Category Archives: Phobia

It’s Like Someone Took Desperate Housewives and Silence of the Lambs and Shoved Them Into My Autobiograpy


With all of the crime shows that I watch and the homicide novels I read and the fact that I’ve twice been the victim of aggravated assaults, it’s pretty amazing that I do not obsess all of the time about serial killers.  The only time I am somewhat concerned about them is when I am in my car alone and I am singing with the radio at the top of my lungs.  Even then, I am torn between worrying about the guy laying in wait in the trunk of my car who may have just discovered that he has a bigger motivation to slit my throat than he thought and the guy in the car next to me at the stop light who never pondered serial killing until he heard me belting out, “Hey Soul Sister.”

But those moments are rare – maybe once a week.

No, I spend far more time worried about the aftermath of being serially killed.  This puzzles me because I will be dead and presumably will have less anxiety at that point.  Nevertheless, I am increasingly fearful of what people will think of me when I am dead.  Specifically, I am tormented by thoughts of what they will judge to be my less-than-stellar housekeeping skills.

I’m pretty sure I’ve written about this before – which only goes to show how much it bothers me.

For some reason, this affliction seems to have worsened during the summer – maybe because I have a bit too much time on my hands.  I look in a closet, and am suddenly acutely aware that there are too many clothes in it, that if anyone else should happen to see that I still own 3 bridesmaid dresses that I wore twenty years ago they will be incredibly astonished at the levels that my hoarding reached and how could they have never suspected that I was so deeply disturbed?

Yesterday, I noticed the light switch in my bathroom had accumulated about 5 years of dust on the top rim and nearly had a panic attack while I tried to finish up my business so I could get to some cleaning supplies and rectify the situation before I die.

The funny thing is that you would walk into my house and never think to yourself, “This is someone who is obsessed with cleaning her house.”  That is because I am very self-aware, and I realize that if I give in to this craziness I will lose my mind completely and become like that lady on Desperate Housewives who may or may not have become a serial killer herself (I’m not sure because I stopped watching it after the 2nd season).  So, I allow myself to freak out for about 20 minutes a day and then I collapse in exhaustion on the couch and force myself to read.

Another serial killer book.

That describes the abode of the victim in great detail.

Detail that I hope no one will ever feel the need to go into when I am serially killed.


The True Test of a Person’s Character is What She Does When No One is Watching But She Thinks They Are

I can be a considerate person when pressed, but most of the time, I just do nice things because I’m afraid I’m on a reality show.

I’m sitting here at Starbucks trying to figure out a fabulous topic for today’s post.  I had one, but it involved Dimples.  She always gets final say-so on any stories featuring her, and she put the big kibosh on this one.

So, instead, I’m staring forlornly at my iPad screen, and a man gets up from one of the tables, inadvertently hitting some kind of brochure holder full of pamphlets, sending them flying all over the floor.

“Oh, darn,” he says.  And, no, I did not censor that.  I. KNOW!  I didn’t know people still say that, either.

Then he walks to the employee door in the back of the store and disappears.

I look at the mess on the floor.  I look at the employees working behind the bar.  I look back at the mess on the floor.  Not one person seems inclined to pick it up.

I just know I’m being featured on some hidden camera show.  They’re trying to bust people who ignore pamphlets strewn all over the floor – to reveal the callous behavior of people who drink skinny, decaf mochas as they try to pass the time while their daughters who have editorial control over their blogs practice synchronized swimming.

This is my chance to show my heroic side.  I casually get up and walk over to the mess.  I collect all of the brochures, straighten them out, and put them back into the holder, placing it carefully in its spot behind the basket of creamer or sugar or whatever it is that I don’t use.

I walk back to my seat.  No one claps.  No one jumps out of the back room saying, “You’re the first person today to actually pick that up!  You wouldn’t believe how many times we’ve done this skit and people completely ignored the mess!  It just proves what a sad world we live in that no one cares about brochures scattered all over the floor.”

