I bow to no one in my capacity to be a world-class worrywart, a fretter par excellence, a neurotic’s neurotic.
I need recall no further back than the sleepless nights, the obsessive visits to Nate Silver 538 (the polls really don’t get updated every three-and-a-half minutes), my fixation on what Chris Matthews knew and when he knew it, that plagued me 24/7 in the run up to this year’s election.
No, here I bow to no man (woman, or child).
Other than the political scene (and, of course, global warming: I do live on reclaimed ocean), I’ll occasionally indulge in a bit o’ fret about my own health, wealth and happiness. But most of my worrying is displaced, one, two or three degrees of separation from my own sweet personal moi. Which I’ve always figured is pretty similar to the worry profile of most folks: we worry about who and what we care about.
Then I read a review on WSJ Online of a new book, Encyclopedia Paranoica: The Indispensible Guide to Everyone and Everything Your Should Be Afraid Of or Worried About, by Henry Beard and Christopher Cerf. A.k.a.:
The Definitive Compendium of Things You Absolutely, Positively Must Not Eat, Drink, Wear, Take, Grow, Make, Buy, Use, Do, Permit, Believe, or Let Yourself Be Exposed to, Including an Awful Lot of Toxic, Lethal, Horrible Stuff That You Thought Was Safe, Good, or Healthy; All Sorts of Really Bad People Who Are Out to Get, Cheat, Steal from, or Otherwise Take Advantage of You; and a Whole Host of Existential Threats and Looming Dooms That Make Global Warming, Giant Meteors, and Planetary Pandemics Look Like a Walk in the Park (with Its High Risk of Skin Cancer, Broken Bones, Bee Stings, Allergic Seizures, Animal Attacks, Criminal Assaults, and Lightning Strikes)
All I needed to do was see the review – forget about reading the entire book (which, just sayin’, would make a Yankee Swap par excellence) – to realize that, when it comes to worrying about stuff, I’m nearly Forrest Gumpian in my carefree, insouciant approach to life.
Sure, the book covers some a the big stuff that occasional splats like a June bug on my worry screen – stuff like the aforementioned bug bear of global warming. (Remember when we used to laugh at Kevin Costner’s Waterworld?)
But there’s also plenty about existential threats that I haven’t bothered to worry about. And I don’t intend to start now. Those “assorted pieces of Damoclean cutlery” lurking around every corner, under every sink, in every cupboard.
Mega-tsunamis, for one thing. Which, if I thought about, might not be a bad way to go, if you didn’t get much advanced warning. A moment or two of terror, then swept away and/or crushed. Makes me not mind living by the ocean. (And, yes, I googled, and Atlantic tsunamis can occur.) But I’m more apt to worry about rising tides when the North Pole goes south than I am about a rogue wave.
There are also super-volcanoes to fear. But that would be another pretty quick hit. And I like the idea of some future archeologist tapping away at all that volcanic cement uncovering perfectly preserved cans of Progresso soup and all those expired laptops squirreled away in our bedroom.
As for nuclear warfare, my only fear is that I’m not at Ground Zero when the big one goes off. I used to say I’d like to have one of those propeller beanies with “aim here” written on its crown.
There are, of course, more pedestrian things to worry about. And none of them have been high on my worry list.
For one thing, I’m not germaphobic.
Sure, I have a tiny bottle of Purell in my pocketbook, but mostly I use regular old soap-soap to wash my hands. I don’t close the lid before flushing because maybe, just maybe, those germs that fly up and land on my toothbrush won’t kill me but will make me stronger. And I really don’t care that my long hot showers “distribute the scary Mycobacterium avium.” Yawn.
I don’t feel the need to sterilize my dishwasher. Sterilize my washing machine. Or sterilize pre-packaged salad greens which, I trust, are pre-washed well enough. And while I’ll give an apple a quick, cursory rinse – with germy tap water – I don’t use any special fruit scrub.
I don’t bleach after cutting the fat off of a chicken breast, or throw in the sponge after I use it once – even if it’s to run over the counter where, no doubt, some of the chicken yuck I’ve just been cutting has spread.
I do exercise some precautions. Now that I’ve read that public restroom hand-dryers are regular bacteri-o-matics, I’ll just give my hands a shakedown then wipe ‘em dry on my jeans.
Meanwhile, if granite countertops emit radon, well, I’ll have to assume that my 1980’s Formica emits something toxic, too. So what’s the alternative? Organically growing my own oak tree and hewing my own countertops?
And ask me if I care if there’s arsenic brown rice. One second thought, don’t. Because I don’t.
Sounds like it’s time to throw away those worry beads. If I can find them. Last time I saw them, they were wrapped around a pose-able Bullwinkle figurine. (The beads matched his blue-green gloves.)
Viva joie de vive!