Get A Grip: Adding more flavors to terror alerts

I'm not sure what to make of these colorful terror alerts.

Two weeks ago every news agency in the country reported an upgrade to Terror Threat Level Orange (even though orange is a color and not a level).

Terror Threat Orange! Terror Threat Orange! The headlines screamed.

Soon after we were advised to buy water, canned food, duct tape and plastic.

Soon after that, stores were jammed with customers buying water, canned food, duct tape and plastic.

Then we're told to relax back to Terror Threat Level Yellow.

This assurance was not, however, followed by any more instructions, leaving me wondering what to do with my water, canned food, duct tape and plastic.

Can I return it now?

Beyond confusion over what to do with my new purchases, I'm in some confusion over how to react to Terror Threat Level changes.

What should my anxiety level be today? What levels should my blood pressure reach?

Since the Sept.

11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the federal government has responded to terrorism in various ways, one of which is issuing Terror Threat Level alerts.

The alerts are color-coded in the manner of a stop light although more gradiated, with red at the top, orange behind red, yellow behind orange, then blue and finally green.

But what the American public is supposed to do with this information is unclear.

It seems to me that they're telling us to be marginally scared for our lives at Terror Threat Level Yellow, really scared for our lives at Terror Threat Level Orange, and totally freak out because the end is near at Terror Threat Level Red.

Despite my intuition into the meaning of the threat levels, the government keeps telling us not to worry.

Our fearless leaders tell us, in effect, that everything will be OK and we're looking out for you so go about your business but just stop on the way home and maybe pick up some more duct tape and perhaps a gas mask but really, don't worry.

I suppose we shouldn't worry since they've authorized themselves to spy on us pretty thoroughly and on top of that we're asked to spy on each other so we catch anything they might miss.

That way if we are doing anything dangerous, like, say, reading a book on Islam at the public library, well, they can put a stop to that in a hurry and lock us up based on secret information leaked anonymously to Joe McCarthy, um, I mean Tom Ridge.

So that's encouraging.

Anyway, I'm not happy with the Terror Threat Level system.

I've decided to refine the process and provide the public with more information (although not too much because, as we now know, information is dangerous and must be controlled).

I've also decided that the government's color system lacks flair and so I've chosen more pleasing hues (I've taken my cue from clothing catalogs) for my proposed system.

My suggestion is to implement the following Terror Threat Alert Levels: yeast; cucumber; cerulean; yolk; acid pulp; flame.

Yeast - At the bottom of the scale I propose Terror Threat Alert Level Yeast.

Yeast has a mild, calming color and odor and, not incidentally, is a key ingredient in doughnuts.

So, at Terror Threat Alert Level Yeast, I propose we all just relax, leave our doors unlocked and provide free doughnuts to all emergency personnel since they won't have much to do.

When you think of Terror Threat Alert Level Yeast, think of your grandmother's kitchen and the smell of fresh bread baking in the oven.

This is as safe as it gets.

At Terror Alert Level Yeast, you do not have to look both ways before crossing the street and can run with scissors with impunity.

Cucumber – The scent of cucumber is known to be soothing, but not so soothing as the smell of baking bread, and so I've named the next alert level cucumber.

Also, being a fruit, cucumber is kind of good for you, so we're clearly now beyond the bacchanal days of free doughnuts and grandma's kitchen.

At this level, people should lock their doors and stock up on fruit and report any doughnut eaters to the government.

Cerulean – Moving up the scale we come to cerulean.

This deep-blue color is suggestive of the sea: peaceful to look at but fraught with danger.

At threat level cerulean, be suspicious of everything, expect the unexpected.

Look out for Jaws.

Yolk – Now things are starting to get ugly.

Terror level yolk is a wake-up call; now it's time to start peeking in your neighbors' windows as they enjoy their morning eggs.

Yolk yellow signals danger.

Start taking blood pressure medicine just in case.

Acid pulp – Acid pulp refers to the gloppy orange pulp that often contaminates otherwise drinkable orange juice.

Now is the time to bring out the bottled water and regard with the utmost suspicion anyone who does not look and act like Barbie or Ken.

If and when you find such people, duct tape their feet to the floor until the proper authorities can respond.

Fire – Well ,it doesn't get any worse than fire, does it? At fire level, the end is certainly near and it's time to start burning books.

Information is dangerous, remember? Welcome to H-E-double-hockey-sticks.