This morning’s horoscope said that I should confront my fears today. I find it ironic that this advice appeared in the newspaper. These days there is nothing scarier than the news.
As if impeachment, world-wide terrorism, and mass shootings were not scary enough, in an effort to attract more viewers to the late-night news, the media tends to dramatize obscure and trivial dangers until they loom on the horizon like a tornado-spawning thundercloud.
During the day, at regular intervals, broadcasters run “teasers,” i.e. news promotions in which the public is warned of some vague and unidentified pending doom. They are delivered by a wide-eyed newscaster in a tone that suggests that you had better start digging a fallout shelter and stockpiling canned goods and bottles of water.
The idea seems to be to maintain a level of public anxiety just shy of mass hysteria. Then the broadcaster leans towards the camera’s lens, his brow creased with worry, and earnestly delivers the “teaser.”
“Something you and your family have regular contact with could be killing you and your children! Do not panic! What can you do to prevent the impending tragedy? Find out tonight on WXKX 11 o’clock news!”
I can’t stop worrying about it all day. What could it be? Flesh-eating bacteria in the water supply? Metal shavings in the baby food? Jock itch? The heartbreak of psoriasis? The painful itch of hemorrhoidal tissue? I can’t take the pressure.
I would barricade myself in my house, but what if the danger is in the house? What if an asteroid is heading for my roof? What if death rays are leaking from my microwave? Perhaps at any moment a creeping, flesh-dissolving slime could begin oozing out of the furnace’s registers.
By the time the 11 o’clock news begins, I am hyperventilating from the anxiety. The standard treatment for that is to breathe into a paper bag, but what if paper bags are the hidden danger? What if glass shards are embedded in paper bags? Maybe the paper bags are emitting poisonous gasses.
Usually, by the time the newscaster gets around to divulging the hidden danger that could be killing me and my children, after keeping me waiting until 11:28 p.m, it is something obscure and unlikely. Perhaps poorly fitted shoes could cause the formation of bunions the size of golf balls. The resulting pain could cause you or your child to stumble into traffic and get hit by a bus. For this, I drank six cups of coffee so I could stay awake until nearly midnight?
I usually am not plagued by trivial and irrational fears. My number one fear is one that everyone can relate to. Public bathrooms. Not the usual fears, like discovering seconds too late that there is no toilet paper, or that the previous user of the stall was one of those squatting-over-the-bowl germophobes who has piddled all over the seat.
My bathroom fears are not like the old days. Remember outhouses, the primitive early bathrooms? Those days the fears were tangible and realistic fears, like spiders, snakes, bats, dropping your pocket change down the hole, splinters in your behind, or running out of pages in the Sears and Roebuck catalog.
For me, today’s bathroom fears are hands-free public bathrooms. The water-saving toilets terrify me. They have no flush levers. Somehow they just know when you are done. They have the level of suction power you would expect if someone pulled the plug on Lake Erie. If you do not stand up quickly enough, you could be disemboweled. I would hate to have to dive in there and try to retrieve my own pancreas.
Afterward, the sink knows when you need water and the dryer knows when you need warm air. How do they know that? When you leave, the light turns itself off.
I fear the next time I use a public bathroom, a razor will pop out of the stall wall and shave my hairy legs. What if it nicks a vein and I bleed to death?
I don’t care what my horoscope says, I would rather hide from my fears than confront them. I would go to bed and pull the covers over my head, but I can’t stop worrying about the time I was nearly strangled during the night by a long loose plastic thread on a cheap bedspread. That is a true story. I would tell you more, but you will have to tune in at eleven because “Something you have contact with every night could be killing you!”