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Are you ready for the worst?

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I realize retailers need to expand their offerings these days to attract larger crowds of shoppers. I've gotten used to walking through stores where diapers are on shelves next to digital cameras.

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Still, stores still come up with offerings that surprise me. Last weekend I was at Best Buy to shop for a wireless router, though I could just as easily have been there to by a CD, or a dishwasher or a GPS navigator. There were racks filled with video games and shelves stacked with air conditioners. There was also, on this particular occasion, a display near the front of the store hawking something called pandemic response kits.

I realize we were all a little freaked out a while back about swine flu or bird flu or salmon flu or whatever this most recent scare was, but I figured that was over. I didn't realize we were still supposed to be prepared to hide out in our basement bunkers while germ-infested hordes swarmed around us.

Apparently I was wrong.

For the record, the $25 kit includes four ounces of disinfectant, 12 disposable thermometers, air-filtering masks, four packs of tissues and a two-ounce bottle of hand sanitizer/skin moisturizer. Because what's the point of being healthy if you can't have fabulous skin?

The whole idea of the pandemic kit was new to me -- it's been a while since I've made the rounds of survivalist web sites -- but apparently it's just the tip of a really paranoid iceberg. The company that distributes the kits, something called Ready America, has an inventory full of products to get Americans ready for the worst apocalyptic events we can imagine.

If the bare minimum pandemic preparation isn't enough for you, you can spring for the $150 kit, which includes, among other things, calorie-packed food bars, 10 yards of duct tape and 12 moist towelettes. You know, in case you want to enjoy a serving of ribs as the world burns around you. If even that's not enough, there is a $300 kit that adds 40 more feet of duct tape, some nylon rope and a 15-inch pry bar which can presumably be used with equal efficiency for both freeing loved ones from the rubble and bashing the skulls of the zombie hordes.

If you want to go the a la carte route, you can always pick up a 300-foot roll of emergency tape for $9.95. I'm actually thinking of stringing some of that around my desk.

Of course, there's really no point in surviving the death of civilization if you can't bring your pet with you. Don't worry. Ready America has you covered. For $50 you can pick up either a dog or a cat emergency kit that includes pet food with a five-year shelf life, toys, a pet carrier and toilet supplies -- "waste bags" for the dogs, cat litter and a litter pan for the cats. It's important to stay sanitary, I suppose, but if you're in a position where you're fleeing home with the dog and the cat in tow it seems like where the animals relieve themselves is the least of your concerns.

I have nothing against preparing for the worst. I was a Cub Scout for most of a month, and I'm pretty sure the group's motto had something to do with being prepared. I think it was in favor of it.

I'm just not sure I want to be reminded of the potential collapse of humanity while I'm trying to buy 30 Days Later on DVD.

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Nathan Hansen
Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.
(651) 460-6606
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