Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Speedway on Influenza

Gassed up the Sienna today, and inside the station, at the counter, I noticed a small rack of glossy, four-color public-service leaflets published by Speedway, “Preparing for an Influenza Pandemic.” Whoa. Speedway, the gas station, feels the need to warn its customers about the possibility – probability? – of mass death at the hands (so to speak) some malevolent variation of the H5N1 virus rising from the poultry swamps of south China?

Yes indeed. Right under the title on the first leaf are a healthy, multi-racial group of people wearing company t-shirts, as if they were advertising the company’s loyalty program or 99¢ coffee instead of warning us about pestilence. Inside, however, things are a little different. There’s Woody from Toy Story under the words, “It’s 1918 Again. Now’s the Perfect Time to Panic!”

No, I made that up. (“Now’s a perfect time to panic!” is a real Woody line, however.) In fact, the information offered in the pamphlet, while a moderately informative and maybe even enlightening if you’ve paid no attention to the world you live in, is curiously ahistorical, with no mention of 1918 or even the lesser pandemics of the last century, 1957 or 1968. You'd think at least a passing mention would be called for – after all, the thing to emphasize is that this is a real threat of a repeat of something that has really happened before, not some weird bogeyman from outta nowhere.

Still, I won’t mock Speedway. The company’s doing its little part, I suppose, probably at the behest of public health authorities, though why it selected the threat of influenza pandemic, I couldn’t say. Maybe all the other big threats were taken by BP and Circle K and the like.


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