Rothman and I were drinking margaritas, just like Michael D. Brown after he was dumped as the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

I said, "I am frightened that I will never be evacuated out of Washington if the balloon goes up."

"Not to worry. FEMA has a plan."

"What is it?" I wanted to know.

Rothman took out a pamphlet. He showed it to me.

I read from it: " 'The most important thing is not to panic and have a full tank of gas.'

"Tell me, Rothman, why should I not panic?"

He said, "Because FEMA is there to help you. That's their job. When the balloon goes up, you call their private toll-free number and leave a telephone number where you can be reached. If you don't hear from them in three days, it means they are very busy, and you are on your own. It's all in the pamphlet."

I said, "I need another margarita." I made one for myself and one for Rothman.

I raised my glass. "Here's to FEMA, which is part of Homeland Security, and blessed by the Bush administration."

Rothman said, "I'll drink to that. Let's study a map and see what is the best way to get out of town."

We studied an AAA road map. "My suggestion is that we go out to the Beltway after crossing Key Bridge and getting on the George Washington Parkway," Rothman said.

"Have you ever tried to get to the Beltway during rush hour?" I asked.

Rothman replied, "We will leave at midnight."

"But if we leave at midnight and their sirens go off, everyone else will leave at midnight, and the cars will be bumper to bumper. It will take us six hours to get out of town."

"Then we will go by bus. FEMA will supply buses. It is part of their plan."

"How will the buses get out of town if the cars can't?"

"They will have National Guardsmen on each one, and if you don't have the correct fare, they'll have orders to shoot you."

I said, "Let's have another margarita."

Rothman agreed. "Things look so much better when you've had several margaritas."

We drank them down.

I asked, "Where do we go?"

Rothman studied the map. "West Virginia?"

"I have never been to West Virginia. Will they give us shelter?"

"FEMA will say they have to. If the people there refuse, they will set up tent cities."

I said, "FEMA is prepared for every situation. That is why they always get such good press. What do we do for money?"

"The government will declare us poor and will give us money slated for the Defense Department or the CIA."

"I don't want to be classified as poor," I said.

"Nobody wants to be poor. The media won't you leave alone," Rothman said. "They are always looking for poor people for the evening news."

I said, "We're dealing with a hypothetical. That's why we're getting drunk."

Rothman poured himself another drink. He slurred, "FEMA makes me proud to be a taxpayer."

"Let's toast Bush's disapproval ratings."

Rothman said, "I'll drink to that."

(c) 2005, Tribune Media Services