Newspaper: The Patriot
Date: April 5, 1979
Title: Some Reach for Humor
Author: Roger Doran, Staff Writer

CARLISLE-While the drama unfolding on Three Mile Island pushed a lot of people to the edge of their nerve ends, biting fingernails, screaming at the dog and trying to figure out how to sue MetEd, it didn’t dampen spirits entirely.

Some reached for the funny bone.

At Dickinson College here silk-screening T-shirts with slogans became a release for 200 students left on campus. Classes at the college of 1,600 are informal this week, since college officials called off the regular routine until Monday.

A slogan contest that drew about 150 entries was held Tuesday night, and Wednesday students were huddled around a table getting T-shirts painted.

“It was a way of relieving some tension among the students here,” said Robert Cavenagh, a faculty member overseeing the T-shirt printing.

“Hell No, We Won’t Glow” was being printed on the shirts for a fee.

Elsewhere, there were variations of how to treat that now dissipated mysterious gas bubble ranging from “throw 27 tons of Alka Seltzer on it” to calling the druggist and ordering 2,000 pounds of Di-Gel.

Perhaps much of it is gallows humor, something like Gary Gilmore’s reply when asked, as he faced the firing squad in Utah, if he had a final request. “Yeah, how about a bullet-proof vest?” he asked.

But times of stress usually add some significant one-liners that serve the temporary purpose of pulling one through. Ask a combat veteran and he’ll tell you the humor gets better as the action gets closer.

The trick is to know when to laugh.

In the early assessments of the TMI situation, as the public was told radiation fallout was less dangerous than having teeth X-rayed, some were comforted, others confused.

“Is MetEd hustling toothpaste?” a visiting journalist wondered.

This, of course, led to a bushel of “having a radiant smile” lines. The radiation theme, like the possibility of radiation fallout, pervaded the atmosphere.

“Anything we raise here,” Cavenagh said at the Dickinson slogan contest and T-shirt sale, “will go toward some charity to help the people in Middletown.” He said he didn’t think the dollar figure would be a large one as a result of the T-shirt business “but at least this is a gesture.”

Some entries were philosophical, such as “Nobody’s Perfect,” a truly forgiving state of mind while some reflected ever-present doubts such as “I Survived Three Mile Island…I think.”

Then, as expected, there was “Kiss me, I’m Radionated.”

Another six-word slogan, “I’m Part of the Critical Mass,” cut both ways like a two-edged sword.

“That slogan,” Cavenagh said, “could be adopted by groups lobbying against nuclear power.”

Which is, he said, no laughing matter.