Things That Scare Me: Alarm Clocks

In cynical celebration of our favorite death celebrating season, we’re going all out on fear based topics this month. Every day, Ben will present one thing that scares him, ranging from the anxious and annoying to the deadly and doomed. This is… Things That Scare Me.

Groundhog Day | YouTube

There’s one noise, one piercing sound, that I fear above all the rest. I fear it more than the sickening sound of that neighborly owl tearing into a fresh rodent, a meal that always seems to take place in my backyard. I fear it more than the booming sound of an unexpected explosion, prank fireworks or overloaded transformer boxes. I fear it more than the sound of a child crying, a helpless wail. I fear that sound more than any of that crap combined. That sound? My godforsaken, piece of shit alarm clock.

I understand that the objective function of an alarm clock is to wake someone up. I get it. It’s inherently startling. I COMPREHEND THE CONCEPT, GUYS. But every single time my asshole alarm decides to unleash the fury of a thousand decibels of unfiltered siren into my ear, I FREAK the fuck out. I can’t help it! My alarm, no matter what time I fall asleep, no matter what day of the week, no matter what time it’s set to go off, will always go all *WARNING YOU’RE IN A SINKING SUBMARINE* during my deepest, most peaceful moment of REM sleep. EVERY. SINGLE. NIGHT.

Well, okay, that used to be true at least. See, my fear of the alarm (or maybe just my fear of waking up in general. Jobs, am I right?) has created an embedded state of anxiety that occurs in the morning hours of bedrest. So now instead of getting blasted awake by a nuclear meltdown warning, I don’t spend a single second of my 4am-6am sleeping hours in my happy dream place. Nope, now I treat myself to the flopping, frantic turning that accompanies vast, insurmountable fear, inevitably leading to my constant checking of time, an every-fifteen-minute occurrence involving squinted, light-blinded eyes and frustrated sighs. IT’S A REALLY HEALTHY HABIT, YOU GUYS. NO PROBLEMS FROM THAT AT ALL. NOPE. MY WIFE DEFINITELY DOESN’T HATE ME.

I’m so scared of alarm clocks, that I’m now not even being woken up by alarm clocks, but rather by the anxiety of the alarm clock itself. THAT’S TRUE FEAR, YO. And before you get all judgmental (way, way too late, huh?), please know that I know that it’s pathetic. It’s not like spiders or getting buried underground, or any other massively felt fear. And it’s certainly not lethal by any stretch of the imagination. BUT IT IS LOUD AND IT SCARES ME. Or, I guess, it’s silent in the inertia of potential sound energy and still scares me? Or, I guess, it’s it all in my head and still scares me? I don’t know. Now I’m frustrated thinking about my frustration! Whatever. Fuck the flow of time and fuck mornings. Maybe I’m just scared of those.

Things That Scare Me: Everything Underground

In cynical celebration of our favorite death celebrating season, we’re going all out on fear based topics this month. Every day, Ben will present one thing that scares him, ranging from the anxious and annoying to the deadly and doomed. This is… Things That Scare Me.

Batman Begins | YouTube
Batman Begins | YouTube

I’ve got a confession to make. It’s a hard one too. I can’t believe I’m about to type this, but… I could never be Batman. I know, I know. I’m just as hurt as you. Who would have thought a married dude with lower middle class ambitions, thick-rimmed glasses, the hand-eye coordination of a one-eyed moose, and a standing height roughly that of an upright Pomeranian couldn’t be Batman? Well I thought it. Because it’s the truth. Because I couldn’t be Batman. Because dude, I’m fucking SCARED of caves.

And it’s not just caves. It’s everything underground. Sewers, tunnels, shallow graves, it’s all terrifying if it’s below the surface of the earth. I want nothing to do with any of it. I’m sure there’s a deep-seeded psychological reasoning for this fear, perhaps a claustrophobic experience in the womb, but if that’s true, I don’t want to know. I want to keep everything surface level at all times, because the deeper you go, both into the earth and into your mind, the scarier shit gets.

Look, I don’t need to spend an afternoon hugging stalagmites to appreciate nature. I know a lot of people who disagree with that, so if you’re a geologist or a spelunker, that’s whatever, you’re cool. You’re an insane, crazy person, but you’re still cool. Because you can still be Batman. You can post up and brood in the dark, moist corners of grand caverns, desolate spots reserved for bats, bugs, and mole people, and not panic. You can squeeze into tight crevices, exploring new rock formations and mineral deposits. You can do you! But don’t expect me to follow with a bucket of lubricant for when you get stuck. No way. Fuck that.

