Probably the most dangerous thing you do is not exercise. Yes, it is all but certain there will be further acts of terrorism in the U.S., and that is awful. But your chances of being directly affected by any of them are slim.

Air travel? It always used to be extraordinarily safe, and, statistically, even after September 11, it still is.

Anthrax? One death in 280 million Americans so far, and what will be plenty of Cipro to go around for those few who may need it.

Smallpox? If you saw ’60 Minutes’ last night, you may share my impression that the 300 million doses of vaccine we are in the process of acquiring, to augment the 7 million already on hand, are a prudent precaution; but that the chances of catastrophe are low. Beware of delirious men with grotesque rashes coughing on you.

I don’t mean to be flip – what’s already happened, and whatever happens next, is horrible. We should expect our government to be working overtime to take precautions on our behalf.

But with luck, you and I will be OK.

And there may even be silver linings. How wonderful it would be if, over the next decade . . .

  • The world united to come down hard on terrorists and largely rooted them out, thereby lessening (we will never eliminate) their threat . . . and at the same time finding common ground to come closer together.  Witness our new closer relations with Russia and China.
  • We joined with Europe and Japan in a “Marshall plan” of sorts for the Third World that substituted opportunity for despair. Easier said than done – no question.  A very long-term project – no question.  But worth trying?  No question.
  • We dramatically increased our energy efficiency, thus dramatically reducing our 50% dependence on foreign oil, our enormous balance of trade deficit, and the outsized strain we place on the environment. An energy-efficient home requires a fraction of the energy most of us now use.  And the technology is at hand for affordable, attractive, comfortable, safe vehicles that get double, and soon triple, today’s mileage.
  • Kathi Derevan:  “The Toyota Prius, which my husband owns and loves, gets slightly fewer mpg than the Honda Insight [rated at 48 miles per gallon versus 63], but it is a real 5-seater with a few luxury-type features, and costs only $20,000. We have had it several months. It gets the best mileage in stop-and-go traffic, but we have also taken it on road trips and it can keep up with all traffic and has a good sized trunk for all our stuff.”

In the meantime, we should be stocking the same basics we always should have on hand in case of floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, ice storms and power outages.  (Three Mile Island was not a terrorist act.)  That includes a case of peanut butter and a lot of Triscuits, and/or cases of tuna and salmon, several cases of water (or Honest Tea), a way to keep warm, and enough cash to carry you through until the ATM’s and credit card machines are back up.  It includes, also, a prudent month’s supply of the medications you take regularly, batteries, candles, matches . . . think it through.  Be prepared.

I’m actually more afraid of disruptions to the electric grid and/or our computer systems than I am of Anthrax.  (Columnist Andy Borowitz suggests the need for a combo Anthrax and anxiety tablet he would call Ciprozac.  For his full report, inspired by an unattended powdered donut on the counter of an imagined donut shop in Ohio, click here.)

The medication you should really consider stockpiling, in my view, is Oscillococcinum (ah-sill-o-COX-ee-num).  I am not a doctor, obviously, and my medical advice is even more suspect than my financial advice.  But the box says, 65 years of use by millions of people in 43 countries, and in the last year or so I have become one of them.  The minute I feel even a hint of an achy, I’m-getting-sick kind of deal, I pop a dose under my tongue.  And guess what?  It works!  For me, anyway.  (And no, I own no stock in this.)  It’s made by a French company called Boiron and is not entirely cheap – about $10 for a box with 6 little doses.  They recommend you take 3 doses over an 18-hour period to keep the flu from getting a grippe.  But to spend $5 every once in a while to bounce back from what might otherwise have been something worse?  I grab a few boxes whenever I see Oscillococcinum on the pharmacy shelf.  I think this year’s stocking-stuffers will be: a Compact Fluorescent light bulb, one of those crank-it-yourself radio-flashlights, and a box of Oscillococcinum (enter “oscillo” in the search box, and note the $14 price on the 12-pack).


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