Saturday, July 24, 2010

How a Ride for Five-Year-Olds Defeated Me Twice

When I was three, my parents took me to Disneyland right after Christmas, along with my aunt, uncle, and four-year-old cousin. I had recently received a baby brother for my birthday, and by Christmas he was doing fascinating things like not crawling yet. The camcorder was also new that year, resulting in hours of footage like this:

My cousin had a new baby sister of his own, and he was exactly as thrilled about the arrangement as I was. Our grandparents kept both babies while the rest of us went to California, though, so Chad and I spent most of the trip shouting “no babies!” where most kids would say “Look! Mickey!”

Most of my memories from this trip consist of the ways I thought I might die. Flying Dumbos? I will fall in the water and drown. Monstro the Whale? I will be attacked in the darkness, then fall in the water and drown. Hall of Presidents? Abraham Lincoln will kill me with his creaky, double-jointed hands, then find some water where I will drown. Splash Mountain? We did not go on this ride because my parents thought it would be too scary. I thought it sounded great.

Of all the attractions bent on my destruction, though, the most horrifying was Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. By the time I had my last Wild Ride-induced nightmare around the 8th grade, my memories of it had boiled down to darkness, multicolored fire, and unrelenting full-body terror. Naturally, when I went back to Disneyland in college, I had to try it again.

My friends and I lined up behind six dozen parents with toddlers, listening to jaunty music while a giant Tigger the Tiger bounced by. I smiled at all the happy children and reflected that my memory must have been faulty—Disneyland wasn’t scary! It’s the Happiest Place on Earth!

Do you know what
happens on that ride? You climb aboard a little car that speeds through Toad Hall, crashing through doors and fireplaces before it leaves through a wall and starts terrorizing the town. After almost running into buildings, pedestrians, and the river (you will drown!), you are tried and sentenced to prison. You promptly break out through the prison wall and ride through darkness until a light approaches—and then a whistle sounds—and then a train runs you over and you die. After that, you go to hell. It’s full of red light and fire and stalagmites and stalactites and laughing demons and the screams of children oh wait that’s you and WHY MR. DISNEY WHY???

If your childhood lacked this particular trauma but you want the souvenir psychological scars, try watching this video with the lights off and multiplying it by a billion.

In the end I escaped with my life, but my dignity is still lying in one of those tunnels.

Sunday, July 18, 2010


All right, a moment of full disclosure for those of you who don’t know me in real life*:

I wear glasses. I don’t draw them because it’s a pain, and my pictures have enough issues as it is.


Actually, I’m very fond of my glasses. In addition to an air of intelligence, they give me something to do with my hands at parties (“Time to clean my glasses!”), an excuse for pretending not to see people in the grocery store (“Sorry, I took off my glasses!”), and an endearingly compulsive nervous tic (“I’m just pushing up the bridge of my nose because I forgot that my glasses are in my hand!”).

Contact lenses offer none of these advantages, but I did wear them for two or three months in 12th grade. My grandma came to visit, and she decided that I should pull my hair back, wear shirts designed for girls, and stop hiding my face with glasses. I didn’t know about the third one until a week later when my mom told me she had scheduled an eye appointment. “Grandma says you want to get contacts,” she said.

Thanks to my wily grandma, I got to spend two hours sitting at a mirror while the doctor tried to teach me how to put in my new contacts. He eventually called his wife to say he would be late for dinner because I couldn’t make my eyes stop closing when foreign objects approached them.

The thing is, when my eyes get irritated, everything else on my face joins in. It’s like they send out an invitation, and then my nose says, “Cool, a party! What can I bring?” and my eyes say, “Fluids! Check out the great ones we’ve got so far.” And then my nose is all, “I have some I’ve been saving,” and my mouth goes, “Don’t forget about me!”

Finally, I got both contacts in and was allowed to go home with two boxes of fancy little lens bottles and the prospect of going through this process again every morning.