You know the easiest way of avoiding ever being buried alive, a slow death by suffocation? BY NOT FUCKING GOING UNDERGROUND! Sure, there are freak natural occurrences you can’t avoid, sudden rock slides or earthquakes, or sentient dirt people looking to gangbang. That happens. But death by premature burial, especially self-inflicted, is one of the EASIEST deaths to avoid. Never go underground for any reason ever. Nope, not even for buried gold. Nope, not even to rescue a princess a golem. Nope, not even to be Batman. Case closed.

Things That Scare Me: Epidemic Disease

In cynical celebration of our favorite death celebrating season, we’re going all out on fear based topics this month. Every day, Ben will present one thing that scares him, ranging from the anxious and annoying to the deadly and doomed. This is… Things That Scare Me.

Contagion | YouTube
Contagion | YouTube

There’s this mobile game called Plague Inc. that I’ve been addicted to lately. Its basic premise is simple: you create a disease and try to spread it across the globe, eradicating humanity as quickly as possible. The game’s customization ability is one of its biggest strengths; you can genetically enhance your made-to-order death bringer, buffing it against antibiotics and extreme temperatures, worsening symptoms to include nasty treats like total organ failure and hemorrhagic shock, tweaking your little plague’s distribution methods until it’s capable of running wild.

And if it sounds morbid, that’s because it is. Again, you’re designing a disease to ERADICATE HUMAN EXISTENCE. For fun. Forget moon bases and shark lasers, that’s some real mad scientist shit. And as much as I hate to admit it, it’s easy to find immense perverse pleasure in sending the human race to an early extinction. It’s cathartic. Because deep down inside, we’re all scared that that’s how we’re going to die, wiped away by an invisible killer, a virus or bacteria evolved to lethal perfection, our lives gone before we even knew what was there.

Now I’m not an epidemiologist by any stretch of the imagination, but I’ve seen the movie Contagion, so I’m pretty confident in my ability to say that a mass epidemic is exactly how the world is going to end. Oh that’s a fictitious movie you say? Well I say there’s a lot of truth in fiction. Because for every imaginary crusade against humanity we’ve created, from The Walking Dead’s TS-19 to Edgar Allen Poe’s Red Death, there’s an equally scary, real disease waiting to pop out of our nightmares and into our bloodstreams. Spanish Flu. The Black Plague. Ebola. And it’s not going to matter how disaster ready your apocalypse bunker is; we’re all doomed. Because people are above all two things: stupid and gross. It’s just true. Have you seen a men’s public bathroom? Have you spent time out there? In the world? IT’S FULL OF IDIOTS! It doesn’t matter how smart our scientists are, people will always be the biggest inhibitors to their own survival. That’s why the Darwin Awards exist.

I’ll never forget the experience of watching Contagion for the first time, an impulse decision to catch an afternoon matinee while I was living in uptown Minneapolis. As I sat there, watching a fictional account of a fictional disease rip through a fictional block on the very real street I actually lived on, I felt sick. I couldn’t stop looking around me, anxiously shifting in my seat. The idea of disease had taken root. I heard every exhale from every theater patron. I smelt every last dying skin cell in the air. I felt every sticky germ, every microbe that had previously sat in my seat. And I panicked. I went home. I showered for far too long, scrubbing away at an invisible, fictional, non-present disease that I could feel worming its way through my skin. Because I was scared. Because I was consumed by it. Because that movie might not have been, but disease is, very real.

Things That Scare Me: Public Bathrooms

In cynical celebration of our favorite death celebrating season, we’re going all out on fear based topics this month. Every day, Ben will present one thing that scares him, ranging from the anxious and annoying to the deadly and doomed. This is… Things That Scare Me.

Zombieland | YouTube

Public bathrooms… Just, so, so much yuck. I don’t even know where to start. I refuse to use public bathrooms unless it’s a situation of ACTUAL emergency. I’m talking Threat to National Security level of bowel concern. If I can hold it, I will. Because dude, fuck going in there.