I know what you’re thinking.  “This lady is a saint.  Some day, they are going to write on her tombstone, ‘Here lies Mrs. Cap’n Firepants, the Mother Teresa of the 21st century.  She saved spiders and snakes and credit card advertisements.  And just because she did it out of fear of being featured on What Would You Do? with John Quinones doesn’t make her any less of role model.  May the Force be With You.'”

or, I guess it could say,

“Here lies a woman who kept picking up random things and we couldn’t raise enough money on Kickstarter to buy more than this brick to mark her grave.  Please take a Mastercard application before you leave.”

Who cares?  At least I won’t have to worry about hidden cameras when I’m dead.

I hope.


The Hypochondriac’s Guide to Using Pinterest

It takes a lot of work to sit down at your computer, open up your browser, and Google a bunch of symptoms.  Then, we are required to expend our remaining energy on focusing on the list of results so we can narrow it down to the exact fatal disease that is killing us this week. This requires a single-minded commitment that most of us do not possess.  So, we often end up finding all kinds of infirmities that don’t precisely fit our conditions, but have great potential for afflicting us in the future.  I don’t know how you deal with this plethora of plagues, but I used to save them all in bookmarks on my browser.  Just in case.  I mean, just because you don’t have Elephantiasis now doesn’t mean you won’t be swollen up by Christmas.  It’s important to be prepared.

Then it occurred to me that this is the exact type of situation for which Pinterest was invented.

Who needs boards full of cutesy craft projects,  ridiculously complicated recipes, and quippy quixotic quotes?

What I need is a board that shows me all of the different diseases I can get if I’m bitten by a tick in South America.

So, I set about creating my Pathophobic Pinterest Boards.

They include:  Parasites That Live Inside Humans, Skin Gone Wrong, Infections Caused by Sea Snails Under Your Skin, Can I Die From Inhaling Dog Farts on a Regular Basis?, What to Do If You Suspect You Have Ebola, and What Does It Mean When Your Left Eye Keeps Twitching?

Note that I added the Sea Snail pin to two boards because it is obviously a matter of Skin Gone Wrong as well as a prime example of Infections Caused by Sea Snails Under Your Skin.

You may notice that I have not actually pinned anything on to the Diseases You Get from Being Bitten By a Tick in South America board.  Google was very unhelpful on that subject.  But I’m leaving the board there.  Because I know that it’s only a matter of time.

The great thing about using Pinterest is that you are notified if someone else has pinned that exact same item on a board.  This is gratifying because then you can be comforted by the fact that you are not the only obsessive compulsive hypochondriac collecting potential diseases.

I am sure I will be adding more boards and pins soon.  In fact, I have been playing around with the idea of adding an Experimental Drugs That I Will Probably Need in the Future board because it’s really hard to keep track of those pesky trials and you never know when you’re going to need one.  The problem with adding that one is that I’m afraid the drug companies will get wind of my interest and hike up their prices and/or fabricate the results.

It’s difficult being a paranoid hypochondriac with a social network.

Pathophobic Pinterest Board

So Does This Mean I Won’t Be Covered Under the New Health Care Plan?

I was watching Roswell with my daughter the other night on Netflix (and no, I would not recommend it – not because it’s scary, because it definitely isn’t – but mostly because the guy who is supposed to be sexy just gives me the creeps, and I consider a television show a complete waste of time if I can’t have a crush on the lead actor) when it suddenly hit me that I am an alien.

It makes perfect sense when you think about it.  And now that you are reading this, you are obviously thinking about it.  But, you might have to think about it a bit longer than this to see the logic that led me to this conclusion. So, I guess I can’t say, “It makes perfect sense when you think about it.”  Because that implies an immediacy to the sense-making that probably doesn’t really happen until you get a little more information.  So, a better statement would be, “It makes perfect sense after you read the following paragraphs that give you the scientific reasoning that clearly leads to this conclusion, and no other.”

All my life I have been fearing that I would contract my mother’s hypochondria.  The last few years, I have been consulting a few different doctors for various ailments that seem to elude any kind of definitive diagnosis.  Thus, leading me to reluctantly admit that I, indeed, have developed full onset hypochondria with disturbingly realistic symptoms.  I mean, if there is something really wrong with me, wouldn’t some doctor have figured it out by now?

Not. If. I. Have. An. Alien. Anatomy.

This would totally explain those times when I am positive than I have a raging fever, and the thermometer says my temp is 96.2.  Well, for humans, that would be a bit low, but normal.  But for an alien, that could very well be dangerously close to my brain exploding!

