Take a television everywhere you go, and
stay tuned to the street-by-street reports, because without them, you might
not be able to tell the precise instant at which you'll need to take shelter from
rain, hail, lightning, or a tornado.
Are you at a barbecue? Do you know how long that potato salad has
been out of the refrigerator, did someone use the same knife on the raw
chicken and the salad greens, is the meat cooked enough to destroy E. coli
bacteria but not so charred as to be carcinogenic? Watch the fat, because the
"safe" number for LDL cholesterol has been lowered from 130 to 100; if you
get heartburn, you'd better make sure it isn't acid reflux disease, because that
could lead to esophageal scarring and cancer.
If you're not in great shape, don't get carried away doing unacustomed
physical activities, because you might strain something and need physical
therapy. Be sure to have some full-strength aspirin on hand, because the
low-dose kind isn't strong enough to help you if you're having a heart attack,
and you probably wouldn't have the presence of mind to increase the dose by
taking a couple extra pills. Don't forget, if it's hot outside, you might get
heatstroke; can you recognize the symptoms?
Don't think that you'll be any safer indoors, because that air
conditioner filter or damp basement might be spawning deadly mold spores.
If you smell anything bad, quick, whip out the anti-microbial Febreeze or the
Oust air sanitizer, and kill the bacteria that cause odors. If you don't use
bleach when you wash your sheets, you're not safe even in your bed, because
plain detergent won't remove hidden bacteria and body soil.
If you mange to get into bed but not to sleep, be aware that your
insomnia might be a symptom of peri-menopause, and start losing more
sleep by worrying about osteoporosis. Soon, it'll be time to buy some
supplemental insurance to pay for your funeral, so your survivors won't be
burdened. If death doesn't worry you as much as being buried under
overwhelming medical bills, vote for John Kerry and hope he fixes the
health care system. But oh, no, could a terrorist attack postpone the
If your own body doesn't kill you, the wider world offers plenty of
threats. Is a utility crew digging near your house, and will they rupture a gas
line? To guard against identity theft, shred your documents, don't leave mail
in your mailbox overnight, and think about getting a P.O. box. Is your car
one of the ten most likely to be stolen? Women, particularly, should always
be aware of their surroundings, to defend against carjacking, muggers, and
worse. Let's hope that a prisoner doesn't escape police custody and hide out
in your neighborhood, and that you're not a clerk or customer in a carry-out
at the exact time that someone decides to rob the place.
There are probably more teenagers out there who will do something
idiotic, such as trying to set fire to a garage with a Molotov cocktail, but who
end up hurting someone instead. There are thousands of tigers in private
hands in this country, and you might not know if one was living next door to
you until it gets loose. You might want to forget your fears by distracting
yourself with a day at the amusement park, but maybe you should stay off
the new roller coaster, just to be on the safe side.
While I was making notes for this column, a promotional clip for
"Fear Factor" posed the question, "what are your odds in a tank of piranha?"
Whatever they are, they can't be much worse than the odds we face every
day, if one judges those odds by the number of things we get warned about.
We must be braver than we think, or we'd all be hiding under the bed.
Meanwhile, I'm a little hungry, and I wonder: do I dare to eat a peach?
Probably not; it's the summer of all fears, and I might choke on the pit.
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