Monday, February 07, 2005

It Could Always Be Worse

My wife: That bad?
Me: (grumble grumble grumble) Stupid poker.
Wife: It could always be worse.

In "1984," the ultimate torture is Room 101, where Winston's greatest fear--rats--is offered up to aid in his "rehabilitation."

What's your greatest fear?

If you think I'm going to tell you about the guy who called 3 bets cold before the flop with his 102o and sucked out both me (holding AA) and another fella (holding KK), no, that's not my greatest fear. It would most definitely suck to have to replay that single hand over and over again from now until eternity, each deal of the cards erasing the memory of the previous hand. Wait. I'm talking myself into this being my greatest fear.

It isn't. Yet.

Anybody out there old enough to be aware of current events in 1976? I am. I was a freaky kid that way. Was reading the newspaper and watching the news at a very early age. Too aware for my own good, I think. I was an anxiety-ridden 9-year-old, with way too many thoughts and nightmares about the Cold War and what I presumed to be its natural conclusion: Nuclear Holocaust.

Aiding this particular fear was the presence of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory located within spitting distance of my childhood home. Every 4th grader worth his tetherball knew my hometown was a primary target for the Red Menace.

Still, not my greatest fear.

In 1976, a busload of school children disappeared off the face of the Earth in Chowchilla, CA. They were kidnapped by an odd trio of misfits, a couple, if memory serves, from wealthy, connected San Francisco families. The kids were shoved into a moving van and buried in a gravel pit. In. My. Hometown.

They managed to dig themselves out after a couple days and all survived.

Not until the horror of their ordeal went to work on my imagination.

As if that weren't bad enough, along came "Quincy," Jack Klugman as everybody's favorite M.E. It was my parents' favorite show. One episode featured a kidnapped young girl buried alive somewhere on a beach. I've not been the same since. The very idea of being buried alive transports me right back into my 9-year-old head, summons the cold despair of those nights I laid awake in abject fear.

I'm no longer anxiety-ridden. I mellowed in my 20s. The Cold War is over. But I can't watch "The Vanishing." And I'm not crazy about tight, enclosed quarters (in an elevator, for example), either.

The moral of the story? Taking repeated bad beats is way better than trying to dig yourself out of a shallow grave.

Yes, this is how I go about looking for a bright side.


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