I just came home with a case of chicken soup from Costco in anticipation of this year's flu. I've been lucky so far, but I know it won't last forever. And I'm a prime target. Mainly because I have four grandchildren who are no doubt covered with contagions just waiting to leap into my system.

The grandkids come over all the time and they want to hug and kiss me, but I don't know where those little hands and mouths have been. So far I've been able to give them air hugs and make kissing noises without any real contact, but I don't know how long I can get away with it.

Even though I'm careful where I blow my germs -- into my sleeve, like a vampire -- other people aren't so careful. I thought about wearing a mask and writing "quarantined" on it. I've ordered a hazmat suit from the Internet -- a blue one to match my hospital shoe covers -- but if it makes me look fat, I'm not going out in public with it. I've sprayed all the surfaces in my house and car with Extra-Strength Hand Sanitizer, and even rubbed everything with alcohol (all I had was a leftover bottle of vodka).

Still, I'm terrified I haven't done enough to kill off this super strain of flu. So I called the CDC.

"Hello, this is the Centers for Disease Control. Are you wearing a mask?"

"Yumpfh," I said through a thick layer of cotton-polyester blend.

"Good. Then how can I help you?" asked the robotic voice.

"Is the flu still an epidemic this year?" I asked.

"Oh yes -- just like last year and the year before that and the year before that ...."

"What's the name of this year's flu?" I said, interrupting her.

"H1N4000," she answered. "We're calling it Flu-nado."

"How can I prepare for this strain of flu?"

"Aside from getting a flu vaccine, staying away from people, washing your hands constantly, skipping work, avoiding children and keeping your radio dial tuned to KCDC for the latest updates, try a Netty pot."

"What's a Netty pot?"

"You don't want to know."

"Where can I get a flu vaccine?"

"At any hospital, doctor's office, pharmacy, veterinarian, bus station, dry cleaners or fast food restaurant."

"What should I do if they run out of vaccine again?"

"Try Tylenol, Prilosec, Bean-O, Maalox or Quinoa Tea until a new supply is available."

"Who's most likely to give me the flu?"

"Children with runny noses, teenagers who share their cell phones, people who spit when they talk and older people who don't brush their teeth regularly."

"What should I do if I get the flu?"

"Take one cup of chicken soup every four hours. Lie on the couch and watch 'Ellen.' Buy a bell to ring for help fluffing pillows. Invest in Kleenex Corp. Watch for unusual hair growth, splotchy palms, acne and irritable bowel syndrome. Call your doctor if you don't feel like working out, sushi makes you gag, or you want to sleep through 'Keeping up with the Kardashians.' "

I hung up after thanking the robotic voice, scrubbed the phone with an SOS pad, and poured myself the rest of the vodka. If this flu is coming, I want to be prepared.

Don't contact Penny Warner at www.pennywarner.com. She's in quarantine.