Tuesday, December 15, 2015
Sometimes I wish that newspaper columns would come with a soundtrack. If they did, this week's would DEFINITELY be "We Are The Champions." If you own it, go ahead and press play right now - I'll wait.
I'm just happy to be here. It's a been a harrowing lunch hour, but with inner strength and sheer determination, I have survived. Today I stared death in its ugly little face and somehow perservered to write another day. It only took 44 years, but today, I am finally a man.
Until now, I really didn't know how to gauge whether or not a lunch hour was especially interesting. I finally have that litmus test. It's official: If someone asks you if you need medical attention, it's safe to assume that you're having an interesting lunch hour.
Sixty minutes isn't a lot of time to unwind and decompress, but I like to make the most of every lunch hour. Today's plan was simple: Swing into a drive-thru, pick up some unhealthy comfort food, and make like the wind for my house. If all goes well, this would give me approximately 22 minutes of couch dwelling time to eat, relax, watch a sitcom, and scritch a cat or two before returning to work. It did NOT go well.
I turned into the parking lot of my favorite fast food eatery, pulled up to the ordering station, rolled down my window... and out of nowhere, a honeybee flew in, landed on my chest, and stared up at me with clear murderous intent. Forget Freddie or Jason or Leatherface; in MY world, there's nothing more terrifying than bees.
It's 100% irrational, this I realize. Well, in my case it's 80% irrational, since I'm allergic to bees. When I was a kid, I stepped on a bumblebee nest and was stung three times. Next thing I knew, I was gasping for air and being rushed to the emergency room. But I also used to swell with hives anytime I went near honey, and now I can eat it with no problem. So there's a good chance that I've entirely outgrown my allergy -- but I'm in no hurry to test that theory. Whenever the news tells a heartbreaking story about the mass die-offs of bee populations, I'm the one standing up cheering.
It doesn't matter how many years I've got under my belt. It doesn't matter how mature I may or may not be. Bees will always scare the bee-jeepers out of me. Having a crippling fear is embarassing enough, but the way I act when there's a bee around is truly indescribable. All it takes is one brief fly-by and suddenly I'm prancing around like a ninny with my heart racing and sweat pouring. Usually I have enough self-awareness to not look like TOO much of an idiot in public -- but that all flies out the window a minute I see a bee. I guess that's when the real me comes out, and the real me is an 8-year-old girl.
So how does an 8-year-old girl handle things when a bee flies into the car and lands on her(his) chest? Not well. The response, as it turns out, is to freeze completely and have an internal breakdown. All I know is that I couldn't move and a noise started emitting from my mouth that I was in no way, shape, or form responsible for.
I'm not even sure if I can explain it. If I had to spell it, I'd go with something like, "Gaaaaaahhhhkftpfgaaaaahhhhhk." If I had to describe it, I'd tell you to go online and look up videos of badger mating. All I know is that it wasn't pretty and it was 100% beyond my control. It took a fast-food worker to snap me out of it.
"Sir? SIR? DO YOU NEED MEDICAL ATTENTION, SIR?"
With every ounce of willpower in my body, I was able to go "Gaaaahhhhk - number one with a Coke - thphgaaaaakk" and advance my car to the window. As I pulled up to the window, my travelling companion finally flew off my chest and over to the passenger side, giving me just enough time to throw the car in park, roll down the windows, and leap out for my life.
"Sorrythere'sabeeinmycar," I blurted to the drive-thru worker.
"Oh, we thought you were having a stroke," she said with a laugh.
"Me too," I replied.
She made me feel a little less insane, but our banter made me take my eyes off the bee and I hadnt seen it fly off. Summoning the greatest inner strength I could, I re-entered the car, rolled all the windows up, and headed home, crisis averted.
Or not. Two minutes later, I glanced to my right, and there like a demon ascending from Hades, my bee friend was emerging from the passenger window well it had apparently crawled down. I lowered the window, crumpled up my fast food bag, and hurled it at the bee. I'm not one to vouch for my own marksmanship on a regular basis, but magically it hit the bee dead on and I watched it flail out the window while I hit the gas and left it in my dust.
The only thing left to do was pull the car over and try super hard to not have a heart attack. I was ashen-faced, covered in sweat, high on adrenaline... but alive.
Later that night, I was on the phone with my parents and recounted my narrow escape.
"So you'll be pleased to know I'm 44 years old and just as terrified of bees as when I was a kid," I summarized.
"Are you kidding me?" my mom replied. "Don't you remember when you were 12 and a bee flew in the car and you opened the door and tried to jump out? If I hadn't grabbed your shirt collar, you would have been killed. This time, you stayed cool and managed to pull the car over. That's progress, I'm proud of you!"
Well, gosh, Mom, if you put it that way, I guess I'm proud of me, too. Of course, the real truth is that I couldn't have removed my seat belt without disturbing the bee, otherwise I might have tucked and rolled my way down 18th Avenue without a second's thought. Instead, I'll ignore that and take today as a small victory for maturity and one man's triumph over nature.