Public toilets are literal totems to human filth, manifested physical pockets of humanity’s deepest, darkest, digested despairs. They’re vial, gutted structures of shit seepage, slimy cesspits holding solidified remains of excretory mistakes. To sit on a public toilet is to risk total molecular collapse by the hand of a super fungus, a degenerate disease grown in the bubbling gasses of captured flatulence, unidentifiable discharge, and puddles of boiling salted piss.

Or they are in men’s rooms are at the very least. As an unpaid child laborer, I was once offered the privilege of mopping a women’s restroom. It was like traveling to the fucking Shire. Gone were the hellish holes of molded black goop, encrusted sludge pits formed from rusted pipe sneezes, opened sores leaking the wafting rise of forgotten summer eggs. Instead, I found a tranquil, respectable place; despair replaced by the hint of a warm sea breeze and bleach, a healthy supply of toilet paper, and, for some inexplicable reason, an actual COUCH. A FUCKING COUCH! WHAT DO YOU NEED A COUCH IN A BATHROOM FOR?

I’m just jealous. Men’s rooms could never sustain a couch. Given eight unsupervised minutes, every clean surface is a men’s room WILL become covered in a fine layer of ass fur, as some Johnny Pubic-hair will inevitably stroll through, bush bundle in hand, decorating the stained linoleum with wayward strands of curled pubes, planted hairy seedlings hoping to blossom into fully grown pubic trees someday. 9 out of 10 urinals in men’s rooms look like they were installed under the watchful eye of a barber’s chair. Even if your super power is the ability to ignore the embedded smell of decades-long subfloor defecation build-up, it’s best not to inhale in a men’s room, least you find yourself hacking hair like a secondhand cat. I’m not scared of Hell, but I am scared of breathing that air.

I made the mistake of walking into a men’s room while wearing flip flops one time, intent on talking a quick piss. While trying my best to not look at, touch, smell, or otherwise interact with anyone or anything in the room, I noticed a vaguely wet feeling at my feet. I assumed it was just a little urinal splash-back, and took an adjustment step away, only to step DEEP into a warm puddle. Yup, warm. A quick examination of the room told me a pipe had backed up and the main drain was spitting back out a steady stream of human piss, leaving me to enjoy the sole-warming feeling of having a human urine collage flood around my mostly bare foot. AND THAT’S WHY YOU ALWAYS HOLD YOUR PISS NO MATTER WHAT.

Things That Scare Me: Spiders

In cynical celebration of our favorite death celebrating season, we’re going all out on fear based topics this month. Every day, Ben will present one thing that scares him, ranging from the anxious and annoying to the deadly and doomed. This is… Things That Scare Me.

 Eight Legged Freaks | YouTube
Eight Legged Freaks | YouTube

The wife (long story!) and I were on a road trip a few weeks back, trudging alongside the listless fields of Iowan grain, when during one point of our monotonous journey I felt a brief flutter against my exposed leg. I thought little of it at first, my mind hardly lucid as it was, drifting in and out of consciousness in the passenger window sun. But then I felt it again. And again. And again. And again. Eight little flutters on my leg in all. Most curious. So I forced open my eyes, pulled myself from the blissful hugs of Nap Town, and looked down. And that’s when I screamed and we nearly died.

Yes, screamed. Because when I looked down, a goddamned eight legged, fist-sized, MONSTROSITY was clinging to my calf, a fucking hell-spawn with a fur covered abdomen, fang tipped chelicerae twitching back and forth, and row of marbled black eyes constructed from loose remnants of damned human souls.

So yeah, I screamed. I screamed loud, and I screamed high, my shriek splintering the windshield into fractured cul-de-sacs of visibility. My wife tried her best to maintain control, but my piercing wail was too much, and we swerved into a ditch. I jumped from the car in hysteria, she came scrambling after, wondering, begging me to tell her what happened. “A spider,” I said, “A fucking spider.” That’s when we burned the car. We’ve been carpooling ever since.

Well or maybe we just pulled over and got out of the car covered in goose bumps, shivering from the heebie jeebies. I can’t really remember because spider incidents are grotesquely traumatic and I’ve blocked out that part of my memory. I do know that we eventually found the little poisonous hairball, having leapt from my leg in the pandemonium, curled up on a wire under the glove box, where it was eventually extracted with a four hundred or so foot stick.

