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I'm Alarmed

Running on telly here is a series of ads hosted by local televiosion personality Steve Leibman. He's selling the federal government's initiative to make us alert to terrorism: a booklet mailed to every home. I threw mine in the bin with the unopened Target, Kmart and Innovations catalogues. I shouldn't have done that. It had a fridge magnet in it.



Terrorism licked with fridge magnet
Comment by Mike O'Connor
February 10, 2003

WHERE to place the anti-terrorism fridge magnet? Beside the one for the plumber, above the (overdue) rates notice or underneath the reminder from the vet that the dog is overdue for his heartworm tablets?

Placement, obviously, is crucial for now that the Federal Government has been so caring as to send us an anti-terrorism kit containing a fridge magnet inscribed with the number of the anti-terrorism hotline, I need to be able to refer to it in an instant.

How awful it would be, for example, if in a moment of blind panic on seeing a terrorist standing in the middle of the street, you rang the vet with the news to be told: "Put him in the car, bring him around and we'll get him up on the table and have a look at him. Maybe he's got a tick."

If I rang the plumber, he'd ask me how serious it was. If I told him it was extremely serious, he'd tell me not to worry and that he'd be around in half an hour. When he finally turned up two weeks later, the crisis would probably have passed.

A busy day looms tomorrow as, armed with the government anti-terrorism shopping list, I set forth to terror-proof our household.

Sufficient food and drink for three days is recommended and, having canvassed the views of my wife and daughter, I'm off to buy three large packets of kettle-fried barbecue potato chips, one dozen Milky Way bars, one dozen Mars bars, one dozen Kit Kats, one dozen Violet Crumble bars, one chocolate cake (white icing) and one tea cake (white icing), one large box of Turkish Delight, a slab of caramel fudge, one large bottle of gin and several litres of tonic water.

A torch is also on the list. No problem there, for there are already at least 10 in the house, all of them hidden under beds and lounge chairs and in cupboards and drawers. None of them work, it being an immutable urban law that all domestic torches suffer from dud batteries, dud bulbs, dud switches or are just duds.

Still, we've got plenty of those really long matches that my wife uses to light the stove. To do this, she turns on the gas, counts to 10, stands well back, lights the match and throws it into the oven.

Whenever my daughter and I hear a "Whuuump!" followed by cries of "Bastard!", we know that dinner can't be more than an hour or so away.

Duct tape to seal the windows also is suggested. I don't wish to sound sceptical here, but in the event of the outbreak of biological or chemical warfare, I just wonder how helpful a roll of duct tape is going to be.

I further suspect that in the event of a terrorist attack, rather than running around Kirribilli House with a step ladder and a roll of duct tape, the Honourable Prime Minister John Howard and his nearest and dearest will head straight down into the prime ministerial bunker with the entire Cabinet hard on their heels: "Women and children first - where's that wig and floral frock?"

Still, it will help take my mind off things like imminent death as I stand on my stepladder with my roll of duct tape, listening to my wife tell me that while I'm up there, I might as well clean the windows, dust the picture rails and give the light fittings a wipe over.

Sealing the doors won't pose a problem, as we possess sufficient wind sausages to supply the entire suburb. If you were wondering, rather than foodstuffs guaranteed to trigger intestinal upheaval, these are long thin tubes of material stuffed with foam which one lays along the bottom of doors to prevent draughts - or, in this case, anthrax - from entering the house.

Laugh if you will, but it is not widely known that draughts blowing under doors are the largest cause of death in the country. I know this because in winter my wife tells me this every day, although once anthrax starts seeping in she may have to revise her statistics.

A water and fireproof container for important documents also is suggested. Which important documents, I wonder? The ones telling me how much money I still owe on the house, the ones telling me how much I owe on the credit cards, the ones telling me that my super fund is falling faster than the Venezuelan bolivar, or that overdue rates notice on the fridge door?

Spare clothes and boots are on the list, which may pose problems, as one entire bedroom in our house has been turned into a walk-in wardrobe to cater for my beloved's miserly collection of threadbare ensembles. Which of the 86 pairs of shoes to take in case of an emergency? High heels, flat heels, open-toes, closed-toes, plain (shudder!) shoes, beaded shoes, Italian shoes, Spanish shoes, casual shoes or evening shoes? If terrorists come calling, one wants to look one's best.

Should this occur, I have devised my own strategy which involves showing him or her the anti-terrorism booklet and the fridge magnet. While they are rolling around on the floor laughing, I'll tie them up with duct tape, hit them in the face with a chocolate cake (white icing), insert a Mars bar up one nostril and a Milky Way up the other, and stand back while the dog licks them to death.

Mike O'Connor (oconnorm@qnp.newsltd.com.au) is a senior Courier-Mail journalist
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