I feel like I've fallen into some alternate reality Cold War worst case scenario, or been inserted into the plot of Fallout 4. I bought a Geiger counter on Ebay today.
This is the DRSB-88, a "modern" Russian-made handheld Geiger counter. It doesn't look much like the old civil defense Geiger counters that you may be familiar with from old movies (and that every fallout shelter and school in the United States used to be stocked with), but it works pretty much the same way. It counts radiation particles per minute, and it clicks and lights up whenever it detects one (so yes, it makes the familiar Geiger counter sound - here's a video demonstration, and no, that is not me). It doesn't have a visual meter, but I couldn't afford one that does right now. This is probably the cheapest true Geiger counter you can buy at the moment.
These things used to sell for like $15, even a few weeks ago. I paid $125 for this one, and it's used. This is about the going rate right now. A month ago, these things were curiosities, leftovers from the Cold War that nobody knew what to do with. Now, there is not enough supply to keep up with demand.
I didn't buy it because I'm worried about fallout raining down upon me in New York City and giving me cancer. I am not a nut. I am not one of those survivalists with a huge stash of guns and decade-old canned chili and green beans in my basement who believes the government LIES. I know there's no dangerous radiation anywhere in the United States. I bought it for two reasons:
1) To prove to the concerned customers of my store that our clothes from Japan are safe (a single video posted to our web site should take care of that)
2) To reassure myself on our trip to Japan in a couple months - yes, we're going! I really hope the TSA doesn't confiscate my Geiger counter for some dumb reason. I'm trying to protect myself and my wife from radiation, so I must be a terrorist!
That I even feel this is necessary, though, tells me there is something very wrong in the world. I am old enough to remember Three Mile Island and of course Chernobyl, and now we have Fukushima Dai-ichi. You know, when a person can be 38 years old and have lived through three major nuclear accidents, at least one of which affects me personally from thousands of miles away, it makes you think it's about time for us collectively to re-evaluate some things. I generally don't really have strong feelings about nuclear power one way or the other, but you know what they say... fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me. What do they say about getting fooled a third time? It's pretty clear that despite our best efforts, we are going to have occasional nuclear accidents. Is it really worth it? How much of the world do we need to make uninhabitable?