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  HOW TO WALK THROUGH A DECONTAMINATION UNIT.  
   
   
 

C'mere. Walk through this decontamination unit with me. I'll part the tent flaps.

Wait, wait, you have to take your clothes off, you moron. Do you want to get bubonic plague all over the inside of the tent? No, I'm not trying to see you naked; this is a simulation, remember?

Now, if you're conscious, walk through one of the little teeny tent hallways on the left or right, and get yourself all hosed down. If you're unconscious, don't you worry: a nice man in a hazmat suit will stretch you out on that plastic perforated board there and you'll be taken care of.

And that's basic decontamination. Easy, huh? So now, when one of Chemical Ali's hundreds of half-brothers seeks vengeance with a chemical attack or, more likely, that militia group operating out of a Montana nursing home gets hold of some nasty aerosol and a small plane, you know what to do.

Are you smiling yet? But, honey, decon is fun! Here's why:

#1. Some decontamination tents have "gender separation" chutes. Girls on one side, boys on the other. If you're unconscious, lie down on the plastic board with the other sex because you can't see and you don't care. Anyway, come to think of it, gender separation isn't fun - it's a damn shame when it comes to decontamination. I mean, think of all the great pickup lines you'll miss: "Mmmmmm, hi, I couldn't help notice you're bleeding from the eyeballs, too. What say we lie down on the plastic ambulatory board here and get hosed down together?"

Or: "Baby, the world is ending and life's too short not to get it on in this decontamination tent, right here, right now." Or even the time-honored: "What's a nice girl like you doing in a place like this?"
For now, I want you to follow the gender separation signs or you might get in big trouble with Rumsfeld. But we must lobby for change.

#2. Decontamination is a great American equalizer. Because everyone will go through. Everyone. J-Lo can't cancel no matter how crappy she's feeling. Britney Spears will have to limp along on her poor sore knee. Michael Jackson will finally have to come out from under that umbrella and makeup and get naked, (you better hope you're unconscious if you're in the unit at the same time he is, because there's no telling which gender side he'll be on). George Bush can't swagger when he's standing there without his navy blue suit and cheat-sheet headset in a narrow little tent. John Kerry can't simply intellectualize getting hosed down, because it's impossible to utter the word "existentialism" while getting sprayed directly in the face. Laura Bush can't fire the hose operator, and even Al Gore looks exciting when he's being deconed.

It's democracy in action. It's beautiful, see? Fresh and clean as a whistle. This land is your land.

#3. Why is this man smiling? Because he thinks decontamination is fun. You should, too. But if you're a reporter trying to do a story about a decontamination simulation, this man won't help. Oh, no. Because after you say, "Uh, man, if you don't stop smiling, it might make this drill look kind of hokey," he just grins harder. But I digress.

#4. You can do it yourself! In case you haven't realized it by now, this technology is pretty basic. To make your own decon unit at home, you will need: one Ikea children's plastic castle, two garden

 
 

hoses (only one garden hose if you don't need gender separation) and duct tape.

These are the supplies. I'm not going to include step-by-step instructions because you won't read them anyway. If you want to get more advanced, think of what you could do with a moonbounce and a handheld showerhead. Then think of what you could do with a wedding reception tent and a fire hose. You get the idea. To know when to activate your decon unit, just keep a sharp eye on the

     
 

Department of Homeland Security's color-coded warnings and try to figure out what the hell they mean. Once in a while, practice decontaminating yourself. Make this fun by inviting your neighbors over for a decon party.

#5. If you have to go through the real thing and you survive -- God, that's sexy. I mean, you don't meet people like that in bars, do you? You could buy a jacket with special embroidery that says "Decon 2005" on the back. Or just wear plain clothes and let it drop: "Yeah, I went through decon." Then just sit back and wait for the guys or chicks to ask what it means, and tell your story: "Man, yeah, as I was crawling toward the decon tent, I could feel the anthrax already destroying 86 percent of my skin. But something deep inside of me kept me going."

Then pause and watch your date's eyes widen. Then say: "Sometimes I have flashbacks. Sometimes when I'm taking a shower, I just start screaming for no reason. I've never talked to anybody about this before. I feel like I can really talk to you."
Are you smiling yet? Because while you've been reading this, I've been taking your place in the decon line. In a real emergency, get the fuck out of my way. I'm hosin' down first.

 

Susan Kim is a reporter for Disaster News magazine.