If I even have a brain.

My alien anatomy also completely supports my supposition that I am genuinely ill with some kind of real health issue and proves that my doctors’ implications that my pain is all in my head is just an indication that they are not well-versed in the physiology of other creatures who deserve to be treated without being accused of mental health problems.

I feel a bit sorry for my daughter because this all clearly means that she has some difficult times ahead of her.  But, at least she will not have to worry about inheriting my hypochondria.

Whew.  Dodged that bullet.

Does anyone know if Dr. Who is taking new patients?  There's 11 of them - surely one has an opening in his calendar...

Does anyone know if Dr. Who is taking new patients? There’s 11 of them – surely one has an opening in his calendar…

This is Why I Don’t Get Out Much


Some people take Valium before they speak in front of thousands of people or before they board a plane.  I like to save my supply for the really anxiety-inducing occasions in my life – like going to the car wash or La Madeleine.

I get my car washed about once a year.  Notice I said, “get.”  There are other, infrequent times, that I actually wash it myself.  But every once in awhile, I feel entitled to give someone else the opportunity to try to scrape the bird poop off my roof.

My anxiety begins at the “Entrance” that is never quite clearly defined.  If I make it onto the property unscathed,  I am suddenly faced with 5 different choices of lines to head toward.  I have been known to make a line decision that gets abruptly waved off by someone who appears to be absolutely appalled that I made such a terrible decision, and how could I not know that was the line I was NOT supposed to pull into?

Then I sit in the line and look at the choices for “packages” on the billboard above, noting that the least expensive package, which was listed online, appears nowhere on the billboard.  And does that mean they don’t really offer it, or just that they don’t really advertise it, and do I really want to have this conversation with the guy who writes the code on my car, and where the heck is that guy anyway?

Everyone else has a code on their car except me.  As I pull closer to the vacuuming area, I begin to panic.  How will anyone know what I want done to my car if I DON”T HAVE A CODE ON MY CAR?

I am waved up to the vacuum and I try to focus on not running the vacuuming guy down because that would make for an embarrassing newspaper headline, while I prepare my speech about the package that I want that isn’t on the billboard and dig in my purse for my black Sharpie so I can write my own code on the window.

I can’t find the Sharpie, and they are telling me to get out of the car.

Code Guy magically appears and asks me what I want.

I mumble, “The Manager’s Special,” which was not the lowest package, but it offers an air freshener, and I figure that’s worth the extra $100.

Then I have to leave.  The arrow to the waiting area does not point me to the waiting area, so I wander around stupidly while everyone in the car line watches the poor mentally challenged lady who probably should not be driving a car in the first place.  I finally stumble into the building.

From previous experience, I recall that I must pay for my car wash at this point.  I am not distracted by the many delightful objects being offered in the car wash “boutique” because I must pay before I can pick up my car.  And even though there are at least 30 cars ahead of mine, I am compelled to get in the line of three people because it would be a disaster if my car was done before I finished my transaction.

Then I face the next challenge.  If I sit inside, I will be told when my car is finished.  Someone will yell out the make and model of my car, and I will march outside and hand over my ticket which I did not lose inside my purse this time.

But there is no room in the waiting area.  So, I must sit outside, and then I must watch like a hawk for the special secret hand gesture that will be made when they are finished drying my car.

As usual, I misinterpret the hand gesture and try to Collect my Car Prematurely.  They have finished drying my car, but now someone is supposed to inspect my car.  And I feel like an idiot once again as I stand there for another 5 minutes because it’s too late for me to go back to the waiting section.

And the $5 bill I am holding in my hand gets all sweaty, especially as I realize that there are 3 people in charge of this last phase of the cleansing of my car, and I only have one $5 bill with which to tip them.

I finally thrust my money upon a surprised young woman who walks past me (it’s possible she wasn’t even an employee), assure the Inspector that my car is perfect, and get into my car to drive off out the Entrance as fast as I can get away from this traumatizing experience.

And then I realize there is no. air freshener. in my car.