So I set my alarm an hour early and prepared to conquer nearsightedness. I took my stance in front of the mirror, unscrewed my little case, and stabbed fingers at my face for twenty minutes until one eye submitted. By the time my hour was up, I had been reduced to shouting at my eyelids: “OPEN UP! I’m just trying to insert little pieces of plastic that could potentially trap bacteria or weld to my corneas. WHAT’S YOUR PROBLEM?” I spent the next eight weeks arriving at school like this:

Between expiration dates, carelessness, and fits of rage, I ran out of lenses before the school year ended. Grandma never said another word about my glasses.

* I can’t get over how cool it is that people read this who don’t actually know me. Thank you very, very much. Also, thank you to the people who do know me—I’m pleased that the blackmail is working.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Now You All Probably Think I'm a Sociopath or Something

You know how some people really excel at empathy? These are the people who always know what to write in sympathy cards, or maybe they bought the sympathy cards for everyone to sign. They have a kind word, a heartfelt note, or a sincere hug when you’re feeling down. They delight in your joys and grieve your losses. These are lovely people.

I am not one of them.

It’s not that I don’t feel for other people. I just have no idea what to do about it.

I can easily express a wide variety of emotions, including desire for ice cream, anticipation of ice cream, exultation while eating ice cream, and desolation at being out of ice cream. When it comes to the emotions of social interaction, though, I am far less capable. My attempts to express sympathy usually come out like this:

This particular mystical power has always escaped me. I recently came across a page in one of my binders from high school entitled “Compassion Notes.” It represented my sincere effort to demonstrate that I cared about people. Entries included “Ask Linda about her cats” and “Wendy [a friend prone to sports injuries] is limping—say something.”

These conversations did not unfold as I had expected.

So I abandoned Compassion Notes after about 36 hours and went back to my standard method of offering sweets and trying to be entertaining until everyone’s problems went away.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Superpowers, Part III

If any of you thought you had figured out my super alter-ego’s weaknesses, you didn’t count on the power that makes me wise to your plots:

#3. Super Paranoia

My dad worked in law enforcement for the federal government for a couple of decades. His security-consciousness extends to keeping the extra keys to the gun safe in a different gun safe, and I learned the ancient ways at his knee.

  • I keep all doggy doors bolted shut, as well as all cat doors, because some burglars are very small.
  • When I get into my car at night, I always check under the reusable shopping bag I keep in the back seat, just in case any of the very small burglars are also carjackers.
  • When running errands, I do not leave mail in my car right-side up because then the bad guys know my address, know that I’m not there, and also know that I’m super important because Publisher’s Clearing House has once-in-a-lifetime offers waiting just for me.

Here is a step-by-step guide to how my power of Super Paranoia keeps me alert to the dangers lurking in everyday life:

1. Go to the gym and change into stylish, high-tech gym clothes.

2. Place gym bag in locker #80 like you do every single time.

3. Get distracted by something shiny on the floor that turns out to be a gum wrapper.

4. Carefully fasten lock onto locker #82.

5. Watch “International House Hunters” while you use the elliptical trainer. Pretend that you are not fascinated by this show and do not go to the gym at this time specifically to watch it. Talk out loud to the people on TV, even though you are listening to it through headphones—the person on the machine next to you surely enjoys your banter.

6. Return to the locker room, bleary-eyed from a whole 30 minutes of exercise and visions of the half-gallon of ice cream in your freezer.

7. Recognize and unlock your lock.

8. Stare, horrorstruck, into the empty locker. Your bag is missing!

9. Open and close the locker in disbelief. Notice the number. Realize, “This is not my locker. OH NO! THIS IS WHERE THE STALKER REATTACHED MY LOCK AFTER STEALING MY CLOTHES AS TROPHIES!”

10. Check locker #80 in case the stalker left any clues behind. Find your gym bag, all the contents still folded that special way you invented so that you could tell if anyone had touched them.

11. Go home, confident that if any danger had existed, it could not have hoped to escape your keen detection.

NOTE: If you think that you, too, may possess the power of Super Paranoia, it’s easy to test on any national holiday featuring fireworks. I personally spent about six hours of July the 4th being extremely alert to the ever-present possibility of home invasion.