Editorial: Anthrax Shmanthrax
Scotto - 2001 October 15

I’m feeling a little ‘thraxy today, so I thought I’d write my editorial early. I need time to go out and buy my paranoia kit later: Gas mask, small pox vaccine, and of course, antibiotics for the anthrax I probably have.

I’m lying. My concern over Anthrax was far greater _before_ it started appearing in the mail randomly. I used to know only that it was some mysterious germ that would most likely kill me if I so much as saw an infected person on TV. Now I know it’s hardly dangerous at all. People have immune systems, it turns out. Airborne anthrax was even released in Japan on two occasions, leading to no fatalities. In fact, I don’t think there are any more cases of ‘thrax in the U.S. now than there were three months ago. Here’s my theory:

Bestiality: The new terror weapon

Anthrax comes from animals. People are apt, on occasion, to engage in sexual congress with animals, especially sheep. At least some of these sheep will be carriers of anthrax, and hence at least some of those humans will contract the bug. Until now, a blind eye has been turned towards ‘thrax by our medical practitioners; it was an uncommon disease, and with symptoms resembling the flu or some kind of STD sore, it would be cured by antibiotics before being properly diagnosed.

So to all of you “animal lovers” out there, I must make this plea: Stop your unholy congress with beasts! You’re scaring the rest of us!

On Friday I was privileged to commute home from work on a fine and upstanding LIRR train. I was early, and as we sat in Penn Station, a well-dressed Arab gentleman scurried into the largely-empty section of my car and sat down behind me. My cantankerous bladder demanded relief, and as I arose, so did the gentleman, taking for himself a different seat. When I returned from the water closet, the man had moved again, this time into my seat! I was appalled and glared at him. He politely offered to relinquish his position to me, but I declined, sitting directly in front of him.

As I readied my head-phones, he queried of me in a rather thick accent, “This train, is it usually so empty?”

“I think it’s longer than usual; more cars”, I assumed.

“Yes, and also it is Friday – All the Jews go home early today.”

“Isn’t it a Muslim holiday also?” I added.

He appeared surprised and I began listening to Radio-head. I watched the people boarding the train, and most of them would look into our section of the car, perhaps walk in, and then they would turn away and sit in the more crowded center area. After a few minutes of this, I heard a violent mumbling in my ear.

Removing my head-phones, I turned to regard the Arab gentleman: “Pardon me?”

He repeated, “These people, they don’t have to live here.”

I looked confused.

“The people, they don’t have to live here. They come over and they see the water on the floor and will not sit here.”

I was relieved to understand, “Ah yes! I was wondering about that. I saw the water before, but I didn’t realize that’s why the people wouldn’t sit here.”

“Yes, it is not a long ride, it is only water.”

“I know, right. It’s not like it smells or anything.”

“Yes, if it smelled it would be different! I would not sit here. But it does not smell!” He seemed triumphant to find us in agreement, “These people, they are very fussy. I think some of these people should have been in buildings.”


“You know, September 11? The buildings?”

I muttered something like “heh-heh”, and turned back to my music. For the rest of the train ride I was in high spirits, disbelieving that a man (of Arab descent no less!) would say such a thing to a stranger in New York.


Next week’s topic: Flies Flies Everywhere, but not a Grub to Eat: Famine in Africa

Footnote: The Aum Shinrikyo cult in Japan had more than a billion dollars in assets and 50,000 members, several of whom were skilled biologists. But the cult was unable to mount a successful biological attack despite numerous attempts.