Sunday, December 02, 2001

Soldiers of Retail

OK, so you can't speak Pashto. And the guy at the recruiting station just laughed when you went in to sign up. Your foreign intelligence sources are your Guatemalan gardener and your favorite sushi chef. You already screen the mail and throw out most of it, but that's because it's people looking for money. And your idea of homeland security is deer fencing to protect your rhododendrons.

While we'd all like to contribute, the reality is that most of the action in the war is taking place five or six times zone away, far removed from our daily routine. Pilots are flying day and night sorties, and Special Forces troops are going cave to cave looking for a six foot guy with 4 wives. But what about you? Is there really anything... I mean, anything... that you can do to make a contribution to the war effort? After all, the President has said that it's up to every citizen to pitch in. Sure, you can help out in a soup kitchen, or start a neighborhood watch, or build shelters for the homeless. All worthy endeavors, to be sure, but none specifically linked to the action overseas.

But you don't have to feel irrelevant quite yet. For there's one thing that every one of us can do, regardless of location or ability or income. In Kansas City and Chicago, in Ithaca and Duluth, citizen soldiers can come out of their bunkers and get moving, doing what they do best. After all, as the old maxim says, when the going gets tough, the tough go shopping.

That's right. As a reaffirmation of our way of life, you have to get out there and do your part to keep the economy healthy. Forget cruise missiles and daisy cutters. Nothing will show those fanatics that we mean business as much as an overloaded American Express bill. As the Xmas season begins, it is incumbent on every individual to dig deep down, and buy the most useless things they can think of to put under the tree and next to the candles. For whether you're Christian or Jewish, Moslem or Buddhist, our bond as Americans is based not so much on liberty or freedom, but on our common desire to have shiny new toys from Santa.

What you buy is less important than that you buy. But recognizing that protecting our way of life requires many different props, following is a selection is war materiel accessible to the average citizen, and available wherever fine toys are sold. Act fast: you never know when the DOD will restrict purchases for purposes of national security.

For instance, maybe you're boning up on international treaties so as to be able to participate in the ongoing debate about power sharing in the new Afghanistan. In your reading, you find yourself confused as to the homelands of the Tajiks, Uzbeks and Shia Hazaras that formed the government that collapsed in 1996, enabling the Taliban to take power. Sure, you could stop what you were doing, and run to your computer to do a little research. Or you could use your handy Zelco Bookmark Dictionary that you have stuck in the next chapter. This wafer thin device not only marks your page, but also contains a keypad and display, enabling you to access its 50,000-word dictionary. At only $40, you can afford to buy one for yourself, as well as send one to Tom Ridge, so he can look up "superfluous."

Like many of us, maybe you feel it's important to be able to move quickly should the need arise. If so, then get out there and get yourself a set of Heelys. They may look like regular sneakers. But flip them over and snap a single high performance wheel to the heel plate, and before you can say "Moonwalk," you'll be gliding and spinning. At about $100 a pair, they give you that quick mobility needed to stay one step ahead of terrorists.

Or perhaps you're a little concerned that the neighbors are building a nuclear device next door... or if not that, their French au pair must be monitored during her morning aerobics routine for signs of subversive activity Do your part for the country while keeping a watchful eye over the fence with a SkyDoc camera surveillance system. This $16,000 tethered balloon and video camera combination operates at about 300 feet, and enables you to pan, tilt and zoom into the smallest detail, whether it be a plutonium trigger or that cute dimple on her cheek. could be a disguise.

Finally, maybe you're entertaining a group of friends, one of which you suspect of being an agent for the Evildoer himself. You cleverly offer all in attendance a glass of wine, fully expecting to lift his prints from the glass and fax them over to Interpol for investigation. But when you leave the room, a helpful guest collects all the glasses to bring to the kitchen for cleanup. Which was his? Well, if you were using the Wine Glass Identifier, you'd have no question. This set of detachable charms hangs around the neck of your wine bottle. As you serve a glass, you snap a charm off the bottle and onto the stem of the glass. Then each person can identify their drink much as they would a Monopoly piece. With prices starting at just $12 a set, identifying fanatics has never been so economical.

So don't just sit there; do your duty as a citizen. On this, the official start of the holiday season, get out there and put down your credit card for America. As they say in the Marines, spend, maggot, spend. And remember, you're not doing it for yourself; you're doing it for the country.


Marc Wollin of Bedford is running up his credit card bills this season, if only to be viewed as a patriot. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review and The Scarsdale Inquirer.

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