Some people call it neurosis. I call it common sense. They say "worry." I say "prepared." It's all a matter of semantics. But sometimes I'm forced to succumb to peer pressure and allow people to call it what it actually is: irrational fear.
Irrational fear is worrying about embryos in your omelet. It's worrying whether your heart will stop in the middle of the night. It's worrying that as soon as you turn off the light, an ax murderer is going to stealthfully slip in your window.
Perhaps my own biggest irrational fear deals with the realm of the supernatural. Why is it so freaky? Blame it on horror movies, urban legends, second-grade ghost stories told while gathered in a friend's living room in a makeshift tent with smores dripping down your chin. Don't ever think to blame it on your own paranoia.
I, unfortunately, had to face my numero uno irrational fear last week, when I was forced (forced, I tell you) to copyedit the text for our last issue—Haunted Albuquerque. Gave me the willies. There I was, in broad daylight, jumping at the sound of my own pen. Anyone who walked up behind me was subject to a Big Mama-slapping like no other.
It didn't help when I had to read about the Alibi's own ghost. I swear I could feel an unknown presence lurking behind me; but most of the time it just turned out to be another Alibi editor, or a friendly intern.
The problem is that, even when you're smitten with irrational fear, your damn curiosity still shines through. I found myself creeping into coworkers' offices, eyes big, shoulders tense, and asking them what they'd found in their research. I, of course, had been saved the horror of having to do my own research. The publishers didn't want to foot the psychiatric bill.
It was horrible—a week's worth of nightmares about otherworldly beings, copyediting haunted text and waiting for a ghost to morph out of the shower wall. Finally, it's over. Except now I've been forced to edit our creepy Worry Issue. Will the trauma never end?
Alibi News Editor
My Latent Fear of Yellow Chicken Gravy
I am deathly afraid of yellow chicken gravy. You know, the penetratingly neon yellow liquid sludge that smells like old celery and has the consistency of reheated jello. The same stuff that cafeterias, old ladies and prisons make out of chicken bouillon cubes, flour and hot water, and then serve on instant mashed potatoes.
It all began on a cold, dark night in 1992. I was working as a server at an old-fashioned family restaurant that specialized in chicken, mostly the fried kind, but other ways as well if you knew somebody in the kitchen. I was forced to wear a uniform straight out of "Little House on the Prairie;" a long flowered dress, a ruffled white apron, and a big bow on my head--my therapist and I believe that this is where the trauma may have begun.
I was serving a rather large family party on that fateful night, all of whom ordered copious amounts of chicken, right down to the four gizzard baskets. I was never a big fan of gravy before, but as I watched them dip their fried-chicken unmentionable parts into steaming vats of yellow gel, I felt horror, disgust and a strange sense of forboding.
I was asked to keep the gravy vats refilled, and so as I was hauling the third or fourth tureen of gravy to their table I was blindsided by several screaming 5-year-olds. It happened in slow-motion: I saw my legs go out from under me and fly up into the air. My grip on the gravy bowl loosened, then disappeared. The bowl flew from my hands like a football, showering everyone in a 6-foot radius with burning gravy globules. Everyone was screaming! It was chaos! My very life flashed before my eyes as I was hit in the face with a backwash stream of yellow chicken magma. Then everything went dark.
When I finally came to, I was surrounded by flowered skirts and hushed whispers of "how bad is it?" "Is she really burnt?" "Should we call 911?"
I survived the attack—despite my therapist's insistence, I will always believe the gravy attacked me—but my dress, head bow and human dignity died that day. And my P.T.G.D. (Post-Traumatic Gravy Disorder) now manifests itself by causing me to have panic attacks at diners, my mashed potatoes have been naked ever since and I can't look my grandmother in the eye.
But there is hope. I have slowly, over many years, managed to integrate other types of gravy into my diet: brown, white, various sauces. But I will never truly forget the horror of that day. If any of you are out there suffering like me, we should start a support group. We could call ourselves the "Gravy Avengers," and have cool jackets made. Or maybe I could just stick to therapy.
