If you live in New York City, hitting a bodega for a quick food item in between large scale grocery runs is–at least for me–nearly a daily occurrence. This morning found me making an early morning dash to our nearest mini-mart to pick up a quart of milk to better our coffees with my dears. Even as I am gifted with the very diseased mind that allows me to publish this prose, I still don’t always pay close attention to the items I grab. And, unlike so many who do, when I do pay attention it isn’t just in search of expiration dates–spoiled milk isn’t likely to kill me after all. Seven, maybe eight, times out of ten–when I’m of clear mind–I’ll grab the second, third, or even fourth item behind the ones prominently displayed up front. If you were going to randomly off someone, just to see if you could–or at the very least make them sick, again just to see if you could–tampering with food items the masses purchases so blindly, with very little regard as to their origins, seems like a totally legitimate mechanism to me. That I think this, and admit to thinking it, often leaves me wondering if any readers out there have come to believe that all the things I write about are actually things that I go out and do. A natural byproduct of this blog has been the introduction of several new additions to my brain’s catalog of “Things to Watch Out For.” And high on that list is: Someone out there will eventually come to believe that a mind this demented couldn’t simultaneously be on the up and up with his own life. And if I were to write about, say, how I’ve come to believe that it is possible some sick soul might replace the soap in a Starbuck’s soap dispenser with his month’s long collection of spank aftermath, just to delight in the idea that some suit paying six bucks for a frozen bevi will wash his hands in millions of mini versions of himself–well, will someone out there decide that simply because I’ve thought it, I’ve done it. It would only be natural for this person to then decide to seek me out, take care of the problem he has decided is me, and become some sort of underground hero to all of about ten people, which would be enough, because we are living in an age where it doesn’t require many friends to feel famous. And in the end, I’m lying in a shallow grave–breathing my last breaths buried alive since he determined that was a just punishment–because I thought it’d be a good idea to share about believing it was possible at some point that someone would replace the charms in me not-so-Lucky Charms with something less holy than marshmallows.
Thirty-five hours in a car, driving from Texas to New York, gives any man a lot of time to think. Even armed with my very favorite conversation companion and the book on tape she so smartly purchased for the trip, my mind betrayed me, working overtime behind the wheel, at every rest stop, in the bathrooms of the various fast food joints we allowed ourselves to dine at, and most definitely in the curtained darkness of the two-star hotel bedrooms where we attempted to recharge. The usual themes were along for the ride: serial killers, random abductions, backwoods gas-station rapes, long, long thought given to what/who might be in every windowless van or truck we passed, or more likely passed us on our way, and, of course, the nearly constant thought – I keep it there intentionally – that one of my car’s four tires will soon burst, sending our vehicle into a scientifically proven impossibility of in-the-air three-sixties followed by an immediate crushing by the five or so eighteen-wheelers plowing towards us on their southbound route to deliver kiddie-porn into the eager hands of Arkansas pedophiles. I never stop thinking about this possibility because I operate under a rule I invented that my buddy once termed, “Peter Rosch’s Law of Surprises.” The gist being: bad things only happen when you aren’t expecting them. Think about it – ever get a ticket when you were expecting to get a ticket? Anyone ever die the day you spent thinking about them passing on? If so, maybe my Law of Surprises is just that – mine and only my law.
My wife thinks I don’t like her driving – I let her drive for about three hours of that thirty-five, and I suppose that is all the evidence some would need to validate her suspicions. In reality, I don’t trust my car. I’m not sure I trust any car. We put an awful lot of faith in our vehicles as they hurl down our nation’s asphalt-bloodline. I once saw a man in Brooklyn, go gently through an intersection, hit a pothole, only to have his driver side airbag detonate on the spot and into his coffee-cup holding hand and face. He was doing about five or ten miles per hour, and fortunately didn’t have any of the aforementioned pedo-wheelers bearing down on him from in front or behind. It was an older vehicle, but so is mine. Sometimes I’ll just stare at the embossed word “airbag” on my steering column or above my glove box, utterly convinced that it is going to pop at any moment – leaving me blinded, paralyzed, at least long enough to careen into the trees of some forgotten woods near the interstate – making it all the easier for the eyes of the hills to come down and turn me and the Mrs. into torture-play-things. Other times, I question the inner workings of the steering column itself. Has one ever just snapped? Isn’t it possible? I’m not going to bother googling to find out, because even if there is no record of it, I’d say it is at least possible. And the brakes? Sure, I’ve had them inspected recently, but how do I know the guy who looked at them didn’t see they were defective, and decide to let me drive on them anyway just because he was in a rush to get home that night and see the premiere episode of Dexter – maybe even subconsciously he’d made a decision to experiment with causing deaths on his own. Lastly, only in that it will be the last thing I mention out of the hundreds of things I think could happen with any car – new or used – from time to time, I’ll envision what might happen if the random bounce of a still-lit cigarette might ignite under my vehicle. BOOM! Done and done. But at the very least, we won’t have to move any furniture later that night in front of our La Quinta bedroom door to prevent some thrill-kill from happening. It’s a long ride from Texas to New York, it’s an even longer ride if your a passenger in my head.
I put an abnormal amount of energy into my daily effort to not go looking into mirrors, public and my own. I don’t fear Candyman, and Western folklore legend Bloody Mary has never paid a visit. To be honest, I just don’t like looking at my face any more than is necessary. There are times however where a quick glance into a mirror is helpful, if not essential, to moving forward with my own life. So I condone public mirror peek-a-boos for the following: New clothing purchases, the observation of a haircut’s progress, post sloppy meal tooth clean-ups, and self-delivered spit polishes before meeting clients, friends, or present and future guy or gal pals. Since even just these four things make a personal ban on public mirrors impossible, I do recommend that like me you occasionally act as if you know there is someone watching. A person either directly behind that mirror, or checking out your activities via the camera they’ve placed on the other side of it. I’m not a total loon – I don’t think every mirror provides sick jollies to deviants, nor do I believe I am on The Truman Show. But, just in case, to keep the powers that be as they relate to public mirror invasions of privacy on their toes, from time to time I’ll flag the bird or give a hardy salute or hello straight into the looking-glasses of the world. Maybe you’ve even seen me do it, by which I mean to suggest you are one of the many men or women behind the world’s mirrors.
It is difficult to pinpoint the exact cause behind my public bathroom/sinister abduction correlation. I surmise it is probably a combination of the following: A true tale or two about people disappearing from rest stops. My mother’s own branding of public facilities as the most foul of places and her insistence that my brother and I hold it until we got home no matter how distant home may have been. The hidden and often nearly invisible backside location of many anybody-can-use toilets at gas stations and the like.
Bottom line? When my wife has to use the can she’s got about three minutes before I count out a fourth. If she doesn’t make it back by then, terror grips my being and I start to consider all my options: Asking another woman to check on her, going in myself, whistling our special whistle from outside in the hopes that I’ll hear her do the same, or simply giving in to the notion that she has done been took.
It is at this point, when a fifth or sixth minute comes to pass, that my mind begins fabricating how telling her parents, friends, and possibly the police about her public bathroom abduction will play out later that day. Even as I am aware that typically female facilities move much slower, I am helpless to stop the crazy.
You might be asking, “What if she has to go number two?” My wife doesn’t go number two, at least not in the same mind that created the public bathroom anti-abduction three minute rule. Duh.