HAZMAT

It’s a peaceful place, where I live. I hear only the sound of my breathing through the respirator, and the crinkling of the fabric as I clomp along.
It’s a safe place, too. I’m completely protected. Yes, it’s not unlike being born again in the arms of paradise. And it’s all thanks to my Level A, government-certified, hazardous material emergency response suit.
I can see you out there, since the glass mask has a built-in anti-misting agent. I can’t feel you, though, through this impenetrable insulation. The only thing I really feel is the ice-pack on my chest, there to keep me from overheating like a beached, black clam. Your voice isn’t wired to my radio, but I can imagine what you’re asking.
Why are you wearing that thing?
This is your stupefying insensitivity exhibiting itself.
Have you looked around lately? Our homes: paint, insulation, glues, shingles, plaster, carpets. Inside our homes: cleansers, refrigerants, microwaves, pesticides, plastics. Every office, store and industrial operation: inks and toners, dyed nylon clothes, hormone shampoos, radioactive electronics components… and all of this constantly being transported by land, sea and air — being carried by motorized vehicles that are themselves aggregations of deadly, malingering toxins.
This expertly designed, state-of-the-science suit allows me to deal with all this. Comfortably. Without shocks. Without worry. Think of it like sunglasses and sunscreen, or air filters. Just one of the latest wise trends in protective insulation against our environment.
And remember: when you’re in trouble, I’ll be the one coming to help you.
You’ll be horrified when you first see me, of course.
Because as I bravely gather you up in my arms of hypalon, neoprene, butyl, PVC and viton, you’ll think I’m an alien from another planet.
Because you’ll sense the agonizing irony in the fact that I’m a walking collection of toxic materials myself, born in a factory that excretes its own hazardous sludge.
But most of all because you’ll know that if the only other person near you is wearing a suit like mine, then you must be doomed. The poison must already be in you. You must have no chance of ever awakening from the nightmare. This will be your Moment of Realization.
If you survive, of course, you will learn to like this suit. What other choice do you have?

® Rob Wipond, 2014

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