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When it came time to receive our mock antidote, we entered the gymnasium, only to be hit by a blast of cool air emanating from a powerful floor fan. Now, Unreal's no anthrax expert, but we do remember something about the U.S. Senate buildings undergoing a thorough cleaning after the 2002 attacks. Wouldn't any spores left clinging to clothing be dislodged by a gust of wind? An anthrax faux pas!
Some of our fellow volunteers experienced more profound revelations. "I realized that my family would die," observed one woman who chose to go by her health department-given identity, "Mrs. Johnson, mother of two." "They told us that the drug they ordered was different from the drug they received, so they started calculating for my daughter using the wrong drugs."
Mrs. J was miffed that no one at the drug dispensary had asked her for ID (no one carded Unreal either): "What's to stop someone from getting back in line? How do they know who's been accounted for?"
Good questions, responds Ellen Ellick, health department flack for bioterrorism and emergency response. And that's precisely the point of the exercise: "If we had it all down perfectly, then we wouldn't waste our time doing drills."
It was hotter than a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest last week, but the heat wave had zero impact on Old Spice's annual survey of America's Sweatiest Cities. For the third consecutive year, St. Louis dropped in the rankings, from a high of Number 15 in 2002 to a current low of Number 48.
In search of an explanation of our town's fall, we pulled our head out of the icebox long enough to call Jay Gooch, resident sweat expert for Old Spice.
Unreal:Why has St. Louis fallen so far?
Jay Gooch: We use a weather database of the average temperatures in cities during the months of June, July and August. We then plug the information into a computer model that calculates the sweat output of the average person walking for an hour under those conditions.
Yeah, but it's as steamy here as a bed-wetter's blanket. Don't you account for humidity?
Humidity plays a role, but the dominant factor is heat. Phoenix [Number 1] doesn't have the humidity, but the high temperatures still make you sweat. You just don't feel it as much because it evaporates.
What about BMI [body-mass index]? A lot of St. Louisans are grossly overweight. Sweat can really build up in folds of skin, can't it?
To normalize the study, we put everyone on the same playing field. We choose an average weight of 175 pounds with a BMI of 25. So it's not a svelte person, but not a heavy person either.
Apart from gaining more weight, what can we do to move up in next year's rankings?
It's out of [your] control. It all depends on the weather patterns. But when you look at the way this plays out, we're not talking huge differences between the top 10 cities and some of the other 100 sweatiest cities.
So you're saying we shouldn't be upset with our drop in the ranking?
Not at all. If sweating is what you want to do, I'm sure there are plenty of opportunities to sweat in St. Louis.
When should you never let them see you sweat?
That varies from person to person.