Woke up this morning from a dream about living in a pandemic (wonder why I had *that* dream?). It must have been a really bad pandemic, because everyone was wearing MOPP gear.

MOPP gear is the protective clothing the military wears to protect themselves against nuclear, biological, and chemical attack. There was a gas mask with a hood that covered your head, neck, and shoulders; a coat and pants; thick rubber gloves and boots; and a set of high-octane epipens we were expected to inject ourselves with if we were exposed to nerve gas.

Every time I was stationed overseas, I was issued a duffel bag filled with MOPP gear, and I had to take refresher training in how to use it. In refresher training, we buddied up and practiced how to put on and take off MOPP gear in such a way that we would not contaminate ourselves with nerve gas.

They never actually gassed us in these training sessions, except for the very first training I went through, and in that case it was some pretty low-grade tear gas. Everybody in every training I went to had a pretty relaxed attitude about how to wear MOPP gear. If they’d used full-strength tear gas on us in any of those training sessions, I’m pretty sure ninety percent of us would have been incapacitated.

And if we’d had to live in MOPP gear for days or weeks on end, the way you might have to in a pandemic, I’d bet money that the ten percent who weren’t incapacitated for being lax would go crazy from wearing the mask all the time. Maybe the new masks aren’t so bad, but the mask I had to wear was like smooshing your face between the cold butt cheeks of a hippopotamus. And the visibility through the tiny goggle lenses was about the same. Claustrophobia doesn’t begin to describe the experience.

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