Given the current political climate, what with George W. strutting around our little country and terrorists eagerly looking for targets, one can not be too careful. Especially when one works in a Government Office, as I do. Sure, this isn’t Whitehall, we’re dealing with development in the East of England rather than major national policies. Even so, we’re a target.
I was therefore shocked that when, about fifteen minutes ago, I detected a suspicious package in the office, my warnings were treated with jovial levity.
Yes, it looked like it may well be the business cards we were expecting to arrive. But bombs and business cards share many superficial similarities when wrapped up – characteristics of suspicious packages taken from advisories issued by the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms and the United States Postal Service give the following examples:
– Letter bombs may feel rigid, or appear uneven or lopsided (this particular parcel was all of those).
– Mail bombs may bear restricted endorsements such as “Personal” or “Private” (it said “documents enclosed”, which is a fairly restricted endorsement).
– The addressee’s name/title may be inaccurate (or, more suspiciously as in this case, entirely accurate; clearly we weren’t dealing with amateurs).
– Mail bombs may reflect distorted handwriting (not having a mirror on hand, I was unable to check this).
– The return address may be fictitious or absent (there was NO return address).
– Mail bombs may have excessive postage (this one had insufficient postage, surely even more suspicious – not only were these terrorists professionals, they were mean, penny-pinching professionals).
– Package bombs may have an irregular shape, soft spots, or bulges (it was all of these things. “Oh, but it’s two piles of business cards,” my colleagues argued. Yes, or two bombs, you silly people.)
– Package bombs may make a buzzing or ticking noise or a sloshing sound (it made a crackly, popping sound, like bubble wrap).
Well, I issued my warnings, I declared to the office that we were in mortal danger, I did my absolute best to create a genuine bomb scare (and certainly on a personal level achieved an ostentatious, if slightly camped-up, aura of panic). But at the end of the day the parcel was not addressed to me and I was forced to hand it over.
Naturally I was relieved that it turned out to be business cards after all, but I can’t help feeling that if it had been a bomb my colleagues would at least have taken this brush with death a bit more seriously.