What I’m Afraid Of

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What I’m afraid of is that I’ll forget how to tie my shoes. Remember how hard it was to learn that first time back in kindergarten? And I wasn’t the first kid to figure it out, either. Sure, I was smart, I knew how much 2 + 2 was before anybody — had that down cold. But the shoelace thing tormented me. I kept tying them in knots. This held my shoes on OK, but I could never get them off. Naptime came and I couldn’t get comfortable, had to nap wearing my shoes. Also, the lace ends hung so long that I’d trip over them and then little Kelly saw that I didn’t know how to tie my shoes right and pointed it out to EVERYONE so that even other kids who didn’t have it together that well, or who couldn’t even tell time yet, were making fun of me about my shoe-tying. I worked at it, I really struggled, and now I’ve been doing it correctly for quite a while, and I know I shouldn’t be worried, but the truth is I hardly ever tie my shoelaces anymore. I just leave them tied and slip the shoes off, and use a shoehorn to slip them back on.

So what if I just forget how to tie them? What would I do? Ask some kindergartner to show me how? Or would I have to go into a shoe store, buy a new pair, and have the salesman tie them and leave them that way forever?

I’m also afraid that I’ll forget how to drive. This almost happens sometimes, already. I go on vacation and get a rental car, and it turns out to be something new, something I’ve never driven before. I mean, it’s just a car, but it’s not my car and it takes a while to figure it out. Where do I stick the key? Where are the wipers and the lights and how does the radio work? Recently, I’ve noticed there are more and more gizmos that I have no idea how to work: GPS, keyless entry, refrigerated glove box, electronic syncing with your Blackberry and iPod, manual automatic speed shifter. At some point, I’m going to get in one of those cars and I will not be able to drive it. I just won’t be able to figure out how to start it and make it go forward or in reverse. What if the same thing happens to my own car? What if I wake up one day and I’ve got too much on my mind and I simply can’t remember how to make the car go?

Then there’s my fear of chocolate. I could eat ten pounds of the stuff in one sitting if somebody didn’t stop me. It used to be on Halloween the other kids would bring home these pillowcases full of candy bars and they’d sit around and trade them and maybe nibble this one or that one and throw a few out or feed some to the dog. Not me. I’d sit there into the depths of the night eating one candy bar after another until they were all gone. Would I be sick? Of course, but I thought that’s what Halloween was all about: the day to eat candy until you were so sick it didn’t matter any more. I got completely crazy, so wired I couldn’t sleep, didn’t need to sleep, stayed up all night throwing up and watching horror movies on TV and then in the morning I’d go out to my friends’ houses and eat whatever of their candy they didn’t want. Sometimes I’d even go door-to-door and see if the grownups had any stashes that they wanted to get rid of. Grownups were wimps. They’d eat a few pieces and get sick and then want to throw away the rest, but I’d ring their doorbells before they did that. Come home with bagfuls of chocolate even the day after Halloween. Then I’d start pigging out all over again.

But most terrifying of all is my computer because it knows way too much about me. I’ve saved my most personal information on that hard drive, and really have no idea what the computer does with it. I think it’s all hidden away, but what if my computer is sharing my stuff with all the other computers in the neighborhood? What if they have some kind of Computers Anonymous group where they all get together and rag on their owners and tell wicked stories about us and share all our secrets? Why not? What’s to stop them? I’ve never had any indication that my computer is my friend. I think it hates me, thinks I’m way beneath it, can’t believe it’s stuck with me and not some Pulitzer prize-winning historian or savvy software engineer. How did it wind up in Cleveland with a cartoon editor? This was not what it was imagining when it was being created in the Chinese factory where it was born. That’s another thing: The computer isn’t even an American. Not that I have anything inherently against immigrants, but still, can I really trust it with all my secrets? What if it’s part of some kind of foreign plot to take over America by finding out all the secrets of cartoon editors? What’ll I do then? What if it just erases everything I’ve ever learned and thought and written on it? How will I remember everything that I’ve ever done and created and made fun of if my computer takes a crash-dive on me?

How will I remember how to tie my shoes? And how to drive? And which of the neighbors will give me more pillowcases full of free chocolate?

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