I tend to be afraid of strange things. Sometimes irrational things. Like things that the probability of them actually happening are almost nil, but for some reason cause a huge and uncomfortable panic in the core of my being. (Editor’s Note: Ben’s fear of clowns is in no way irrational. It is a genuine phobia and a very serious matter that he feels should be taken more seriously by the public at large. Clowns are a menace and a nuisance and there are not enough measures in this world being carried out in order to protect the general population. For these reasons, clowns do not qualify as an irrational phobia and therefore will not be appearing on this list at all.) This is a living list and will continue to grow as I get older and my feelings toward the world become more unreasonable.
LIST OF IRRATIONAL FEARS!!!
1) Scorpions In My Shoes (which is like Snakes on a Plane…only not) – I read this story once about these young children living in the Nevada desert and how in the mornings they would have to check their shoes before putting them on to make sure there weren’t any scorpions inside of them. THIS IS TERRIFYING! I cannot count the number of times I have woken up late in the morning, rushed to throw on my clothes and then slide on my shoes before dashing out of my apartment towards the bus. I get about half a block away from my bus stop before I start to freak out. “What if there is a scorpion in my shoe? Have I just angered said scorpion? Is it a deadly scorpion? It almost certainly is. I would never be so lucky as to have a non-lethal scorpion take up shelter inside my shoe. If I stop now to check my shoe I will miss the bus. Late for work or save my life? Late for work or save my life?” You can imagine the internal struggle I have when my boss asks, “Why were you late for work?”
2) Being Buried Alive (god I know…how cliche) – I doubt I have to explain this one in great detail, but it goes without saying that this is perennially at the top of my list. My greatest concern is that upon becoming buried alive, I will run out of ways to entertain myself before I invariably suffocate or die from dehydration. I venture that I would be inconsolable for the first few minutes, but shortly after accepting my inevitable death, I wonder how I would fill my remaining time. I’m sure I’d start with reciting all of my favorite lines from “My So-Called Life” and then quoting “Empire Records” word for word. But after those twelve minutes…what would I do? Its not only unsettling but incredibly daunting.
3) The Deep Ocean…Like the really, really deep ocean – Ever heard of the Mariana Trench? It is the deepest part of all the oceans. Even though I will probably never venture close to this territory it terrifies me daily. To be clear, this isn’t a fear of drowning, I am actually quite an okay swimmer. This is a fear of a limitless expanse surrounding me. Perhaps it’s a fear of not knowing where I am exactly, but I do not have the same irrational fear of deep space (because…its space…its cool). Also, can you imagine…like…if you were on a boat, just above the Mariana Trench and you were talking on your cell phone and the boat rocked and you dropped the cell phone overboard? That phone is gone. Even worse…imagine it was your iPod. I have to stop myself. I am getting chills.
4) Walking under train tracks while a train passes above. – So there is this urban legend from my home town…well it might be an urban legend. It might just be something that my cousin Jimmy told me because he’s an ass and really wanted to freak me out. There used to be train tracks that went high over the White River in Columbus, IN. They were extremely old, rusty, and looked vaguely haunted (a lot like Pat Robertson). My lovely cousin told me a ghastly tale of a group of three friends who were walking under said train tracks at the exact moment that a train was crossing. Apparently according to him, large pieces of metal came crashing down decapitating two people in the party. The third friend dashed like a madman all the way to the police department to get help or call for an ambulance (remember this was before cell phones…although honestly…their heads are gone…not sure what the police can do). When he gets to the police department he screams, “Help me…my friends are injured!” And the cop on duty says, “So are you!” And the man looks down at himself and his RIGHT ARM IS GONE!!!! It’s back at the train tracks. Next to the heads. He sees his bloody arm socket and drops dead immediately. Now you might say, “Ben…I know you are stupid, but are you this stupid??? Really? Really? Yes…you are.” And you would probably be right, but please understand, to a young boy this is not only entirely feasible but horribly scary. So of course I move to Chicago, and of course I constantly walk under train tracks, but if I hear a train coming…I try and wait, or dash across before it crosses. On those rare moments where I get caught underneath I put my hand up behind my neck. You know…because those five fingers are going to stop razor sharp metal fragments from decapitating me.
5) Dying Stupid – This is really an umbrella irrational fear. It encompasses any number of untimely demises that would bring about extreme embarrassment on the off chance that I am actually able to “view from above”, if you will, my passing. And I know that I should be writing “dying stupidly” or “in a stupid manner”, but I think these types of deaths (see: having a pig fall on top of you from above…it’s an actual short story…read it…its amazing) are so incredibly demeaning and/or embarrassing that they would render me significantly less intelligent right before the moment of my death. Hence – dying stupid. Also…it sounds funnier.
