EAST STROUDSBURG, Pa. - I woke up this morning in a cold sweat because I didn't know what color it was.
I used to question the weather upon awakening. But since the color-coded Homeland Security Advisory System was devised, all I want to know is what's the color of the day.
It's a whole lot more comfortable with my head in the sand. But I, like my fellow Americans, now realize that terrorists abound and can plan all kinds of heinous activities against our people. And that includes me.
Just about the time I was beginning to lull myself into an obviously false sense of security, the color-coded system brought new terror to my heart.
Green, a color I can't see because of my color blindness, is the only color that means "low risk" of terrorist attack. Like Kermit, "it's not easy being green" when every day we know there are people trying to kill us.
Blue, next up on the scale, means a "general risk" of attack. "General" is not a word I would particularly like to assign to the possibility of being attacked. "Generally cloudy" means there are plenty of clouds. But blue is supposed to be nothing to create panic.
Yellow brings "significant risk" of attack. Can I panic yet? No? Will someone tell me how significant, or do I just get to know it's a yellow day? I noticed that in the list of protective measures only blue mentioned providing the public with necessary information. Possibly if I go to Wal-Mart and it's closed I may assume it's at least a yellow day today.
Then again, it could be an orange day, which indicates "high risk" of terrorist attacks. If I live in Washington and notice a major traffic jam on Interstate 95, it could be an orange day. Because with orange you are definitely entitled to head for the hills.
Red means "severe risk" of terrorist attacks. You just can't get any scarier than that. We're toast. Head for the fallout shelter, if you were lucky enough to save yours. It definitely gives "seeing red" new meaning. And for us color-blind folks, it's another color we can't see - and now don't want to see.
So what is this colorful security system going to do for me? So far, it just strikes more terror in my overburdened heart.
It reminds me of when I had a security system installed in my home. Prior to that I was in head-in-sand mode and never gave burglars a thought. Now I get in bed, immediately think about burglars and get up to make sure I set the alarms.
How am I supposed to find out what color it is today? Do I have to keep tuned to CNN or MSNBC? Will there be sirens like there were in World War II?
Do I really want to know what color it is? None of them is any good at all. Even green is described as low risk, not no risk.
Worse, these colors are not connected to any particular action I need to take to protect myself. Should I go to my basement or stay at home on a red day? Should I avoid public transportation on yellow? I hear a good deal of encouragement to proceed with life as usual, so should these colorful warnings be ignored?
When I wake up in the morning, I want to go back to wondering about the weather, not how fearful I should be today.
Rosemary J. Zook is a psychologist and a free-lance writer.