Attack of the Cherry Tomatoes
I can't simply pop cherry tomatoes into my mouth and eat them, I must bite them in half to see if there is a worm inside, and inevitably it makes a mess. I don't think it's possible for a worm to be inside without a blemish on the outside showing where the worm would have gone in—but I insist on checking, because what if ... and the texture would be that same juicy squirt and you wouldn't know if it's worm guts or tomato guts.
Once, when I was a wee little girl, I yawned and a moth flew into my mouth. I don't actually remember this happening; my mother told me about it a couple years ago, which helps to explain my childhood memories of refusing to open my mouth any time I saw one of the furry beasts. It didn't matter how far away it was—it could be lurking at a distance of 20 feet, on the other side of the room, in a corner, basking in incandescent light—I wasn't unpursing my lips.
Ever since the incident, I've been terrified of moths. They're freakish and fuzzy and blind—which means they don't have a clue where they're going and can crash into you at any unforeseen moment. It's the art of surprise—little guerilla bastards.
Alibi Managing Editor/News Editor
I'm scared of overly confident children. Always have been, for as long as I can remember, even when I was a child myself. As a kid, I was a bashful, stuttery, neurotic mess. I rarely spoke in complete sentences and had trouble making eye contact with members of my own family, let alone complete strangers. Isn't that the way it's supposed to be? There are far too many little 8-year-old smarty pants who jump at the chance to discuss with adults four times their age the influence of radical Egyptian intellectual Sayyid Qutb on the global Islamic terrorist movement—adults, I might add, who've never even heard of Sayyid Qutb. These smug brats don't just annoy me. They make me want to run screaming in terror. Give me a ghoulish, blood-sucking vampire any day of the week.
Steven Robert Allen
Alibi Editor/Arts & Lit Editor
As a frail, not so athletic and relatively short individual, I have developed quite a few unreasonable fears over my 20-year life span. A few of my fave's include: interaction with other human beings, bees, snakes, the dark, driving a car too fast, too slow or really any speed, physical contact, etc. I've been fortunate enough to have a group of friends that have a similar number of strange and often embarrassing fears. Padded toilet seats, rain, taking their shirts off; you name it, my friends are terrified of it. Having pals like mine has not decreased the amount of anxiety I experience on any given day. It has, however, made me feel slightly more normal and, in the end, that's really all we can hope for. That, and the belief that people will one day make a car that isn't so damn scary to drive.
Spiders from Mars
Yeah, so I'm afraid of David Bowie.
I'm onto you, pretty boy! You don't have me fooled like all the rest. Just 'cause you can sing and dance and made it big by wearing pink eye shadow doesn't keep me from the truth. I know what you really are. You are the monster under my bed. Stalking me in my dreams, juggling your little crystal ball, modeling your codpiece. This Bowiephobia poses a huge predicament. He could be anywhere at any time. Watching late-night music videos could at any moment turn me into a wimp, curled into the fetal position, sniveling with terror.
I'd rather get a visit from the Bogeyman than the Goblin King while I slumber. Heck, I'll even take on Freddie if he'll keep Bowie away. I've never been afraid of the dark or of ghosts or of any horror film, really, but if it stars David Bowie in any way, I'm out. Gone. Even his voice haunts me, the damn harpy. You are creepy, Mr. Bowie. I'm scared, you win, take the baby and your goblin minions and be gone."
Alibi Calendars Editor
Have you ever been driving at night and, while you were at a stoplight, you looked over at the person in the car next to you? And when you did, was there a creepy guy holding a shotgun ready to shoot you in the face for looking at him funny? That's never happened to me because when I'm at a stoplight I always keep looking straight-ahead. Sometimes I have an urge to look, but then I picture myself getting shot in the face and quickly lose interest.
Alibi Art Director