Friday, May 13, 2011

flight-or-flight-or-flight response


I hardly suspect I'll say anything new about it, or even clever.  It just is.  It moves through me like electricity.  What at other times I might have enjoyed, or perhaps even artificially induced, is now a rolling issue within me.  The days and nights of artificial pleasures are no more.  

I had to leave work yesterday to come home. There was an "emergency" and it had to be dealt with right away.  Each day I ride my bike to and from work as the weather permits and I can accomplish this simple task easily under most urban circumstances. This time there were several obstacles between work and home. I won't bother telling you about all of them right now but the short list includes: an outdated lock combination that had to be changed before I left, construction zones, a guy in an SUV pulling all the way across the bike lane (even though he saw me) to let somebody out of his car, forcing me off the road, a fresh and rather large uncrossable pot-hole that is in the bike path of one of the streets I take home, several people running red lights and either assuming bikes will stop for them or that they don't even see me, etc.  Then when I got home I realized that I had left the keys to my apartment at work, in my locker. So I called my wife and asked her if I could come pick up her keys. She said yes.

I rode to where she works, experiencing a set of similar difficulties.  The sidewalk that leads to the door where she works was wide open and as I rode towards it I passed, with at least 5 or 6 feet of clearance, a woman on foot dressed in curtains of black who yelled at me that she walks her dog on this sidewalk, and that I can not ride my bike on it.  

It is true that it is illegal to ride your bike on the sidewalk in Manhattan, though she was not with her dog at the time, and I was as far away from her as I could be.  I could have been perhaps even farther from her if she would lose about 100 pounds, as this was the only modifiable impediment I saw to me passing her. I say this with some self-pity as I have gained about 25 pounds in the last two years. Though it hasn't affected my ability to maneuver a bicycle yet.

In any event, I went into where my wife works and she walked towards the front of the entrance and greeted me. We both knew we were having horrendously stressful days. She handed me the keys and we kissed, we began to talk and reassure one another. It was at this point that the leviathan in black fabric from the sidewalk opened the front door and started screaming at me about dog safety and the territories controlled by people like her.  I assumed that's why she was roaming them, foraging. But a woman screaming at me for being on a bike in the place where my wife works is something that can not be allowed.  I had to leave. I turned my bike and walked towards the door where she waited like a solar eclipse.  

Her screams and legal invectives continued.  I was doomed.

I said nothing. It is somewhat easy to show restraint when it is a requirement to do so, as this was.  It is only appropriate to boast of self-restraint when you have no other reason to exercise it. This was not one of those moments, though I desperately wished that it was. I simply walked out the door, with her moving the immense accretions of flesh out of the way just in time for me to pass.  My jaw was clenched though she might not have noticed as her massive head was bobbing and weaving and produced a steady stream of high-pitched and sharply directed clamor.  

She also seemed to be in a state of advanced anxiety.

As I was passing through the doorway she very briefly said nothing and moved with great effort out of the way. But once she saw me mount my bike to depart her stream of social projections and proclamations quickly resumed in full.  It faded into the distance as I glided onwards, elsewhere.  My wife later told me that she re-opened the door and continued her yelling until they assured her that few establishments known to man were as concerned about dog safety as we were, and that we have all signed oaths stating such, and they can be found within the office of public records.  

This is how New Yorkers deal with things. They are direct people, sometimes to a fault. They see little reason to let even the most minor and harmless infractions go. Because if it starts with people riding their bikes on the sidewalk it will end up with junkies raping the neighborhood pets, and then the children, and eventually us.  You must put your foot down somewhere. Even if pale ripples of flesh spill from each side of your open-topped shoe when you do so. Something must be done about it, and an overweight housewife is just the one to take charge in these matters.  It is either that or endless cat rape. There is no middle ground, especially on the sidewalks.

Let me be more clear.  I have nothing at all against short people (I mentioned one fondly yesterday in my blog), or heavier people (I am overweight myself), or anybody else for that matter, any "type" of person at all, etc.  It is merely a descriptive hook that can be used.  This woman's weight was her defining characteristic. That, and her yelling. 

By the time I got back to my apartment to deal with the initial dilemma I had broken out into a full blown panic attack.  I couldn't breathe, my heart was racing, my vision was pulsating, etc. It was as if my entire body was trembling with fluctuations of one kind or another. I took a cold shower and laid down. (Is it lied down?  I think it is.)  I took two of the pills the doctor gave me for just such an occasion and tried to breathe as naturally as I could with my eyes closed.  I entertained semi-violent visions about Mrs. Mountain Black and the dog that she has yet to eat. But told myself that no matter how much these inventions might amuse me they are counter-productive to my current situation. 

Anxiety is killer, they say.  My doctor has reminded me how dangerous it is.  It is not something to be flirted with.  I just realized that the words flirted and trifled are anagrammatical. 

I have tried to relay my experiences from yesterday with some humor.  I assure you that none of this was nearly as much fun as I've made it sound. If you've ever drank too much coffee on an empty stomach it is like a concentrated version of that feeling.  It is awful.  It collapses an unseeable future into an ever heightened present. It is very difficult to see or feel beyond the experience itself. In that regard it is like an underside of the "pleasant drug experience" but with all of the pleasure removed.  It is where there ceases to be the anxious anticipation of something and it is the moment when it becomes the unstoppable thing itself: sudden anticipatory overload. 

A portion of  the central nervous system turns against itself and induces a state of panic.

panic -noun - Sudden uncontrollable fear or anxiety, with or without cause, often causing wildly unthinking behavior.

It was like that.  It was like what I assume dying to be.