The best example I can think of is dying while on the toilet. There are countless scenarios where I imagine this and not a single one of them grants me any dignity. It all started…I just assume you want to know…Anyway…It all started during the first year I moved to Chicago. I had just started working in my very first office job and was quite pleased with the way my life was going (naive little idgit). One day at around 10:15 am, I was attending to some business in the bathroom (see: pooping) when I heard a great and terrible rumbling in the sky. The very foundation of the building began to vibrate a little and the door of the stall I was in began to clatter against the catch of the lock. The rumbling started to die down, but before I could catch my breath a second tremor started. Dear Christ, I thought, This is an earthquake. I’m going to die. Right here…on the toilet…with my pants around my ankles…and why the holy fuck did I decide to wear this pair of underwear today? I pictured that when the rescue worker found my body in the rubble he would mistake me for some kind of beached sea lion. He would be momentarily confused as to how it was that a sea lion found its way into downtown Chicago and why this particular ocean mammal was wearing pants from Men’s Express, but would soon realize that it was in fact a rather unfortunate twenty-something who was unable to wipe, flush and wash his hands before shuffling off this mortal coil. The rescue worker would find this momentarily disturbing but ultimately funny. He would then rally his fellow workers around the accident site and point at the dead Sea Lion and say, “See boys…life could always be worse. You could be this unfortunate thingy.” They would all laugh and usher other people forward to stare at the rare mixture of death, humiliation, and cracked porcelain. I would become a cautionary tale for all ages. The mortal pooper.
I sat there, eyes clenched, waiting for the ceiling to cave in on top of me and desperately wished that there was no afterlife so I could avoid all future embarrassment.
What I didn’t know at the time was that Chicago has an annual Air and Water show just off of Navy Pier. It’s quite a huge event and they practice for days before. Jets and planes whizz and zoom over the Chicago skyline preparing to fill young children and tourists with awe and wonder. They fly so fast that buildings and windows shake as they leave majestic trails of smoke behind in the thundering sky. All it had managed to fill me with was stark, neurotic terror. To this day I have still never seen the Air and Water show. I suspect I never will.
This is just but one way of “dying stupid” that consumes my thoughts. Other examples are: being trampled to death at a Big Lots on Black Friday, having a severe allergic reaction to Preparation H, choking on a “Stuft” Burrito at Taco Bell, being hit by a car in a Wal-Mart Parking Lot at 3am in the morning after only purchasing a pack of socks, hand lotion, batteries, and a box of Teddy Grahams, or suffering an aneurysm while at a matinee of a Tim Allen Movie.
6) Girls Named Holly – Don’t know why. They scare me. Real bad.
7) Those Wrinkled Aliens That Talk Strangely and Walk Slowly – You might call them “the elderly” or “old people” or “seniors”, but no matter what name you give them the fact still remains that they are horrific. Especially when they have food in their beards or ride public transport. Guh.
8 ) Having Your Eyeball Scooped Out With A Melon Baller – I have television to thank for this nasty nightmare. But seriously I can’t imagine that it could be pleasant in anyway shape or form. You’re thinking about it now aren’t you? You sick bastard.
9) The blond child from the Welch’s Grape Juice Commercial – There was this old commercial for Welch’s Grape Juice where this preternaturally demonic young girl talks about how much she loves Welch’s Grape Juice and it just makes her want to smack her lips. She then proceeds to make a show of smacking her lips together and smiling, with a twinkle in her eyes, when finished to show the world how much she loves grape juice. The devil was in those eyes and I am confident that if you get too close to her smacking jaws, she will eat you.
10) Being Caught in an elevator “Speed” style – I’ve been stuck in an elevator before. For over two hours. Itsnot fun. The entire time I was in there, I had this terrifying thought. I kept imagining the workmen would have to open the door, but only halfway and pull the three of us stuck inside out through some mid-floor level opening. By the time they get to me I am all but out before the elevator goes crashing down and severing one of my legs (see above: losing appendages entry). I have nightmare about this. In fact anytime I am in an elevator I begin limbering up, just in case I have to jump through the mid-floor opening quickly enough to avoid being severed. For reference watch “Speed” or that really creepy episode of “Supernatural”. Egh. Guh.
To Be Continued…