I was at a softball game yesterday and got an attack of nature. Thankfully, even though the door to the men's room at this ballpark was padlocked shut, there were several people there who had keys. One of them let me borrow his.
So, I trudged down to the men's room, key in hand. And I was in full panic. What if it's the wrong key? What if it gets stuck in the lock? What if the lock is situated in place where I can maneuver my way to use the key? What if the key won't turn? What if I break the key because it won't turn the lock.
I'm telling you. It dawned on me at that moment that even though I'm a mature (some would argue about that) middle-aged man with no apparent lack of capacity, the simplest things intimidate me. Like unlocking a door!!
I wonder whether anyone else has these feelings of terror over doing the simplest little things. Later, after successfully unlocking the door, and then locking it back up (though not without a last-minute surge of panic over the fact it took a few seconds to close the lock), I started compiling a list of all the stupid little things that intimidate me on a daily basis. Such as ...
Dealing with the freakin government about anything. I don't care if it's paying a parking ticket, dealing with the Department of Motor Vehicles (or, Registry as we call it up here in Massachusetts), preparing tax forms ... anything ... these simple chores can seem exhausting and terrifying to me. I'll go to any length to avoid doing these things, even if it's to my detriment. I don't think a year's gone by that I haven't left my taxes until the very last minute (I even got a ticket for running a red light trying to make it to the Post Office so I could have my return postmarked in time).
I'm forever trying to figure out the exact, perfect time to do my business at the RMV because I hate waiting in line. I detest waiting in line.
It's not just the RMV that catches my line-hating wrath either. I put off Christmas shopping until, literally, the last day because I can't stand crowded stores because they mean, of course, endless lines. So you can say lines intimidate me too.
Everyone else has glowing memories of their time at Disney World ... all I can remember is standing in line for over an hour just to get on Space Mountain.
I got in a fender bender recently. Well, not that recently. It was in February. I just last week submitted all the paperwork to my insurance company. Dealing with insurance companies intimidates me, especially if I've been in an accident that might raise my rates (as this one surely will).
Seeking, and receiving, any kind of medical treatment puts me on edge for days at a time. I suffered with a toothache for a month and a half before breaking down and going to the dentist. By the time I finally went, and the dentist got a good look at the abscessed tooth in my mouth, he said, "that's one of the worst ones I've ever seen."
Of course it was. Going to the dentist means Novocains. The Drill. Some guy you barely know sticking long, sharp objects in your mouth and picking your teeth with them ... and gouging the insides of them as well. It means severe discomfort. So, for people like me, who tend to put these things off for as long as possible, you have to find that balance that exists between the pain you're in, and the pain you're going to be in. More often than not, you fail. And one day, what was a little nagging, dull ache becomes a full blown abscess, and you're climbing the walls.
And then -- and only when it's way too late -- drills, Novocains and teeth-pickers don't seem so bad. The day the endodontist numbed my tooth and put me out of the misery of "the worst abscess I've ever seen" was a very happy one.
And then, of course, there are the pain killers. I have an aunt who was a nurse, and she once told me that pain killers don't really put you to sleep. It only seems that way because they take the edge off the pain and allow you to relax.
Could be. I'd never argue with Aunt Ruth. One didn't argue with Aunt Ruth. But if she's right, I did a lot of relaxing after that root canal!!! I can certainly understand how these things can get addictive if you're not careful. And this wasn't even the good stuff. It was only Vicodin.
If the dentist intimidates me, so does the doctor, especially if it's my GP, and I'm feeling a little porcine on the day of my physical. Then, I don't want to go. I've come up with some great excuses for not going, too. It's not that he's going to hurt me as much as he's going to lecture me. Imagine. I'm a grown man and I quiver at the idea of my doctor ... a guy who I'm paying ... giving me a lecture about making healthier choices. If that's not the definition of "intimidation" I don't know what is.
But there are other reasons going to the doctor intimidates me. Just after I turned 50, and just after I'd lost 50 pounds doing Weight Watchers, I had surgery on one of my knees. I went to the hospital for all the pre-op stuff, and next thing I know, I'm getting a call from my Primary Care Physician tell me he had to see me now. .
What on earth could he want, I wondered. Well. What he wanted was to tell me was that I had diabetes. Ain't that just a kick in the pants! Wasn't losing weight supposed to prevent the onset of Type 2 diabetes?
So now, I come by this aversion to doctors naturally. It seems I'm always getting bad news from this guy when I go. So I don't go. And when absolutely have to go, I have this impending sense of doom for the entire week prior to the appointment.
