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Honolulu Lite

CHARLES MEMMINGER

Sunday, October 21, 2001


We can’t let terrorism
beat us at the mailbox

I couldn't tell where the letter came from. There was no return address and the postmark was illegible. In blocky, childlike scrawl was written, "Worldwide I Hate Mayonnaise Club," and then the address.

I was immediately suspicious of the letter. Not because of the blocky, childlike scrawl. Most people who want to join my anti-mayo club write that way. Sometimes in crayon. Which may or may not say something about my global "no mayo" legion.

But coming on the heels of reports that some news media offices had received anthrax in letters in Florida and New York, my Spidey alarm was buzzing. Sure, the No Mayo Club isn't exactly a news media outlet, even though a large part of our mission is to spread the word about the evils of mayo. But I had been writing some pretty nasty things about Osama bin Laden and his fellow terrorists in my newspaper column. It would be easy to use the Internet to track down journalists who had been writing nasty things about Osama and his buddies. And if they found my columns on the Net, they no doubt would find my No Mayo Web site.

What better way to slip me an envelope full of anthrax than mailing to the No Mayo Club. OK, that's a stretch. But when you are basically paranoid, it's pretty easy to connect otherwise unconnectable dots.

So I handled the letter with care. I decided I'd open it inside a Ziploc bag. No, two Ziploc bags. Once safely double-bagged, I began to open the envelope. It immediately became clear that it is impossible to open a sealed envelope in two Ziploc bags. So I got rid of one of the bags. It then became clear that it is impossible to open an envelope through one Ziploc bag. So I unzipped the bag and tore open the envelope, figuring even an unzipped bag would keep spores from scattering all over the kitchen.

I peeked into the envelope. There was a money order from London for eight pounds and a request for a "Just Say No Mayo" bumper sticker and a "Mayo-Free Zone" refrigerator magnet. It still didn't feel right. I figured it wasn't worth risking my life for eight pounds, even if I knew how much that was in American money. So I double-bagged the letter and tossed it out.

In the next few days, more anthrax letters were received by news media companies. The FBI finally showed a copy of two of the envelopes. I swallowed. The blocky, childlike letters looked just like the No Mayo Club letter. Why had the FBI held back such important information? If I had known terrorists have the same bad penmanship as people who hate mayo, I wouldn't have even opened my letter.

Then a few days later, authorities said that if you receive a suspicious letter, you can kill any possible anthrax by ironing it with a steam iron. This sounded more like a hint from Heloise than sound anti-germ warfare advice, but it would have been nice to know.

Having once been a budding semipro hypochondriac, it didn't take long for me to start getting the sniffles. That's the first sign of anthrax poisoning. I would have gotten the other symptoms too, but I couldn't remember what they were. After a few days, I just didn't have the energy to see it through.

I feel bad that I allowed terrorism to interfere with an important calling: the war against mayo. I bet Osama loves the white gunk.




Alo-Ha! Friday compiles odd bits of news from Hawaii
and the world to get your weekend off to an entertaining start.
Charles Memminger also writes Honolulu Lite Mondays,
Wednesdays and Sundays. Send ideas to him at the
Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Suite 7-210,
Honolulu 96813, phone 235-6490 or e-mail cmemminger@starbulletin.com.



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