I did some really crazy things in my teens and 20s. Some would call these acts fearless; others (particularly my mother), stupid and/or insane.
Where I grew up in the lovely small town of Jackson (“Alabama, not Mississippi,” a phrase uttered a million times by every native Jacksonian) we had two really hilly streets, both affectionately known as “Thrill Hill.” There was more than one occasion I rode down those exhilarating hills at top speed in the bed of a pick-up truck. Weeeee!
I camped out with friends in what I am sure was a snake/spider/bear/Bigfoot-infested pitch-black river swamp.
I explored creeks that I’m sure were filled with brain-hungry amoebas and flesh-eating bacteria.
I visited a church in the middle of nowhere that was most definitely haunted.
I climbed down the ladder on the side of the Tombigbee River Bridge with my friends to sit on the catwalk. If any of us had fallen, we would have plunged to our deaths. I was wearing flats.
After I moved to Mobile for college, on a late-night jaunt over to the Panhandle I once jumped off the Destin Bridge (the lower part) into the dark emerald waters below.
What character in “Forrest Gump” was it that said, “Stupid is as stupid does”? It definitely was not Jenn-NAY. I think it was Mama.
My own Mama would have said, “Are you an absolute complete and total idiot?” Yes ma’am. Yes ma’am, I am.
Admittedly I was not fearless, I was just more fearful of getting left out of doing whatever it was my friends were doing, even if said activity was incredibly dangerous, slightly illegal and/or “idiotic.”
Which probably puts me in the category of the weak minded rather than courageous, but hey, at least I have a few things to brag about from my somewhat misspent youth. And I need these things to cling onto now, because I have somehow become a giant weenie. Not some cocktail or bun-length type of wiener, mind you. I’m talking full-on, foot-long fraidy cat.
I am not sure when it happened but it did. And it’s not just that I’m old and wise enough to stay away from bridges and Bigfoots (Bigfeet?) at night. Nope, I am pretty much scared of everything.
What happened to me? Whaaaaaaaa!
I hate escalators and roller coasters.
I am terrified of driving on the interstate. Mainly because of all those killer 18-wheelers. There is a reason there are ambulance chasers who specialize in “big truck” accidents, people! And also there are super-morons who let big chunky metal things fly off the back of their regularly-sized trucks. I swear I almost ran over a window unit one day on I-10. Talk about almost wetting your pants!
But it doesn’t stop there.
I didn’t get married until I was 30. I spent a lot of nights all alone sleeping soundly in my one-bedroom apartment. I was never scared. Now, when my husband is gone, I make the kids get in bed with me and I stay awake most of the night listening to all of the axe murderers trying to get into my house. Usually said axe-wielding psychopaths turn out to be the air-conditioner cutting on and off, but it’s hard to distinguish between the two at 2 a.m.
My husband wants to take a family ski trip soon and all I can picture is plunging to my death after falling off the ski lift. I would prefer to go to some remote island in the Caribbean, but we’d probably just get abducted.
Earlier this week, we watched a bit of the Stanley Cup final. One guy got hit in the head with a stick and another guy looked like he was going 90 mph toward the goalie. I am not much of a hockey fan, which is probably a good thing, because it was painful just to watch. There’s cold ice, and sticks and sharp shoes, and blood and missing teeth! Could there be a more violent sport? I kept thinking if I suddenly I ended up in one of the player’s bodies, a la Scott Bakula-style in “Quantum Leap,” I would be reduced to nothing but a bloody pool on the ice in seconds. Oh boy!
I have lots of these hypothetical “Quantum Leap” tragedy moments.
Waking up on top of a skateboard about to go down a halfpipe is one I have repeatedly. Hello, body cast! Another involves the circus, a trapeze bar and an unfortunately placed external vein, but I’ll spare you the details of that one. Just get me out of here, Ziggy!
I think the genesis of having all of these irrational fears/visions (which are sometimes filtered through the lens of an ‘80s TV show) came with having children.
I don’t know what it is, but after you have kids you are so terrified of losing them you can envision almost every possible scenario that could take them away from you in almost any environment. I think it is some innate, maternal evolutionary trait. Cavewomen were probably sizing up all of the lions, tigers and bears after their young, among other things.
I know this new fire thing is great, but you can’t play with it, young (cave)man!
Don’t run with our cave-marking stick! If you fall on it, it could puncture your eye out or kill you!
You don’t always say these things out loud (because you know how highly unlikely they are) but you often think them.
Don’t swing on that tree swing. I don’t like the looks of that limb. It could kill you if it breaks.
Don’t knock on that glass door too hard. That glass could kill you if it breaks.
No you are not riding on that thing, it could kill you if it breaks.
Do not climb up on top of that thing, it could kill you if you fall.
Do not get up under that thing, it could kill you if it falls.
You better hold on tight to that thing … You get the idea. DEAD!
Perhaps after having these fears for your children for so long, you finally start projecting them onto everyone else too, including yourself.
Or maybe I did pick up of those brain-eating amoebas, and I have just been slowly losing my mind. Literally. Oh boy!
Or maybe I’ve just been a giant weenie all along.