Love in the Time of Smallpox

Terror warnings be damned! This Valentine’s Day you can hug with your honey without fear of attack—with these handy tips.

On a Valentine’s Day when even Hallmark is selling plastic sheets and duct tape, it’s hard to find the perfect balance between romance and civilian preparation for a biological, chemical, or radiological terror attack. Here’s a list of tips from TMN and FEMA on how to keep this holiday memorable—and safe—for you and your sweetheart.

Go about Your Love Life

Whether it’s the cutie in your office or the hunk you’re eyeing at the bar, asking that special someone to be your Valentine can be a nerve-wracking experience. For even the most confident romantic, facing personal rejection has been known to cause blurred vision, eye irritation, difficulty breathing, and nausea—symptoms identical to exposure to deadly chemicals. But don’t let fear stop you from declaring your intentions. Be yourself. Assess the risk and do what makes you comfortable. Nothing’s sexier than someone with a heightened state of awareness.

Suspicious Packages…of Love!

Flowers, candy, cards, and all-American teddy bears make wonderful Valentine’s gifts, especially when so many packages are potentially laden with high explosives or life-threatening microbes. Still, it’s good to be wary of suspicious deliveries. Be particularly cautious at your place of employment. Ask to see the credentials of flower deliverymen and postal carriers with uniforms that appear to be homemade. And before you read that short, endearing note or take a deep whiff of that amazing bouquet, check for simple warning signs. Be careful if the gift:

  • Is marked with restrictive messages, such as ‘Personal,’ ‘Confidential,’ or ‘Do Not X-Ray.’
  • Is unexpected, has no return address, or comes from someone you don’t remember meeting, such as ‘Ray from Club 17’ or ‘Julie: yellow dress, we talked on the subway. Call me! xoxoxo.’
  • Has protruding wires or aluminum foil, makes a ‘ticking’ sound, or emanates strange odors, such as cheap perfume or fertilizer.

‘Chatter’ Hearts

Giving and receiving Sweethearts Conversation Hearts is a classic Valentine’s Day tradition. But not all conversations, or ‘chatter,’ are what they seem. If you receive a candy heart with any of the following inscriptions, contact your local authorities immediately. They may be coded messages, meant to activate a sleeper cell of terrorists:

Chatter Hearts

A Night on the Town

Going out for Valentine’s Day is one of the most popular ways to celebrate, particularly after you’ve been hunkered down in front of CNN for days, drinking heavily, eating nothing but salted peanuts and bonbons, chewing your fingernails down to the moons, and obsessing over how small and feminine Tom Ridge’s lips are. It’s time for a night on the town! Choosing the right location for an amorous evening takes serious consideration. Here are some ideas to help inspire your planning:

  • Drop some extra cash (and bolster America’s atrophied economy) by dining at a five-star restaurant—as long as the restaurant is pretty much in the middle of nowhere. Pay attention to your date, but find a seat where you can constantly surveil the door over his or her shoulder.
  • Go to a symphony concert, musical, or theater production, preferably a local-community performance with audiences of fewer than 30 people. You’ll find the atmosphere more intimate, and smaller crowds are less likely to be targets for attack.
  • Have dinner in an elegant dining car, as long as the train is speeding away from major metropolitan areas and remains above-ground at all times.
  • Rent a room at your favorite hotel and order room service. Stay on the ground floor. Familiarize yourself with exit routes and fire-extinguisher locations.
  • Stay at a local bed and breakfast—and make sure to get a room with a Jacuzzi. In the event of a bio/chem/radiological attack, bubbling jets of scalding hot water are a good way for you and your sweetheart to decontaminate.
  • Spend the day at a theme park or zoo. Except Disney.
  • See the sights. Nothing’s more romantic than a view of the Empire State Building, the Washington Monument, or the Seattle Space Needle…from a reasonable distance.

A Cozy Night at Home

Why not make it a cozy night for two in your apartment, house, or local emergency shelter? There are plenty of fun and easy ways to make your sweetheart feel pampered and adored…without leaving the confines of your carefully protected home environment.

  • Set the mood by lighting candles, strewing rose petals over the floor, and sealing windows, doors, and vents. If things go well, you’ll never want to leave! Ten square feet of floor space per person will provide sufficient room for ‘amorous endeavors,’ and enough air to prevent carbon dioxide build-up for five hours.
  • Spread a blanket on the living-room floor and have an indoor picnic. Shop early—you won’t want to dash to the local supermarket just when things are heating up! Make sure you have enough wine, along with a three-day supply of pure drinking water.
  • Make some popcorn and hot chocolate, cuddle up on the couch, and keep abreast of the latest domestic and international developments.
  • Take turns reading a sexy or romantic book aloud to each other. Familiarize yourself with evacuation procedures. You and your sweetheart can make a ‘Cupid’s Checklist’ of things to do in case of an attack.
  • Call your favorite radio station and dedicate a song to your love. Use a battery-powered radio to listen for your dedication, and whatever official emergency instructions may be broadcast in the event of a catastrophe.
  • Play it safe—with so many venereal diseases, smallpox is the least of your worries. If you plan on making love, use condoms and water-based lubricants. Petroleum-based lubricants can compromise the strength of latex condoms, as well as certain kinds of protective HAZMAT gear.
  • Make love with your shoes on. In the event of an explosion, you may need to evacuate the building in a hurry. Pants are inessential, but you’ll need a sturdy pair of shoes when you’re running for cover.
  • Stay up all night and watch the sunrise together, secure in the fact that you’ve survived another night.

Relax and Enjoy!

You’ve taken all the steps to plan the perfect Valentine’s Day date. Relax! Enjoy each other’s romantic company. Trust your instincts. Do not be afraid to leave if you feel uncomfortable or if something does not seem right.