The other day I screamed out of the parking lot and onto the main road to grab some sushi for lunch, and was stopped dead in my tracks by flashing lights and fence arms coming down.
It was a damn train.
I cursed my bad luck and looked around for sympathy, as if anyone else nearby might meet my eye, shaking their head and shrugging in over-mimed despair, "You poor darling!"
Instead, I saw a dude jump out of a two-tone, beige Ford Explorer, leg it as fast as he could to the tracks and set something on the rails. And I kid you not, he actually clasped his hands together in cartoonish anticipation and snickering delightedly as he bounced back to his vehicle to watch the proverbial fireworks. He might as well have had one of those big loop-de-loop villain mustaches.
I gripped the steering wheel tight and a panicky thought arose. "He's put a penny on the tracks. Or a quarter. But he's done it. It's there, he wants it to get smashed, but instead THE ENTIRE TRAIN IS GOING TO FLIP OFF THE TRACKS AND HURTLE THROUGH THE AIR AND SMASH ME AND THEN EXPLODE. And I am definitely going to die from this. This is a full-death kind of scenario."
Instead of wondering why I was experiencing a fear I should've overcome in elementary school, I just sat there trying to figure out which part of the train would fly off the tracks and smush my Kevin the Red Pickup Truck first -- until the train actually arrived and smooshed whatever it was the man had put on the tracks.
And then the train was gone and the lights stopped flashing. As I wasn't crushed flat and engulfed in flames, I drove to Niwot Market and got my sushi.
"There are folds in yer brain that get deeper or something, and as you get older, you get scared of stuff you didn't used to be afraid of," explained one of my scientist friends.
This is terrible news, isn't it?
I mean, on the one hand, maybe as I get older I'll be less likely to do shit that'll get me killed -- like base-jumping, punching grizzlies, or drinking Eli's birthday shot at Conor O'Neill's.
But on the other hand, stuff I really shouldn't be inordinately frightened of in the first place, such as swimming in the ocean, flying coach, or climbing onto the roof of a house -- I'm just going to be terrified.
Lots of folks I know don't feel quite as comfy in the ocean as they did when they were kids, but I was especially setup for terror, because my dad was a scuba instructor obsessed with "Shark Week."
My kid brother and I would watch great whites doing terrible things: eating whales, dislocating walrus' faces, clubbing baby harp seals...We were forced to ingest one horrifying image after another like "A Clockwork Orange."
Then it was all, "Hey kids, let's get in there!" And the next day, I would sit on the edge of the boat, getting ready to tumble in backwards. I don't think my dad ever understood how terrifying that was.
And now, these new wrinkles in my brain are doing their thing and who knows?
In 15 years I'll be so scared of water, I'll have stopped showering altogether.
I'd like to apologize in advance to the staff at my old ladies' home.