Believe it or not, and even though I have an electric lawn mower now instead of a gasoline-operated one, cutting my grass intimidates me to the point where I can let it go for weeks at a time.
Why? Old tapes. Back when I had the type of lawn mower where you had to pull the rope to ignite the engine, I'd pull the rope and nothing would happen. Wouldn't matter what I did. Every spring, I'd take it to the repair shop to get it tuned up, I'd get it home, pull that rope, and pffft. Nothing.
I swear, I hurt my back from all that pulling. And, of course, the more nothing happens, the more impatient you get, the louder you curse, and the harder you pull that rope. And you keep getting nothing ... and keep repeating the same cycle of frustration.
Eight years ago, I got an electric lawn mower. Now, all I have to worry about is running over the cord, which -- so far -- I've managed not to do. I still have the same lawn mower, it works perfectly, and I still have this momentary sense of dread every time I go to start it up.
Next on the list are airports. Any airports. And for any reason. My best/worst airport story involved Philadelphia last summer. For some reason, our GPS took us into the Philadelphia Airport, which was not where I wanted to be. Don't ask me why. Ask Magellan. She told us to go there.
Once Magellan got us into the airport, she kept us going around in circles until I was ready to throw her out the window. Finally, I politely (!) told Mrs. Magellan her services were no longer needed -- at least on this journey -- and that I'd find my way out of the stupid airport myself. Which I did.
Simply put, airports are terrible places. And they were terrible places long before 9/11 made it necessary for them to be terrible places.
Nothing like having your luggage left behind at the airport while you're on a cross country flight to San Francisco for a wedding. But since 9/11? Oy Vey.
If you want to fly, fly early. Like crack of dawn early. The later in the day you travel, the worse those lines get (and we've already discussed how I hate lines). It just makes traveling such a chore. The whole ordeal just seems overwhelming to me.
And we're just talking about escaping the airport. Next we can discuss boarding the plane with stuff you want to store overhead, only to open the compartment and see steamer trunks that take up three spaces in there. Really, you have all you can do not to hit someone.
I suppose half the reason I get so tense about these things is because I'm so skittish about the whole idea of traveling to begin with. I don't have the same feelings about trains or automobiles ... just planes!
Going to Fenway Park anytime intimidates me. Going to Gillette Stadium does not. Any time I ever set foot in the old Boston Garden was an exercise in torture. I love the new place (and I may be in a distinct minority here, too).
Anything I do for the first time terrifies me. If I've never driven somewhere before, I have to give myself an hour to get lost (even with the GPS, because now I worry that it'll direct me to an airport and drive me around in circles). Anything that needs to be assembled in "six easy steps" just about makes me break out in a rash. They may be six steps, but they're not easy. There's always some pre-drilled screw hole that won't line up with its counterpart, which makes screwing two pieces of wood together damn near impossible. I've done some of my best cursing trying to assemble something in "six easy steps."
I'll do you one better. Reading any directions makes me quake in fear. I just got a new iPod, and reading those directions ... they might as well have been printed in Russian. First of all, the type is so small that if you have any eye issues at all, you can't read the instructions. But more to the point, they're in a language that simply isn't to be understood. Either that, or they assume you know the lingo when, most of the time, you don't.
And that's why I really resist buying anything technological.
And when it comes to human confrontations, count me out. I'm the world's worst. They intimidate me more than anything else. Even when I'm sure I'm right, I instinctively back off the minute I encounter one of those uber-agressive types who seem to be louder, and more obnoxious, when they're the most wrong. I'm sure we've all dealt with them.
Instead of standing my ground against these bullies, I take the attitude that it's better to escape situations peacefully with the knowledge you're right than it is to take the humiliation of losing an argument to a total jerk who can't admit he's wrong.
And I'm always totally ashamed of myself when that happens, too.
Right about now you're probably thinking, "boy, what a fuss-budget!" Maybe if I told you I'm a Virgo it would make you understand better. We Virgos are like that. Everything has to be just so.
You're probably also wonder howinhell I manage to get through life with all these phobias and fears! I'll tell you. It ain't easy! Instant paralysis over anything that isn't laid out neatly before me can be unsettling.
But you know? What doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Somehow, I unlocked the men's room door ... somehow, I got my iPod to work. Somehow, I figured out how to uninstall, and then re-install, iTunes because the old version wasn't compatible with my new iPod.
And that's the beauty of it. Having fears and phobias, and learning to work past them, gives you this "cool of the evening" feeling ... as if, for that one, brief, shining moment, you've conquered the world.
Until you have to go the men's room again and have to unlock it yourself. Then all the gremlins return.