Our Rationing Program

11 Jul

I’m flying to Boston tomorrow with my son. This presents me with a myriad of problems, such as how I will keep a 15-year-old boy fed over the course of two and a half days when said 15-year-old eats only meat and his mother likes to get her veggies and whole grain. Once we land, we’re planning on taking public transportation. I figure we’re going for the total college experience, so he should ride a few buses and do a subway or two. (Boston has a subway, right?) Figuring out what to take and where to connect ought to be lots of fun with a perimenopausal woman, a surly young man and two over-packed suitcases.

My biggest problem with going to Boston isn’t really going to Boston. No, my problem is this: what do I do if I have to go while I’m on my way to Boston? I hate airplane bathrooms. It’s not just that they are small. It’s not just that they smell. Small isn’t much of a problem for me. And smell? Well, I’ve got a dog that doesn’t know the difference between grass and carpet.

I can deal with small; I can deal with smell. I cannot deal with my fear that, when I flush the toilet, I will be sucked out of the airplane. There. I said it. I’m afraid I’ll be jettisoned into the wild blue yonder. I am completely aware that this is not only irrational, but also impossible. Still, every time I use the restroom mid-flight, I mentally gauge how wide the toilet is versus my shoulders.

Everyone in my family laughed at me when I admitted my fear. I did not laugh nearly as loud and hard when they admitted their fears to me, but I’m far more gracious than I ever get credit for. More mature, too.

My husband is inordinately afraid of knives. I wouldn’t call his fear irrational because knives can do some pretty serious damage. My mother dropped one blade-down on her foot once. (You flinched, didn’t you?) Knives won’t, however, spontaneously fling themselves across the room and attack you without cause. This is an exaggeration of my husband’s fear, of course, but only a slight one. He’s pretty happy with our new dishwasher because the silverware basket requires knives to be placed blade down. He rests easier because now unloading the dishwasher is a little bit safer for our son. I always put the knives blade-down in the old dishwasher, but in the new one you have to, so that makes it better according to my husband.

My son is afraid of spiders. I find this “bugs and spiders are scary and ooky” thing really annoying. I know this makes me less of a feminist, but I especially have no patience with it in girls. Wait! Brainstorm! I just figured out that my attitude toward spider-frightened girls is very feminist. Girls are strong! Girls can do anything! Of course, you can deal with bugs and spiders! Get on with it, Missy! Grab your Exterminator Barbie and let’s go! Boys, on the other hand, need to be taught to embrace their fears, their vulnerability. Damn! Don’t tell my son I just gave him an out on capturing spiders. He’s actually pretty cute when he thinks he has to convince me to get rid of them.

Lots of people are afraid of spiders, so that doesn’t really count as irrational. My son did have an irrational fear when we first moved to Naperville. He was convinced that a murderer was going to swing into his room at night and kill him in his bed.

“How will he swing into your room, son?” I asked. “There are no trees near your window.”

“He’ll use a grappling hook,” my son said, in equal doses of fear and sincerity. Ah, the seeds we sowed when we introduced our son to Batman.

Every night, fear of the Grappling Hook Murderer brought our son to our bed. Every night I assured our son that no one was going to swing into his room via a grappling hook. Every night, the scene replayed. I almost asked him once, “Why on earth would anyone go to all the trouble of getting a grappling hook and a rope and driving out to Naperville to kill a nine-year-old boy? Where do you even get a grappling hook?” Wisely, I think, I did not ask. But I did have what I thought was a stroke of genius. Instead of driving past the police station on the way to the library, I stopped in one day. I marched my little brood up to the front desk and said, “My son is afraid that someone will swing into his room using a grappling hook and will then murder him.”

The officer behind the desk looked down at my son and very calmly said, “Oh, I wouldn’t worry about that. We’ve never had anyone killed by someone using a grappling hook. No, son, you’re more likely to be hurt by someone you live with.”

Our son stopped coming into our room after that.

My daughter doesn’t really understand what an irrational fear is at this point. To her, every fear she has is rational. I’ve noticed she’s a little too dramatic when she stubs a toe or gets a bump on her head, but she seems to know what requires a hospital trip and what doesn’t. She’s afraid of her brother, too, but I would be if I were her. He has taken sibling relations beyond rivalry to full-out war. Even buying packs of gum requires negotiation. We are making incremental progress. He now says, “I don’t care” to everything she says rather than “No one cares!”

There is one fear my daughter will own up to that gives me hope she’ll be as neurotic as the rest of her family. “I used to be afraid of Santa until I found out it’s you,” she told me. “Why is that?” I asked. “Because the Santa in the mall is creepy,” she said.

I’ve seen that Santa. He is creepy. Nothing irrational about that fear.

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6 Responses to “Our Rationing Program”

  1. thegmstevens July 11, 2011 at 11:14 am #

    You are a funny woman. Love your writing.

    • jmlindy422 July 11, 2011 at 12:20 pm #

      Thanks! Likewise. I haven’t read any Steven King in a long time, but your review got me thinking maybe I should.

  2. Emily Schuler July 11, 2011 at 7:04 pm #

    I laughed so hard at all of this! I’m getting on a plane tomorrow, too, remember? Thanks, man. Now I have to bring a ruler.

    • jmlindy422 July 11, 2011 at 8:15 pm #

      Maybe you can find one of those tape measures that rolls up into a little plastic case. Those a spiffy! Have a great trip.

  3. acleansurface July 11, 2011 at 9:28 pm #

    “I don’t care” is definitely more rational than “no one cares” but I still wouldn’t want anyone to say it to me! One of my sons went through a phase like that, but I think he is past it now.
    Good luck with your meat to veggie ratio on the trip.

    • jmlindy422 July 11, 2011 at 9:43 pm #

      Thanks! I’m looking forward to reporting on the trip…if that’s what I feel like writing about that day!

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