My anxiety-inducing questions at La Madeleine are exactly the same – which line do I stand in? (oh, that’s for baked goods only?)  what can I order? (you have 3 different menus and you don’t carry the item I’ve been ordering for 6 months any more?) how do I know when my food is done? (well, sometimes we give it to you while you are in line, and sometimes we bring it to your table) who do I tip? and WHY DOES MY CAR STILL SMELL LIKE WET DOG?

To be fair, I don’t really think anyone can answer that last question.


Is it Racist to Call Your Plant “Afro”?

I’m going to be perfectly honest here and tell you that plants scare me.  Between watching some sci-fi show where rutabagas screamed if you pulled them out of the ground and wincing through 15 minutes of The Little Shop of Horrors, I am absolutely convinced that plants are just biding their time until they take over the earth.  This was difficult when I became a vegetarian for about 5 years, and the only reason I didn’t give up eating plants as well as animals was because the only other option available in my limited imagination was to become a vampire.  And Twilight hadn’t come out yet, so that wasn’t really the fashion at the time.

So when my daughter came home from a trip to the nursery (plants not infants) with my husband, I was fine with not knowing what purchases had been made.  Dimples, though, loves to share.

“Guess what I got!”

“Ladybugs?” I asked, hopefully.  To me, those are the only benign living things available at the nursery.

“Nope.  A Venus flytrap!”

Yay.  Please don’t put it anywhere near the vicinity of my bedroom.

Since I wasn’t very encouraging when Dimples made the initial announcement, mostly because I was convinced that the Dusty Miller I killed in my classroom last week had ordered a hit on me and that her plant was a “plant”, I decided to try again at dinner time.

“So, what are you going to name your plant?”  Thinking that giving it a name might de-creepify it somehow.  Although that didn’t really help with Dusty Miller.

Dimples is not big on putting a lot of effort into names.  Her blue fish is named, “Sky,” for example.  And her stuffed dog has never even had a name.  She’s had it for 7 years.

“Afro,” she declared immediately.

Great.  So now plants and African-Americans will hate me.

“Uh, why?”  That seemed a better response than, “Are you the only person in the world who sees naming a plant as an opportunity to be politically incorrect?”

“You know.  Venus.  Aphrodite.  Aphro.”

“Oh,” my husband and I both breathed audible sighs of relief.

So, it seems I’m safe.  Even safer now that she moved Afro outside after trying to feed it hamburger meat and attracting a bunch of ants to its strangely disinterested (because it only wants human blood) trappy little mouths.

Until she goes outside to check on it, and yells for the whole neighborhood to hear, “Mom, I think my Afro caught some bugs!”


More Evidence That I Probably Should Just Live in a Bubble

I finally solved the mystery of what’s using up all of the RAM in my brain, rendering it completely useless for ordinary tasks like processing words and creating pointless bulleted lists of what I desperately need from the grocery store.

Someone has apparently messed with my system preferences and over-upgraded my anti-virus program resulting in my brain spending more time on defending me from highly contagious infections than reminding me to perform simple tasks – such as putting a memory stick into my camera before I take 200 pictures and realize that none have been saved.

I was thinking that getting older was the culprit, but a rare moment of self-awareness the other day revealed the true reason I can’t remember a darn thing anymore.

I was supervising recess, and a student came up, rubbed his palm on my arm, and asked me if he could go to the bathroom.

“Sure,” I said automatically.

What I was thinking was, “I need to douse my left arm in hand-sanitizer as soon as I get back to my classroom.”

About 2 minutes later, a parent walked up to me, introduced himself, and shook my hand.

“Hello,” I said automatically.

Thinking, of course, “And I will use my right hand that man just shook to spread the hand-sanitizer all over my left arm.”

And then someone asked me a question.

And a small bit of panic began to rise because I now had two things to remember and one thing to respond to all at the same time and apparently two is my max amount for multi-tasking and my brain completely freezes if required to perform three functions at the same exact time.

I don’t even remember the question.  It was about that moment that a random window opened in my brain, informing me that this is exactly why I am a basket case while simultaneously debating whether the person who asked me the question got close enough that I would now need to sanitize my entire body just to be on the safe side.

Later that day, I informed my husband of my great revelation.

