I was walking through a wet market with my children when we noticed something odd. One whole row of stalls had no customers except us. Even the stallholders seemed to have disappeared. It was the poultry section.
Then I realized why. “It’s empty because bird flu germs were found at a market on the other side of town,” I told the kids. “Bird flu is a killer disease people catch from uncooked chickens.”
“Will we die, daddy?”
“No, dear,” I said, laughing. “Normal people over-react. But not smart people like us. We know germs cannot jump huge distances from a distant food market to our one here.”
The next day I picked up the newspaper and discovered that germs had jumped from a distant food market to ours.
I stuck the kids in the shower and washed them till they squeaked.
Yet this whole bird flu thing bothers me. I find it really difficult to cower at the sight of chicken fillets, although I’ve seen crowds fleeing in terror from the sight of a dearly departed hen.
To me, dead chickens are the stuff of comedians’ valises. I have been known to carry around a rubber chicken myself, and many professional journalists consider it a standard item in their toolkit. How did they become the biggest threat to human life? It can only be clear proof of the existence of the Great Big Sense of Irony in the sky. The same could be said for HIV-AIDS and SARS.
I reckon the only possible explanation is that there must have been some big debate in the Plagues Department of heaven, some time in the 1980s.
Angel One: I miss the old days, when we would regularly destroy the whole world with massive plagues.
Angel Two: There’s nothing to stop us doing some more. This is the age of irony. Let’s do some ironic plagues.
Angel One: Great idea—let’s take something that everybody likes, and make it lethal.
Angel Two: Blue skies? Hello Kitty? How about chocolate?
Angel One: Nah. Everybody already knows sunshine gives you skin cancer and candy is bad for you. How about sex? We could make sex lethal.
And so HIV-AIDS was created. A few years later, the angels met to see how things had panned out on Earth.
Angel One: That ironic plague certainly shook things up. Time for another. How about finding some really boring domestic animal and making it lethal?
Angel Two: You mean like horses or dogs or something?
Angel One: How about kittens?
And so SARS was created, along with a rumour that it was carried by felines: thousands of kittens were abandoned across Asia.
A few years later, the angels met again.
Angel One: I’ve got an idea for the ultimate ironic plague. We’re going to take the least scary items in the world and make people petrified of them: chicken nuggets.
And so was created bird flu. At regular intervals, bird flu panic sweeps through Asia and chicken fast food shops lock their doors.
Now according to my reading, plagues normally come in sets of ten, so there should be seven more. What’s next? I have no idea, but I’m kind of amused by the image of people backing away in horror whenever they see the Hello Kitty logo.
You already do?