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Hooked on Bubonics

By Dave Fox
Seattle, Washington 

Texas Tech University officials say there’s no need to panic. They have determined the vials of Bubonic Plague virus reported missing from a research lab refrigerator have in fact been destroyed, and we can now go back to worrying about all the other stuff we worry about, such as impending nuclear doom and why we must be subjected to another season of “American Idol.”

What I’m trying to figure out is: Why are all of you university scientists keeping the Bubonic Plague in unguarded refrigerators in the first place? Can’t you people just have normal college fridges with beer and half-eaten pizzas?

When I was in college, things would go missing from my fridge all the time. I didn’t call the FBI and start national bioterrorism scares. I’d just ask my roommate, Jeff.

“Jeff,” I would say, “My beer is missing from the fridge.”

“Yes Dave,” he would say. “That’s because you drank it, dumbass.”

I’d sulk for a few minutes. Then I’d go buy more beer. It was a simple crisis to resolve.

The main difference between beer and Bubonic Plague bacteria is beer is safe to drink if consumed in moderation. Also, beer is easier to spell.

“Aha!” you say. “But not everybody consumes beer in moderation! What about that?!”

I don’t care. It’s still safer than the Bubonic Plague.

This whole incident started when Thomas Butler, a Texas Tech scientist, reported nine vials of the bacteria missing. Later, in a signed confession to the FBI, Butler wrote that he “accidentally destroyed” the bacteria, and he reported the vials missing because he had neglected to fill out the proper forms.

This brings up important national security questions such as: Our government has a form for destroying Bubonic Plague bacteria? Who the hell writes these forms? What do they say?

Q: Please state your reason for destroying the Bubonic Plague bacteria.

A: The Bubonic Plague is bad.

That’s as good of a reason as I need. We’re talking about a disease that killed half the population of Western Europe in the Middle Ages. If I were studying at Texas Tech, I would thank Mr. Butler for killing the bacteria. Keeping it in an unguarded campus fridge, potentially accessible to frat boys, is like giving an animal shelter key to a four-year-old and telling him not to let the cats out.

Now Mr. Butler is in police custody, and Texas Tech officials say we’re safe; the other 171 vials of their Bubonic stash are accounted for and nicely chilled.

This makes me uneasy, so as a public service, I am starting a new charity. It is called the Bubonic Beer Exchange Program. The way it works is: You send me cash. The scientists surrender the rest of their Bubonic Plague stocks before we have a real bioterror incident. With the money you donate, I buy the scientists beer so they’re not left with empty fridges.

Instead of destroying the Plague bacteria and making the scientists fill out lengthy forms, I have another idea for what to do with the bacteria. I can’t tell you exactly what it is, but it involves the producers of “American Idol.”

Published on Saturday, March 22, 2003

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