“I can’t remember anything because I’m too busy trying to remember which parts of my body need to be disinfected every time someone comes near me.  I’m seriously creating little mental maps in my brain with place-markers on every spot that has been touched since the last time I expunged all of the germs.”

Despite the fact that I make astounding statements like this every single day, my husband seemed a bit concerned by the gravity of the situation.

“That’s weird,” he said.  “You seriously need to stop watching those reruns of Monk.”

“Oh God,” I thought.  “I never thought of that.  CAN YOU IMAGINE ALL OF THE BACTERIA LIVING ON OUR REMOTE CONTROL?!!!”

Happy Valentine’s Day, You Wrinkled, Pimply Old Lady. Eat Some Glue.

So, you probably thought my most recent post was the last time you would have to hear about fortune cookies.  And now that you’ve read the first sentence of this post, you are rightly assuming that you were wrong.  I know, being right about being wrong is not very encouraging.

I got another fortune cookie today.

Here in the States, we are celebrating another Hallmark Holiday – Valentine’s Day.  When I arrived at school this morning, I checked my mailbox in the faculty lounge, and found a cute little gift box filled with candy.  And a fortune cookie.

As soon as I got to my classroom, I quickly tore open the cookie, eagerly anticipating the antidote to the threatening golf fortune I got from Goldfinger last week.

This is what it said:

photo-3 copy

“Well, that’s great!” I thought.  “Some day, I’m going to be a partner in a law firm!” (This clearly proves what an optimist I am, as a pessimist – or a realist, since I’m 44 years old, and have never gone to law school – might think, “Some day, I am going to be framed for killing someone who writes provocatively puzzling fortune cookie prognostications, and I will need to hire a law firm.)

But then I found the business card in the box.

photo-1 copy

So, basically, even if I Live to Die Another Day, I’m pretty sure I’m being told that I will need to get my face dermabraised so I will be fit to be seen in public.   (At least I don’t have diamonds embedded in my face like Zao.)

Forget gun control.  I want fortune cookie control.  You wielders of fortunes have turned the perfectly harmless sport of hunting for the secret to my future into an automated industry churning out emotionally charged weapons disguised as fortune cookies.

But I’m not entirely ungrateful.  Ever the optimist, I found, along with my fortune cookies, some extremely delectable pieces of chocolate.  And a very tasty looking packet of Micro Dermabrasion Paste.

Yum, yum.

Yum, yum.

This Fortune that Scared The Living Daylights out of Me is For Your Eyes Only Because You Only Live Twice and I am Probably Going to Die Another Day

I know you think I’m a bit paranoid, but between my Mac jeering at me and my latest experience at a Chinese restaurant, I am beginning to have second thoughts about leaving my bed every morning.  Actually, third thoughts.  I already had been having second thoughts due to the whole I’m-depressed-what-the-heck-do-I-need-to-get-out-of-bed-for-anyway depression thing.

So, my husband, the ever-suffering Cap’n Firepants, and I went to eat Chinese food a couple of nights ago.  Now, everyone knows that the only reason you go to  a Chinese restaurant is to find out what is going to happen next in your life according to the prescient fortune cookie placed before you at the end of the meal.  (I don’t ascribe to either the “in bed” or the “on the toilet” factions who obviously do not give their fortunes the respect they deserve.)

As soon as I took my cookie off the plate, I knew something was wrong.  Through the plastic wrapper, I could see the fortune clearly sticking halfway out of the cookie, and I’m pretty sure that is never a good sign.  When I broke apart the wrapping, and carefully tugged on the fortune, it easily came out.  That is because the half that I was seeing was the only part of the fortune I was going to get.  The rest of my fortune was not inside my cookie.  It was not anywhere. I ONLY GOT HALF A FORTUNE.

Technically, it looks like it's probably about three quarters of the fortune, but three quarters is kind of long to type, so I took some poetic license and I am saying it's a half.

Technically, it looks like it’s probably about three quarters of the fortune, but three quarters is kind of long to type, so I took some poetic license and I am saying it’s a half.

“Do you want mine?” Cap’n Firepants generously offered.

“Are you crazy?  I can’t take your fortune!  That’s your fortune!  It’s already foretold.  We can’t switch fortunes now!  Fate is not that foolish!  Fate knows who got which fortune!”

