Amidst reality, a reality check 

Thanks to the miracles of communication technology, we can now know every teensy thing that goes on in the world as it happens. A lot of us are sick of it. Special bulletins every time a D.C. mail carrier sneezes, constant reminders of our newly tense status in even the fluffiest magazines, daily batches of layoffs: Our heads are so full they feel like the Elephant Man's, and it's a wonder we don't all break our necks whenever we try to get out of bed.

Many of us have a bulimic attitude toward news, binging when a real event occurs and purging after the 40th anticlimactic warning from the clearly paranoiac John Ashcroft. Some people still are glued to their TVs and prone to giving out annoying updates whether you want them or not. Others aren't even sure who Ann Thrax and Al Qaeda are, but they suspect them of having their own talk shows.

I lean toward the latter category. Rather than boning up on the FBI's most-wanted terrorist list, in case I see any of them at Krispy Kreme, I've been spending a lot of time at, a website devoted to personality tests. Emode is all about you, you, you, but in a good way ... not how you, you, you may have spores in your mail. For example, thanks to emode, I now know what kind of dog I would be if I was a dog (Irish setter), which of the seven deadly sins most matches my personality (pride) and who my celebrity love match would be (Ricky Martin, proving that even in Fantasyland I end up with -- allegedly -- gay men).

Because everyone loves quizzes, and in the interest of seeing how you're handling recent events, here's one I made up on How Good an Escape Artist Are You? (I get to be quiz master because I'm escapist enough to make up quizzes in a time of national crisis.) Just circle A, B or C and find out if you're keeping it surreal.

You get your news from:

A. CNN, MSNBC, NPR, Brokaw, Blitzer; in fact, you actually know which anchor is on which network -- and when

B. A little from everywhere

C. "The Onion"

When the phone rings you:

A. Answer

B. Screen

C. Your phone never rings; you turn it off and check the caller ID only when you feel like it

How do you get anthrax?

A. Through the skin or respiratory system; it's not contageous and is treatable with Cipro

B. From white powder in mail you'll probably never receive

C. On the same bill as Judas Priest

Who's bin Laden?

A. You're kidding, right?

B. The nut case behind all that's gone wrong lately

C. I know who's been losing on "Survivor: Africa," but I don't think it's as interesting as the last time, do you?

When you're depressed you:

A. See a therapist and get professionally fixed

B. See your friends and lighten up

C. Consume a soup tureen full of Dreamery Ice Cream dusted with codeine and washed down with a mid-priced Merlot, all while watching an "E! True Hollywood Story" and wondering how you'd come off if they ever did you

Do you know how much money you have in the bank?

A. To the penny

B. Give or take a few dollars

C. Why are you doing this to me? Do you hate me?

On the job you:

A. Work extra hours because you want to get everything done

B. Don't slack but don't kill yourself, either

C. Ummm hmmm. Do what now?

Why are the Afghans mad at the Americans?

A. Because they see us as anti-Muslim

B. Because they think we push people around too much

C. Who buys afghans anymore? Those fleece throws are much softer. Is this a word problem?

If you answered mostly A's, you probably got mostly A's in school too. People call you Martin Prince behind your back, and if you don't know who that is, that just illustrates the point. Your reliability causes people to be more dependent on you than may be fair, but your nose is buried in the "Wall Street Journal" and you don't really notice. Relax.

If you answered mostly B's, congratulations, you're smart enough to know better but dumb enough to enjoy yourself a little.

If you answered mostly C's, you're only technically connected to this reality. It's interesting that this would be your news publication of choice, bulging as it is with earnest information such as "Submissive male seeks couple." You are charming but one of these days you're going to have your head in the clouds and walk right out in front of a car. The rest probably will have stress-related heart attacks. Carry on.

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