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From the Field
By Michael Wilk

Fear does strange things - Philip Coolidge in William Castleís ĎThe Tinglerí
In 1959, gimmickmeister William Castle lensed his now-legendary camp horror film "The Tingler", which deals with a parasitic creature that dwells in peopleís spinal columns. It thrives on fear. In fact, it can kill you, and the only way to keep this deadly nuisance in check is to scream. Deaf mute Judith Evelyn canít scream, and dies, her spine snapped by "The Tingler." Pathologist Vincent Price removes the "Tingler" from her corpse, but the powerful critter breaks out of its cage, and is on the loose in a theater. Price alerts the patrons of the theater with the gentle warning, "Scream! Scream for your lives! The Tingler is loose!" Havoc ensues. Now, after that little piece of film history, letís get on with the story: Trick or treat! I havenít received my "free" cipro or doxycycline yet. Actually, I donít know when or if I will ever get my "free" cipro or doxycycline. For those of you who arenít familiar with yours truly, let me explain: I have been employed by the United States Postal Service since 1979.

Almost 2 weeks ago, in the midst of the "Anthrax terror" thatís been on everyoneís mind, Anthrax spores were discovered in 4 barcoding machines in the Morgan General Mail Facility in Manhattan, just one block away from the James A. Farley Building, where I work. I havenít "worked the mail", as they say in USPS lingo, for nearly 20 years. I worked the "graveyard shift", as a general clerk, 12 midnight to 8:30 am, from 1979 to 1982. I then applied for a position in the art department, which is a more "normal" shift, 8:00 am to 4:30 pm, Monday through Friday. I have been there ever since.

In my mind, my chances of coming in direct contact with Anthrax-contaminated mail are fairly slim. I donít handle mail other than my own, which I retrieve from my mailbox in the evenings. However, there is a chance that some of my mail may have been processed at the Morgan Facility, which has become a hotbed of debate between the Postal Workersí Union and Management. Cartloads of mail do travel, on occasion, from the Morgan facility to the James A. Farley Building. William Smith, the president of the New York branch of the American Postal Workersí Union, of which I am a member, wants the Morgan facility shut down. The Postal Workersí Union and Management are now slugging it out in court over this matter. Mailhandlers, Carriers, and Clerks are very nervous and angry over the way the crisis has been handled, and I canít say that I blame them. After all, they are the ones handling the mail, and the possibility of coming in direct contact with Anthrax-tainted mail is a very terrifying possibility. Two postal workers in Washington, DC did, and now they are dead, the result of inhalation Anthrax. Not a nice way to go.

Two weeks ago, reading matter about Anthrax was distributed to all postal workers, we were given talks by our supervisors, and were informed that "free" cipro or doxycycline was going to be distributed at the medical unit. I had Friday, October 26 off, which I took as a "vacation" day. It turns out that that particular Friday was the day that the antibiotics were distributed, so when I inquired about it the following Monday, I was told that "it was all gone", and that my immediate supervisor would inform me when more would be available. Several of my co-workers, beside myself, are still waiting. Iíve become an expert at waiting. Iím even a little leery about taking the antibiotics. I have been advised by many not to take them unless I feel ill, otherwise they may not be effective if and when I am exposed to you-know-what.

Iíve begun to experience a kind of transient "creeping terror" this past week, which I try to beat down with feelings of optimism and "positive thinking". Iím not quite sure how much success Iím going to have, but Iím trying. Last weekís big Daily News cover story was (no surprise here) about a new Anthrax victim, a woman who worked in the stockroom at the New York Eye and Ear Hospital, located on the Upper East Side. She had been diagnosed with inhalation Anthrax, the deadliest form of the disease, and has since died. Now I, as well as millions of other New Yorkers, am beginning to feel like this invisible killer is spreading. Who will be next? Where? Will it be a housewife in Queens? A letter carrier in Staten Island? A store clerk in Brooklyn? Will I open a letter laced with Anthrax? I had a sneezing fit last week, and I began to wonder. Why does Edgar Allan Poeís "The Masque of the Red Death" come to mind? And to top it off, there were warnings about possible terrorist attacks the week of October 29. Where will they happen? When will they happen? How will they happen? I can feel "The Tingler" creeping up my spine already. Trick or treat.

About the Author
Michael Wilk is a 44 year old graphic artist, and is employed by the United State Postal Service in Manhattan, where he has worked for the past 22 years. He lives in Howard Beach, Queens, approximately 5 minutes away from JFK Airport.