--David Sedaris, Me Talk Pretty One Day
While I have a lot of phobias (some epic), there are some things that do not scare me at all. For example, public speaking doesn't bother me at all, and big parties filled with strangers don't scare me one bit. I just don't like them. Sometimes I feel like I need to distinguish between the two, so at least everyone knows the source of my freak-outs.
Riding in cars? That's a phobia. I'm not afraid of it (any more than I'm afraid a plane will crash -- I'm the only one on board hoping it will, so I can get the F off) -- so, no, I don't think anyone else is more or less likely to wreck than I am; it's not a safety issue. It's just a phobia. It started around 16. As soon as I got a license, and it was an option, I became the designated driver. Occasionally someone new to the social circle will wonder aloud, "do you suppose it's a control issue," and somebody else will invariably answer (before I can even open my mouth) "Ya THINK?!"
If I said they've all indulged me for years, that wouldn't be the right word -- if I had a wooden leg, nobody would think it was "indulgent" to drop me at the door instead of making me walk across an icy parking lot -- so I will say, instead, they put up with it. At times, I'd imagine it's been inconvenient, and maybe at other times, it's been handy (like when gas was $4 bucks a gallon).
I have made a few exceptions over the years -- usually involving anesthesia, oral surgery, and a doctor's refusal to let me behind the wheel. Or, like last summer, when my BFF had to drive me to council meetings when my car was acting up -- but she always did her best to make it easy on me. "Don't worry Rainman," she'd say when she picked me up, "we'll get your toothpicks." To which I'd respond, "I'm an excellent driver. Excellent. Excellent driver."
My pal Lucy says she plans to just throw me in the back of her Range Rover and take me to Mexico, which she insists is just what I need. (And I concede she might be right.) She figures I'll forgive her by the time I wake up, which is when she plans to say, "Relax. You've had a lot of Ambien. You'll be fine. Now, here's a margarita.... And, also, I'd like you to meet Pablo." She's very supportive, and says she finds my phobic tendencies "humanizing." (Which always makes me wonder a little: "what was I before?")
I have read every book and talked to every professional, and I do know that the one thing that works is "systematic desensitization." That means control freaks like me don't get to what we want to do. Most anybody with say, a phobia of bridges, would prefer to conquer that fear of bridges, and then walk across. That isn't how it works. First, you gotta get across the bridge. (Now, this doesn't work with Loathing: if you simply don't like big parties, regular exposure probably won't cure that, and you're still gonna walk out with what Kevin Spacey described as his job description in American Beauty, "...to disguise my contempt.")
Everyone knows this Riding in Cars with Boys thing is something I've been working on since the end of last year, and the new thing is "positive reinforcement." So now, everytime I take a little ride, I get a little treat. [A few from today are pictured. Notice my view from the Passenger Seat.]
Who knows? I hate phobias. I love presents.
The lettering on the back of the Ace Energy Drink reads "throw down an Ace. Ace will get you flying high and keep you in control."