Suddenly, I'm in love with bills. As a newspaper columnist for nearly 14 years, I've always loved letters, the real kind, hand-written, smudged, bulging with some stranger's comments about something I've written. Mail was the real reward for writing.
Today, as the mailman made his drop on the counter near my desk, I was relieved to find only a late notice from the phone company and a reminder that a newspaper subscription is about to run out. No stranger mail today.
Suddenly, too, I'm in awe of my mail carrier. What's it like, I wonder, to handle and deliver envelopes that could be contaminated with deadly spores? Will we soon see a new kind of uniform for postal carriers: Bermudas, knee socks, gloves and masks?
I'm not one to panic, but it's a tad disconcerting when the experts admit that they're not experts after all. John E. Potter, the postmaster general, now says he can't guarantee the safety of mail. President Bush says we're "still under attack," and more incidents of anthrax are expected. The surgeon general, Dr. David Satcher, says, "We were wrong" not to consider that anthrax might seep through sealed envelopes, as it apparently did in the postal station where two employees have died and two others are known to have been infected.
Is it any wonder Twinkie sales are up? I'm considering a pack of Marlboros myself. Oh, how I've missed those babies these past 17 years.
Among expert information now circulating, scientists say that the form of anthrax that came to Sen. Tom Daschle's office - and that is believed to have killed the two postal workers - is a highly sophisticated form of the substance. That is, the spores have been altered to make them less likely to clump together and more likely to float through the air.
According to another expert, only three nations are known to have the technical capacity to create this form of anthrax - the United States, the former Soviet Union and - no! - Iraq. Gosh, do you think Saddam Hussein could be behind this? Using the same logic and common sense that we might have applied to the postal workers handling contaminated mail (i.e. if point B receives a contaminated letter from Point A, might we reckon that Point A could be infected?), we might wildly guess that we have a clue after all.
Let's see: If Russia is an ally and we (ital) are (end ital) the United States, and Iraq is a known enemy with a gargantuan grudge against us, particularly against the son of you-know-who, might we suspect that, indeed, we (ital) do (end ital) know the source of these anthrax letters and that we, in fact, (ital) do (end ital) know who our enemy is?
But there I go, showing off again.
In an address to the U.S. Conference of Mayors, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III challenged President Bush to a duel of understatement when he said that the anthrax attacks "were clearly meant to terrorize a country already on the edge." Bush, who was promoting his economic stimulus package at a Maryland printing plant, said that "there are some links," though no solid proof, between the anthrax and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
I'm all out of hints here. And I don't want to hear about evil and hate anymore. Got it. What I want is to hear a real expert say: We've captured/killed/brought to justice both Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, the masterminds of the anthrax and 9-11 terrorist attacks, and saved the Afghan and Iraqi people from psychopathic tyranny. Then Americans really can get back to normal.
Until then, gentle readers, I still love you - even those who need 15 single-spaced legal pages and a drool bib to make their point - but let's e-mail, shall we?