And that’s the thing about spiders: they can be anywhere at any time, lurking, waiting in the shadows. They’re all around us, those deviant hairy arachnids, spinning silver webs to encase their prey. They exist to feed, to drain the lifeblood from other living things. And as a living thing, the only thing stopping them from wrapping you up in sticky thread and sucking you dry? Size. That’s all we have on them. For now. Eventually they’re going to grow and we’re all going die.

Fuck spiders.

Things That Scare Me: The Telephone

In cynical celebration of our favorite death celebrating season, we’re going all out on fear based topics this month. Every day, Ben will present one thing that scares him, ranging from the anxious and annoying to the deadly and doomed. This is… Things That Scare Me.

Sorry Wrong Number | YouTube

Using the telephone is fucking terrifying and if you disagree with me you’re either an old person or a telemarketer. Fact. Now grandma, before you get all “dag-nabbed millenials with their texting and snappy pics” on me, hear me out. I’ve used the phone. I grew up with the phone. I’ve put coins in a payphone before. I remember having to take messages from strangers when my mom wasn’t home. I remember calling friend’s houses to ask if they could talk. I remember the sheer terror of calling a crush only to be met by the voice of their dad. I’m of the last generation that experienced the pre-texting/personal cell phone era of communication. So I know firsthand: using the telephone is fucking scary!

Right off, I’ll concede phones aren’t all bad. It’s fine to schedule time to chat to distant friends and relatives. That makes sense. Whatever. But unexpected calls? Unexpected calls are some horrifying bullshit, piercing sirens through your encapsulated moments of tranquil peace.

You get unexpected phone calls for two reasons:
1.) Someone wants to sell you something.
2.) Everything and everyone you love is dead.

That’s it! That’s the entire list. I refuse to listen to rebuttals. So when that sickening ringing starts, I know I’ll either have to awkwardly deal with a sales pitch, deflecting in-ear corporate beggars away from my personal information, or get to feel the stomach dropping churn of loss. THAT’S GREAT. Fuck telephones.

And making calls? FORGET about it. You don’t know who’s going to answer the phone or what mood they’re rocking. Hell, they probably assume you’re calling to tell them all their childhood pets are dead, answering your call through choked back sobbing heaves. Nothing good comes from making unannounced phone calls. There’s a 95% chance the person on the other end doesn’t want to be bothered by a phone call right now, and a 5% chance the person on the other end is crazy person who does want to be bothered by a phone call right now. I don’t know which is worse! You’re either ruining a day, or stuck talking about weather for 45 minutes. Regardless, you’re screwed.

In April, my office relocated to a new a building. I just found out LAST WEEK that my phone has been set to divert calls directly to voicemail the ENTIRE time I’ve been in the new building. And you know what’s happened? Nothing. Nothing has happened. People email me when they have questions and respond to them on my own time and it all works out okay. I never have to jump at the sudden sound of a phone. I never have to feel the looming dread of answering a call. I never have to deal with awkwardly making mouth sounds when I’m unprepared. Life without the telephone has been a life a little less scary.

Welcome To October, I Guess

Did you feel that cold sting this morning, that sudden blast of chill scraping against your cheek? The black hand of fall is officially here, driven forth in a sleigh named October. Great. Look, I don’t care if you’re a fall person, that’s dope, whatever, enjoy your cinnamon tinted cider and display worthy Speckled Swan Gourds, but even you, the biggest fanatical fall loving, sweater seasoning rocking, disciple of painted leaves, can cop to fall’s dirty secret: it’s a harbinger of death.

I’m not just talking total life death either, the collapse of the living green we call nature. I’m talking depicted death, the pinnacle of bloodletting movie season. I’m talking costumed death, the macabre celebrations of masked men parading as monsters. I’m talking commercial death, the condescending crapshoot of politico propamercials and forced holiday consumerism. Winter might be the bleakest of deathly moments, but Black Friday is its flirty cousin. And October marks the start of all of that bullshit.

In cynical celebration of our favorite death celebrating season, we’re going all out on fear based topics this month. Call it Halloween homage if you will, but recognize that we’re just trying to get by, sticking our heads deep down in the pile of decaying leaves blowing up against your front door, hiding away from the truth: warm weather is gone, everything is dying, winter is knocking, we’re all fucking doomed. Stay tuned.