THE BOY SCOUT
I had been preparing for this trip for a month, maybe more. I had every trick, weapon, superstition and plan at my fingertips. I was ready.
My OCD (obsessive-compulsive) self had been refining my packing list during my sleeping hours. My subconscious was my guide. I knew what clothes to take and exactly how to pack them. I was prepared for every kind of weather from the second Ice Age to Hell on Earth. I had every medicine I could think of set aside, each one assigned a designated spot in my carry-on luggage for easy access. And I had memorized the German versions of all the essential phrases that I needed to know:
“Wo ist die Toilette?” – Where is the bathroom?
“Wo is das Krankenhous?” – Where is the hospital?
“Ich bin nicht wirklicht verruckt, ich handelin wie dies manchmal.” – I’m not really crazy, I just act like this sometimes.
I had visualized a successful trip in my head, and I meditated on that thought. I pictured leisurely lunches at sidewalk cafes, strolls in flower-laden parks, and sunny days sitting along the Rhine.
The night prior to the trip – the time when panic usually sets in – was relaxing. And the morning of the trip, the relaxation remained. I looked in the mirror. Yup. Still me. I didn’t recognize these feelings. I didn’t know what relaxation felt like.
I was confused.
Luckily, my confusion didn’t last long. After a puzzling half-day of travel in which I kept asking myself “why am I not nervous?” I finally found my fear.
It was on the trip to the airport prior to departure, when my brother-in-law, a Port Authority Fire and Rescue worker, had graciously offered to take us to the airport to catch our flight. He knew the city well, and could get us to where we needed to go hassle-free, so naturally, we took him up on his offer. I was riding shotgun, practicing my meditation technique of “going within,” thinking positive thoughts and breathing at a smooth, steady pace. This is designed to lower my blood pressure and keep me calm, and I felt remarkably good.
Soon, the conversation my brother-in-law was having with my wife turned to the subject of his job. She asked him what he had been up to.
“We’ve been practicing disaster drills the past two weeks,” he said. I began to squirm.
“How often do you do that?” my wife asked.
“Oh, we gotta do it once a year – just in case. It’s no big deal, just a practice plane with fake bodies inside. They set it on fire and we practice. It’s cool.”
“Are there ever any real crashes?” she asked.
All of a sudden, I forgot my mantra.
“Oh yeah, all the time, but usually they’re just small mishaps. But a couple of years ago, boy that was major! Nothing like what you practice for. The fire was intense and there were mangled corpses everywhere!”
I found my nervousness.
COMING SOON: The people at the airport get fresh.