Lots of people would pay 50 dollars to have just a shred of the adrenalin that regularly courses through my bloodstream, rendering me dizzy, breathless, and fraught with the sensation that the world is a weird dream and I am seeing it all as if through a dirty shard of winter ice plucked from my driveway.
Why do I have such sensations? Well, because I am quite possibly an idiot. It may also be because I have a vivid imagination, which, if not occupied 24/7 with challenging and diversionary tactics, starts to eat itself. I try to think that nervous exhaustion will make me a better writer, and possibly give me colorful dreams in which bunnies give me candy. Unfortunately, it usually tends to limit my behavior, and it had started to limit it to such a degree that I suddenly found driving on the highway terribly frightening. The speed! The trucks! Without warning, my vision would get starry, my heart would race, and my hands would slip on the wheel.
The first time this happened, on the way to birthday party, I asked my seven-year-old to talk me in. "Talk me home, baby!" I shouted. "Talk about poop or farts if you wish, but keep talking, for God's sake! Mommy doesn't feel so good."
"Poop! Poop! In my soup!" he replied, helpfully.
Why am I so fearful? Is it because of the large tiger that I transport around? Maybe I should return the basket of spitting adders that usually ride in the passenger seat. They have become ornery, after all.
I decided I needed to arrest this nonsense in its tracks, so I recently signed up for an online course called The Linden Method. It cost 87 dollars. Yes, I am paying a lot of money I don't have, just to eliminate the unsettling sensations that others pay for when they eagerly decide to bungee jump, leap out of planes, see a horror movie, or ride a rollercoaster. (I hate rollercoasters. Horrible things.) Couldn't I bottle the stuff?
I like The Linden Method, so far. I'll report more on it in future entries. Today, I decided I would try one of his tactics, called "diversion," during my MRI at White Plains Hospital. I had the MRI due to a strange little lump below my shoulderblade, which is most likely nothing whatsoever but needed to be "checked out."
The MRI is like being stuck in a tube while someone tries to create alternative music with a lawn mower nearby. The noise was tremendous and pounding: "Boom-boom-boom-boom! Mee-me-me-me-me! Wangh-wangh-wangh-wangh!" It goes on for numerous three-minute sessions and then you hear the tiny voice of the technician in your ear, under the giant headphones. "Everything OK?"
"Okay, three more minutes."
Then they take you out and stick a needle in your arm that injects something into your bloodstream and repeat the whole process again. And you can't move during the whole thing, not a bit! They told me that men don't do very well with the experience. Men cry and beat on the insides of the tube and are pulled out soaked in sweat.
"I can handle this," I said stoutly.
When they put me in I decided I needed a diversion. I recited the multiplication table in my head.
"4 x 4 is 16! 4 x 5 is 20! 4 x 6 is 24!" I got a little stuck late in the nines, and by the time I figured it out I realized I wasn't scared at all. I had forgotten to be scared. I was worried about the nines! I got so bored with the dumb multiplication table that I almost fell asleep. It was warm in that tube. No one was bothering me. My cell phone wouldn't ring here. I did get a little worried that the magnetic business involved would pull the fillings out of my teeth, but that was a passing agitation.
Of course, driving home I got a little nervous again, so when I started feeling jittery behind the wheel I impetuously tossed a cup of ice water all over myself. I had bought it at the hospital when they told me I needed to hydrate after the MRI. Linden had suggested that applying a cold cloth to one's neck was helpful, so I thought: "Why not take this theory to the next level?"
The ice cubes slipped down inside my shirt and fell all over my lap; some fell on the floor and crunched under the clutch. My shirt was soaked, but not from sweaty terrors. I felt like a dope but I didn't care. I glanced over to the car stopped next to me at the red light. Due to the tinted windows, I couldn't tell if the driver was looking at me with a puzzled expression. When the light changed I fired that little Jetta out of the gate.
"So long, suckas!" I said.