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Friday, February 21, 2003  

Alert Level Orange: the Color of Dumb

I’m starting to think that Al Qaeda has already launched its latest attack on the United States. As everyone predicted, it isn’t hijacked planes this time. It’s also not poison gas in the subway, mercury in the water supply, dirty bombs, or malicious code that tells your TiVo to climb down from your entertainment center and kill you in your sleep. It’s something much more insidious than that.

I believe that Al Qaeda operatives working in this country have released a chemical into our nation’s nightclubs that makes people do incredibly stupid things.

I’m not talking about the ordinary, garden-variety stupid things like spilling someone else’s beer, eyeing someone else’s date, or, in many cases, going to the club in the first place. I’m talking about the kind of stupidity that gets people killed.

Earlier this week, some moron fired off a blast of pepper spray in a crowded area of a Chicago nightclub that wasn’t even supposed to be open. The resulting stampede for stairs and the one open exit killed twenty-one people.

Last night, the eighties hair band Great White detonated a pyrotechnic display in a Rhode Island club that had, from all appearances, been constructed entirely of kitchen matches. As of this writing, the body count is at sixty-five and rising, and may include one of the band’s guitarists. The socioeconomic impact of Rhode Island losing a third of its population overnight has yet to be determined.

Let me make it clear that I’m not blaming the individuals whose sense of self-preservation led them to create a deadly crush away from the people who’d put them in these situations. Their loss is a tragedy and my sympathies go out to all of their friends and families. And let’s face it, If I were in a bar right now and someone started shooting poisonous chemicals or gouts of flame at my face, I can promise you that I wouldn’t be all, “after you, my dear fellow who’s been blocking my view all evening.” I’d become two hundred pounds of human aerosol propellant just like everyone else. No, my issue is with the people who triggered these nightmares in the first place. And it’s hard for me to believe that they’d be so blithe about putting so many lives in danger without some kind of nefarious external influence.

In the past week, eighty-six people have been eighty-sixed because they were dancing to the wrong music at the wrong time (a charge that even before last night might have been leveled at any Great White fan post-1989, but I’m making a point here). That doesn’t come close to September 11, obviously, but it’s more than a busload. It’s more than the number of NASA astronauts killed in the line of duty. It’s more than the cast of ER. They weren’t threatening anyone. They weren’t soldiers. They weren’t combatants in a war. They were going about their lives when death came for them. That has all the hallmarks of a terror attack.

So now that we know what the current Orange Alert is about, we know what to do about it. Stay out of nightclubs. If you must attend a show, see it in Minneapolis, which apparently hasn’t been hit yet because club owners still know how to get people out alive and unhurt. And if you absolutely cannot avoid making the scene somewhere else, make sure you know the location of all exits, windows, and stupid people.

And if you see someone about to cut through a structural support or open a jar of Sarin gas or do something else stupid enough to get you killed, that plastic sheeting and duct tape you bought last week will come in handy after all. Shrink-wrap the imbecile and carry him to the curb.

posted by M. Giant 3:27 PM 0 comments


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