What’s it like to…

In my house, anthrax isn’t just a blip on a news item from Iraq — it’s a very serious threat to our domestic security.

When my father first learned of the remote possibility of anthrax being spread through the mail, our household terror alert was immediately raised to orange. At the weekly family dinner, we were informed that our routine gathering of the mail had to account for the”post-Sept. 11 world.”

Using his newfound powers as director of homeland security, my father purchased a large quantity of surgical gloves, a requirement for getting the mail. On sweltering Texas afternoons, we would ritually put on surgical gloves and walk down the path to the mailbox to collect letters and packages, irrespective of the stares from scared neighbors and curious children.

Every piece of mail was a ticking bomb that had to be carefully scrutinized and set aside for my father to sort through and stamp his approval.

This continued for several months until he finally admitted that the threat had, thankfully, passed us by.

You may write this off to my father’s intense paranoia, but I have to admit I learned something — you can never be too careful. I don’t know about you, but I’m getting my surgical mask ready to fight SARS.