I got a couple messages from people who said they liked the "My Own Personal Hell House" idea from last week. Well, I'm glad you enjoyed that, but you should probably know, that stuff was only the tip of a very large and disturbing iceberg. My life has been fraught with a bewildering variety of fears and anxieties, some of them well-earned, some of them just plain neurotic -- and I'll be sharing a few of both with you today, in the Five Things That Have Induced Near-Paralytic Fear And/Or Anxiety In Me At Various Stages In My Life:
Age 4: Mr. Clean
OK, I know this sounds stupid. But at age four, you have no idea how scary it is when this gigantic, bald, burly motherfucker just appears in your floor. I mean, if you saw that, would you or would you not believe that some particularly muscular ghost was coming to kick your ass? When I saw this commercial come on TV as a child, I would literally run and hide; to this day, I can't wax my floors. (OK, that last one is mainly because I'm lazy, but whatever.)
Age 11: Vomiting
Throwing up is the absolute most disgusting thing the human body is capable of; that isn't even open for debate. (Diarrhea? Oh, please. That's coming out of an entirely different end of your body. I'm talking about something coming out of your fricking face.) And when I was in junior high, I went through this stage where, for some reason, I was mortally afraid of anything that might cause me to blow chunks. I think this is where my acute germ-phobia comes from. Loaf of bread slightly moldy at one end? Throw the whole thing out. Milk in the fridge is on its sell-by date? Pour it all out, I can always eat my cereal with George Dickel. And don't even talk to me about the "five-second rule"; you've got a death wish, fine, but don't drag me into your dangerous game. We'll see how brave you are when you're doubled over a toilet, re-tasting everything you've eaten in the past 24 hours.
Age 21: Winding mountain roads
This one, at least, has a rational basis, given that I totaled a car on U.S. 220 about halfway between Petersburg and Franklin, West Virginia. I don't know how, but the car ended up on its passenger side, facing the way it had come, and I got to experience what it feels like to have an airbag go off in your face. (Hint: It's not funny like it is in the movies.) Needless to say, for months afterward I approached West Virginia's curving mountain highways with the caution of a blue-haired great-grandmother driving her Buick to church, and I still avoid 220 whenever I'm up in my grandparents' neck of the woods.
Age 25: Walking up to someone in a public place thinking they're someone I know but then they turn out not to be the person I thought they were
I really don't know how to explain this; I just cringe at the thought of walking up to someone and going "Hey, Adam [or whoever]!" and then that person turns around and it's not Adam at all, or anyone else I know, for that matter. I'm kind of anxious in social situations as a general rule, actually. Yet I'll get up in front of a crowded karaoke bar and sing "Tiny Dancer" stone-cold sober. Still not quite sure why that is.
Age 29: Leaving voice-mail messages for members of the opposite sex
My best friend Brian, as I've no doubt mentioned on this blog before, describes me as "a guy who gets more first dates than anyone I know . . . and fewer second dates than anyone I know." I still haven't figured out why that is, but I have gone through a string of dates recently where we went out, had a good time, I called her a few days later, left a message, and never heard from her again -- so I think it must have something to do with the voice mails I'm leaving. Seriously, that shit is more nerve-wracking than open-heart surgery. It's like a 15-second audition: You have to provide a certain amount of information in a very short time and do so in a way that makes you sound attractive and engaging, because it's entirely possible that the girl in question doesn't give a rat's ass about how things went on your first date and is basing her decision whether to call you back solely on how much of a knob you sound like in your message. If that's the case, then this is an audition I fail time after time after time. I would text-message, but that sounds a little too 13-year-old-girl for these purposes; maybe I should just pay our office manager fifty bucks to play the part of my "executive secretary" and get her to do it. Unless you've got any better ideas.
Ahh, feels good to have that off my chest; I don't even mind that everyone knows what a freakshow I am. Here's the Ten:
1. The Corrs, "What Can I Do"
2. Eric B. & Rakim, "Don't Sweat the Technique"
3. J. Geils Band, "Centerfold"
4. U2, "Lemon" (Jeep mix)
5. Wu-Tang Clan, "7th Chamber -- Part II"
6. Pet Shop Boys, "In Denial"
7. Moby, "Bodyrock"
8. Eric B. & Rakim, "Extended Beat"
9. Blue Swede, "Hooked on a Feeling"
10. Ice Cube, "Integration"
Now that I've poured my heart and/or neuroses out, your own Tens and deep-seated personal anxieties are welcome in the comments.