Friday, February 19, 2010

Phobias: handicap or sign of genius?

A fascinating New Yorker piece by Susan Orlean ("Riding High," Feb. 15, 2010) on mules in the military tells the tale of 12 mules who were the subject of an experiment: put parachutes on them, push them out of a plane, and see whether they can safely land and deliver whatever is needed in the battlefield.

After the first six were duly pushed out, and did not survive, the next six simply refused to go. Stubborn, or smart?

“It is a characteristic of the breed to have an inviolable commitment to self-preservation, which is often misinterpreted as stubbornness,” writes Orlean.

I say phobias clearly are a sign of genius. Partly because I have so many and as faithful readers of my blog know, not only am I extremely handsome but also highly intelligent.

Below I delineate my phobias. You be the judge as to whether they signify genius, or at least, a refined sensibility that clearly is connected to self-preservation.

Phobia #1: Loud noises. At the sound of thunder, I hide. At the sound of firecrackers, I run. A hunter I once met said that I was probably exposed incorrectly to the sound of gunfire. Clearly, genius.

Phobia #2: Strange conveyances. When my family came to pick me up at the shelter, I wouldn’t get in the car. As part of the adoption contract, I had to be seen by a vet within 10 days. Mom went nuts trying to meet that deadline—not in making the appointment, but in convincing me that the car was not a hound-eating beast. In fact, Mom’s friend had to TiVo the Dog Whisperer episode on this very topic and Mom watched it over and over until she knew what to do. And it took every one of those 10 days for me to submit.

Now that I love the car, they try that old trick of saying C-A-R. What do they think, I can’t spell?

Never get into strange cars. Smart, no?

Phobia #3: Strange thresholds. I had never been in a house before, so what did I know about going in and going out? How did I know that there would be lots of beds and food and white couches to happily dirty? I learned quickly, though I made them wait for it by performing the Plop O'Doom reliably, and infuriatingly.
See number 2.

Phobia #4. Temperature below 32 degrees Farenheit. No need for an outdoor thermometer! I just stick out my neck, staying well within the door frame. Anything below freezing is just too darn cold. Absolutely brilliant.