Monday, June 21, 2010

The Unknown Gift

There are very few things that I am actually scared of. (OK, fine, "of which I am scared.") For most people, this kind of list includes things like being shot or stolen. For me, I have been close to those things and they don't scare me in quite the same way that these do:


The Sound of Balloons Popping

Outer Space


I know you are looking at this list and thinking, "How are clowns possibly scarier than guns?" And if you don't know, I'm not sure I have an acceptable answer for you. But the one thing that everything on this list has in common is the quality of the unknown. Clearly I am freaked out by things with no explanation and no predictors. In case you need this broken down further:

Clowns = Fake happy, which leaves no way to tell how they actually feel or what they will do.

Balloons Popping = No trigger, which leaves no way to prepare. You can stand next to a balloon, act like you love it like a puppy but really be holding a needle to its face the whole time, thereby scaring the bejesus out of me.

Outer Space = Infinite possibilities, which leaves me paralyzed with fear. This is also why I HATE Horton Hears a Who.

Spiders = Ability to drop from the ceiling, which leaves no way to tell where they have gone and leads me to believe they are probably stuck in my hair, biting their way out and I will end up like everyone in Arachnophobia.

Currently I have a GIANT spider living in the side mirror of my car and it might have to stay there forever. Chicago is having an identity crisis and seems to think it needs to rain all the time instead of being summer, which has created a swamp-like atmosphere that my shoes, hair and social life would like to sucker punch. This has also created an abundance of bugs that clearly think they can just set up camp wherever they please. I mean, I know spiders were around before automobiles, but if dinosaurs came back I don't think I would just hang my laundry up outside their caves.

Anyway, every morning I get in my car to go to yoga and halfway there I look to the left and see that there is something too close to the window and then I realize that this is the GIANT spider being creepy in the middle of its GIANT web. This flash causes me to have a mini-heart attack -- the kind where you breathe in so fast that your brain blinks for a full second and when you can see again, your chest hurts up into your neck because your whole body forgot to be alive while your brain shut down.

Sometimes I try to drive fast or swerve a lot in order to shake the spider off of the car. But spiders are sticky and this doesn't seem to work. Since it's been raining, I keep thinking the spider will be washed away or at least be so discouraged at its repeatedly demolished web that it will crawl itself away to die of despair. But this also doesn't seem to work. So instead, I open the door only enough so I can slip out of the car undetected and I keep all body parts above the spider so it can't leap onto me. I shut the door carefully so I don't anger the spider, which would obviously cause it to launch itself in the direction of my hair. And then I promptly forget that it is there, thereby putting this cycle on repeat indefinitely.

My parents have long been baffled by my fear of spiders. When I was little, they refused to kill spiders for me and made me deal with them on my own. They would say, "What's going to happen when you live on your own and you have a spider? We're not going to travel to another city just to kill it for you." This plan failed. Even living by myself for several years, I have managed to find many people who will kill them for me. Otherwise I stare the spiders down or sleep on the couch to avoid them falling on my head. The only way I can kill a spider is if it is on the floor, not moving and I have a large weapon. And also only if I am wearing shoes.

While the element of the unknown is a scary concept for me, it translates well to gifts. Space is scary because of the infinite possibilities of what this means for us as people and the meaning of life. A wrapped present has less infinite possibilities, but these options do not usually make us question our life decisions. Unless someone bought you a clown.

This is why wrapping paper can be a gift in itself. For M's birthday a couple of years ago I forgot to buy wrapping paper. The only option in the back of my closet was a roll of Christmas paper that I found in the apartment when I moved in. So I unrolled it and used the blank side. I was going to decorate it and then got distracted by the internet. Which turned out to be fruitful because I found a website devoted to Chuck Norris jokes. (The ones that say things like "Beneath Chuck Norris' beard there is no chin. Just another fist.") I wrote a bunch of Chuck Norris jokes on the blank side of the wrapping paper in large font. It was M's favorite part of all of the gifts.

Out of the unknown comes an opportunity to be creative. And with wrapping paper, there is no danger of it leaping onto your hair and biting your head.

(And to my credit, Chuck Norris is probably afraid of spiders too. Because you can't roundhouse kick your own head.)

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