Wednesday: I live in a constant state of fear
I have an extremely sensitive startle response. No, not an actual syndrome like “Exaggerated Startle Response” where you go all stiff and can’t move (like a goat, but not as funny), nor do I have “Jumping Frenchmen of Maine” syndrome (yes, that IS a real thing involving a group of French-Canadian lumberjacks, and I realize that my attempt to elaborate on this only makes it sound weirder), or any other neurological disease for that matter—I’m just super-f*cking-jumpy. It’s annoying as hell, but it hasn’t been much of a problem until lately, when I began a new position with the secret agency. If you read last week’s post, you’ll remember that I now have my own office (complete with the awesome mini-fridge that I hauled up there myself), which is great, but also now a lot more people want to talk to me. That is also great, because my co-workers are terrific, but my desk is L-shaped and in the corner. And that means that most of the time, I’m working with my back to the door. I already had a problem with people coming up behind me in my cubicle, but I was in a fairly busy area so there was less chance of sudden noises. Also, my coworkers learned to sidle up towards me rather than suddenly appearing from around the corner of my cubicle wall, to avoid causing me to jump in the air and stifle a scream.
Now, though, I’m in a very quiet office with a door, and people come to the door without me being able to see them first, and I’ve been scared sh*tless no less than 13 times in the last 4 days, through no one’s fault but my own:
Coworker: Oh hey, can I—
Coworker: Oh my god, I’m so sorry!
Me: Don’t be. It’s me, not you.
Of course, the best part is that my Director has the exact same startle response as me, and there’s nothing funnier (or more terrifying) than the two of us triggering each other:
Director: Oh hey, can I—
Both: Oh my god, I’m so sorry!
It had become a bit of a running joke, to the point that last fall, my work partner L decided that the only thing to do, aside from making us wear bells around our necks was to buy us each a box of TicTacs that we could shake while we were approaching each other. Unfortunately, TicTacs are yummy and I ate all of mine, which kind of stymied the plan. At any rate, the one good thing is that I also now have a super-comfy office chair that has really great “give”, so when I jump three feet in the air, I land on a nice bouncy cushion and get to go “boing boing” for a minute while I’m catching my breath.
But I haven’t always had such a sensitive startle response—it’s gotten worse over the last few years for a couple of reasons I won’t get into. Anyway, here are the top ten things that now cause me to jump in the air, scream, and swoon, aside from people coming up behind me:
1) The text notification on my phone chiming.
2) The TV coming on too loudly.
3) Things dropping. (Like, literally anything—a pencil, a glass, my hairbrush…)
4) Ken walking into a room (but he does it quietly ON PURPOSE).
5) A car appearing in my blind spot (and no, it’s never a great idea to jump out of your seat whilst driving).
6) Birds. They fly by the window with no warning AT ALL because they’re dicks.
7) People sneezing. Someone in my office has a very loud sneeze and it scares the bejeezus out of me every damn time.
8) Car horns. Particularly hard to avoid in the downtown core where taxi drivers will literally honk at pigeons.
9) My alarm. I usually wake up before it goes off, then I forget to turn it off, and then it goes off and scares me. It’s a vicious cycle, and you’d think I would have figured this sh*t out by now.
10) The cat jumping onto the bed. I can always see Titus coming but Raven—she’s stealthy like a ninja.
Luckily, my coworkers are kind enough to try and help me out. On Friday, I heard a soft shuffling outside my office door that started getting louder. When I turned around, it was a colleague, who said, “I thought if I made a little noise first, it would give you some warning.” But I feel terrible that my bizarre reaction to normal human things makes THEM feel bad, so I’ve been trying to figure out how to resolve this. I can’t move my desk because it’s technically a counter that’s bolted to the wall, so I either get a mirror installed so I can see who’s coming up behind me, or I buy everyone in the office a lifetime supply of TicTacs.
Oscar Comes Home:
Last weekend, the official Quest for Oscar began. As per Mishima’s instructions, we were to seek out his nephew, Oscar Wildefish, in order that he might collect the inheritance left to him when Mishima passed away. You may recall that we had few clues, other than “he’s flamboyant, blue, and very witty”. Nevertheless, Ken and I set out to scour local pet stores. There are a LOT of fish out there, let me tell you, and while some of them were blue, none of them were particularly witty. We’d just about given up when we went into Petsmart and made our way to the fish section.
Ken: Oh look–here are some blue fish.
Me: Those are betas. Mishima was a goldfish, so…
Ken: Why couldn’t Oscar be a beta? It could have been like a mixed marriage or something.
Me: Betas aren’t witty. The last one we had was boring AF, remember? Let’s keep looking.
True to form, the blue betas weren’t saying anything. Then suddenly, I heard someone clear his throat:
Voice: Why, hello darling.
Me: Is that you, Oscar? Where are you?
Voice: Yes, ‘tis I, Oscar Wildefish. Look to your left.
And there, in a tank labelled Calico Ryukin Goldfish, was a baby blue, white, and gold fellow with delightful fins that looked like long chiffon sleeves. Definitely flamboyant.
Oscar: I’ve been waiting for you ever since I heard dear Uncle Mishy was unwell. The rumours of his death are apparently NOT exaggerated, judging by your appearance here in “Petsmart”, which is a misnomer if I’ve ever heard one. Honestly, I’m surrounded by dullards. It’s like a Donald Trump rally—non-stop complaining about immigrants every time someone new is put in the tank. I’m absolutely DYING for civilized company.
Me: I’m so happy we found you! Wait—you’re $12.99?! What kind of fish ARE you?
Oscar: Me? Sweetheart, I’m a delight, that’s what I am. And worth every penny. Now let’s go home. Adios, “Petsmart”.
So we brought Oscar home and he’s merrily preening in the reflective glass of his tank as we speak. He’s nicknamed the cat “Flossy” for some strange reason (and stranger still, she doesn’t seem to mind) and he and Titus are planning a picnic once the weather “becomes more charming”. But now, I have to go out and get him some new décor—it seems he’s not overly thrilled with the pagoda and says he’d prefer something “more glamourous”. So, new quest undertaken. I’ll keep you posted.