Monday, February 4, 2013

Things of Which I Am Now or was Once Afraid

Things I am afraid of with a 1 - 5 ranking system.  1 indicates "low anxiety", 5 indicates "high anxiety".  Failure of an item on this list does not mean I am fearless when it comes to that topic, it simply indicates that it is not something I worry about.  Example: lightning.  Yes, I know lightning strikes are harmful, but they just don't cause me much worry.  And my house got hit twice by lightning last year.


Heights - 3  
As a kid, I wasn't afraid of heights, then one day Jason yelled at me for playing too close to a ledge.  Ever since then, I sort of hyper-ventilate and get what I assume to be vertigo when I can see straight down more than 15 feet.


Eating bad shellfish - 2
I love shellfish.  I also have heard so many stories of what happens when you eat a bad clam that every new bite is filled with anxiety.  Still, clams and mussels are so delicious that I sweat my way through it and hope for the best.




Sharks (killer) - 4
Jaws was still a really big deal when I was growing up, enough so that I didn't see the actual movie til at least high school, but  knew "it is about a shark that eats people".  But, also, my mom was very into letting us check out science books from the library, which really meant a long series of books about sharks, and all the things the powerful jaws of a shark could do to you.  I always checked swimming pools when I was a kid.


Gar Fish - 3
Have you seen these prehistoric monsters?

oh, I watch the crap out of River Monsters
They have a long snout full of really nasty teeth.  They were the fresh-water terror to replace sharks when I went swimming as a kid.  I was always sure one was going to latch onto my ankle.


The Tentacles That Would Come Out of the Shower Drain and Strangle Me -(age 10 - 4, now - 1)
When I was about 10, I somehow decided that one day I'd be naked as a jaybird, happily applying Prell to my hair, and tentacles would reach up out of the shower drain and kill me.  Probably by strangling me, then crushing me into the drain.  I think I was twelve before I realized "that really probably is not something to worry about", but for a while there, I would keep one eye on the drain the whole time I was showering.

I think I knew better than to tell anyone I was concerned this could happen.  Still, the notion that it could happen kept me from taking lingering showers.

Pro Tip:  You CAN block the tentacles or at least know they're coming out of the drain if you keep the ball of your foot on the drain while you wash your hair.


Headless Axe Guy (Age 7 - 4)
As a child, sleep alluded me.  I never could get to sleep at my bed time and would just lay there, sometimes for hours.  At some point when I was very young, I became convinced that about twenty minutes after I'd been tucked in for the night, a headless zombie-type would enter my room and stand over me with an axe, ready to cut off my head if I opened my eyes.  Sometimes, as an act of defiance, I would open my eyes and be a little disappointed that he wasn't there.

For some reason, sorta like Frankenstein's monster, I guess, he wore a sport coat.  I guess you get dressed up a bit if you're dropping by to behead a kid.


Nuclear Holocaust - ?
I am a child of the 80's, and as a kid who watched a lot of TV and popular movies, I was pretty much convinced that, at any minute, I was going to get vaporized while I was eating my Apple Jacks or playing Atari.  Those godless Russkies were just so angry about our Levi's Jeans and free enterprise, that they were going to blow it all up and let rise the planet of the apes.

The thing is, worrying about instant annihilation at any moment over some vague philosophical disagreement can lend itself to all kinds of neurosis, I suppose.  I was pretty sure we were all going to be crispy critters, so it made working on banks of word problems seem sort of pointless.  It made a LOT of things funny that weren't all that funny, and everything could be seen through a lens of gallows humor (that switch flipped for The Comedian in Watchmen or the hyper-reactive vision of Miller/ Moore/ Morrisonian interpretations of the Joker).

I think the novel Generation X touches on this line of reasoning - both the pointless absurdity and the gallows humor that comes from constant threat of imminent doom, but its been two decades, and I don't really remember.

It's interesting that today's college kids didn't grow up with that particular threat at the forefront of their minds.  Post 9/11, the concept of terrorism probably seemed very concrete, especially as one grows up removing their shoes before a flight, and the notion that someone, somewhere in the airport can prevent the instant death problem is an interesting counterpoint to the officials somewhere far off with suitcases that contain big red buttons that will unleash hell on a moment's notice.

Unless you were a Time Magazine cover in 1986 or so, you probably just didn't worry about it that much and hoped the guys running things weren't going to get twitchy.

I do remember one time, shortly after we first moved to Austin and before I'd learned that (a) F4 Phantoms were stationed nearby, and (b) they make a distinctive wailing sound, I found myself sitting in my room while everyone else wasn't home yet from school and jobs listening to that distinctive wail of the F4.  I was pretty sure those were missiles raining down on someone, somewhere, and my number was up.  Me and the ratty little family dog.

Well, everyone came home, I don't think I said anything about the moment of certain doom, and we did homework and ate frozen vegetables.

That I remember the moment of absolute certainty that my ticket was about to get punched is probably meaningful somehow.  But, you know, you had to be sort of mentally ready back then.

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