This year's turnout of those seeking protection against the brain-softening effects of empathy is the best to date.
HE U.S. Department of Health, in cooperation with drugstore chains around the country, claims that its annual anti-empathy booster shot campaign is bringing people out in record numbers.
"We are very satisfied with this year's turnout so far," said DOH spokeswoman Rachel Halderson. "More people than ever are now resistant to placing themselves in someone else's shoes. Considering how unhygienic it is to wear shoes that belong to some other germy, smelly person, we believe our annual booster drive is critical to the health of our nation."
A random exit poll at a Walgreens in Bloomington, Indiana, suggests that most recipients are quite happy with their results, which are almost immediate.
"I was just starting to feel sorry for my neighbor Jim," reported a woman named Sandra, "because he's been unemployed for ten months. But now I realize he's just a pathetic loser who's soaking our state for unemployment checks."
Sandra added that her booster "couldn't have come at a better time. I was going to give Jim something for Christmas, but now he can rot for all I care. Think of the money I've saved!"
A booster recipient named Bill said he had been feeling "really bad" for people he'd seen on television recently who were part of a feature on Americans without health insurance.
"I could tell it was time for my shot, because I started thinking crazy thoughts, like, what if I lost my health insurance, then what would I do? Kinda nutty, right?
"But now when I think of those people, I know they've got nothing to do with me. I don't even know 'em! Never met 'em! Every man for himself, is what I say. Boy, do I feel great!"
Ms. Halderson said that the boosters were free of charge "because once the shot takes effect, everyone loudly demands their money back until we give it to them. People just vaccinated against empathy will not back off, believe me. And why the hell should they?"
The DOH urges all Americans to be on the alert for the presence of one or more of the following key symptoms of empathy:
1. Feelings of sadness or sympathy over the suffering of a person or animal.
2. Imagining yourself in the position of someone you consider less fortunate.
3. Feelings of happiness over another person's overcoming misfortune.
4. A desire to extricate a person or animal from an unpleasant situation.
© 12.02.09 Kate Heidel