I may have said the above in a slightly high-pitched, somewhat crazed sounding voice that betrayed my confusion and rising panic over the apocalyptic piece of paper I was holding in my hand.

I ignored the wide eyes and raised eyebrows of Cap’n Firepants, and pondered two very important questions:  ONE)  What was my fortune supposed to say?  and Deuce) What horrible events resulted in this torn fortune?

I find the last part of the fortune pretty ominous, “…getting out after you…”  and I’m quite frankly more than a little concerned about the “real test in life” for which I am obviously not going to be prepared BECAUSE SOMEONE. RIPPED. MY FORTUNE. IN HALF.  (I have noted this new phenomenon of placing periods in the middle of one’s sentence to emphasize the importance of what you are saying, and have decided that I am going to freely employ it from now on, as pretty much everything I say is important.)

I am also disturbed about what caused the fortune to be ripped in the first place.  I imagine two factory workers arguing over whether or not this fortune should be sent forth into the world to its destined receiver, and they struggle over it.  In the last seconds before the cookie passes by on the conveyor belt, one worker rips a part off and  tucks the torn end into the cookie, staving the other, desperate worker off until the plastic wrapping phase is complete, and the cookie is dumped into a giant pile of other cookies where there is no hope of ever finding it again.  And then the workers both get eaten by a giant shark.  It’s like some kind of James Bond scene.

And. I don’t. even. like. James Bond movies.

And I am supposed to decipher this half-fortune, so I can somehow pass my “life test” and keep “out of rough things” and avoid people getting out after me and somehow save the world.

This is exactly why I don’t like to get out of bed.  There is way too much pressure.

So here's the other side of my fortune in case any of you out there want to try to crack the code.  I am pretty sure that those symbols do not mean orange.  I'm thinking it's "Screw you" even though Google Translate seems to side with  "Orange".  They are probably in on the plot, too.

So here’s the other side of my fortune in case any of you out there want to try to crack the code. I am pretty sure that those symbols do not mean orange. I’m thinking it says “Screw you” even though Google Translate seems to side with “Orange”. They are probably in on the plot, too.

Can I Make My Hair Stylist My Primary Physician? If So, Will Coloring My Hair Double My Co-Pay?

“Have you had your thyroid checked lately?”

“No, why?”

“Well, you just seem to be losing more hair than usual.”

This slightly disturbing dialogue occurred between my hair stylist’s sister and me as she was washing my hair.  I don’t think she realized that she was pouring gasoline on a hypochondriac’s fire.

It didn’t help when my hair stylist, himself, said, “Oh yes, we had a client who had thyroid problems.  But instead of losing her hair, she lost her eyebrows.”

I think you can predict what I did when I went home.

It says a lot about my husband’s understanding of me when he said nothing after walking in on me in the bathroom with my nose pressed to the mirror, trying to look for evidence of any missing eyebrow hair.

The truth is, I have been thinking of getting my thyroid checked.  It was checked 3 years ago, but my sister, Crash, had already planted the idea in my head a couple of weeks ago that I should make another go at it, and I am a firm believer that one medical test is never enough.  Especially when it comes out negative.  I’m not paranoid (much), but it seems to me that there are a lot things that can go wrong between the draining of my blood in one office building and the examination of it in some anonymous warehouse under a microscope.  Just check out the “Non-Fat Yogurt” episode of Seinfeld, and you’ll be paranoid, moderately suspicious too.

What I’m trying to figure out, though, is how I can get my doctor to just order the tests without me having to go in and explain my rationale for needing them.  Because I already paid my hair stylist $150.  I don’t see why I need to add a $20 co-pay to the mix.

“Hello?  Yes, I wanted to see if Dr. Jimmy can order some thyroid tests for me?  No, I don’t need to meet with him first.  My hair stylist’s sister already diagnosed me.  Plus, I did the internet checklist.  Really, the blood tests are just a formality.  If Dr. Jimmy wants, we can skip those, too, and he can just start giving me the drugs.”

Yes, I’m sure that would work.

Hey, barbers used to be surgeons.  It's not that credit: rhinman via photopin cc

Hey, barbers used to be surgeons. It’s not that far-fetched…
photo credit: rhinman via photopin cc

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