Tag Archives: freak out

What do I know about anything?

The most important thing to do during any sort of panic or emergency, and it sounds really almost way too simple, but it’s to not freak out. Stop freaking out. Please, sir, I really must insist that you calm down for a second here and … sir. Sir! Ahem, the most important thing to do during any sort of panic or emergency is to not freak out. Sir, can you just please at least stop talking over me?


Yes, well, I realize that your flight leaves in ten minutes, and no, frankly I’m not that optimistic about our chances of making it all the way to the other side of Gate B. Gate D? Your flight leaves from Gate D? Well, I can almost say with certainty that we’re absolutely not going to be there on time. Well, one, I’d ask you again, politely, please, stop freaking out. And two, it’s not a question of how hard I put my foot down on this peddle, which, you know these in-airport courtesy vehicles are battery operated, right? Even if the speed wasn’t governed, I doubt we’d be capable of … well, it’s a very large airport, and yes … OK, I hear you sir, I’m just saying that it’s a logistical implausibility.

Well that’s not the airline’s fault, is it? No, I won’t let you drive. Because I’m not letting you drive. How do you think that would make me look? To the airport? To my bosses? Just how do you think it would go down if you knocked into somebody? Well, that’s why I said knocked and not crashed, because it wouldn’t be going very fast at all. Well just because you’re not getting run over by an in-airport courtesy vehicle doesn’t mean that it would be any more acceptable to be knocked over by one.

OK, great, but that’s not a risk that I’m willing to take. Could you please just chill out for a minute? Come on, you’re getting all of these spit bubbles in the side of your mouth, and they’re spraying outward. I don’t know, I applied, I started off at the Burger King in the Delta Terminal, and after a year or so I got moved to night custodial, and after that it was actually a little bit of good luck, you see, I wound up bumping into the assistant constable of in-airport transportation and …

Fine, then don’t ask questions if you’re not prepared to hear the answers. Yes, I understand the definition of sarcasm. And yes, I am pretty happy with myself. You’re absolutely right, this job isn’t much of a career, but it’s something. I’m not out dealing drugs anymore. Do you know how hard it is for convicted felons to reenter the workforce? And things could be a lot worse. I could still be in jail. Or I could be dead. Or I could be halfway across the opposite end of the wrong terminal, about to miss my connecting flight to, where’d you say you were headed sir? Hawaii? That sounds really nice, actually. Maybe I’ll be able to go to Hawaii some day. I really hope that we make it to Gate D in time, that you’ll make it on board. No, I don’t think it’s going to happen, but you’ve still got one minute. Anything could happen in one minute. I’m trying to think about what could happen, how we might pull it off, but no, I’ve got nothing. But don’t listen to me sir. Maybe that’s just my lack of imagination. Come on, I’m only a junior in-airport courtesy vehicle driver. What do I know about anything?

This one time I swam out to a buoy

There was this one summer where we kept going to the same beach every other week or so. It was a little cove tucked away from the majority of the beachgoing population, vendors would follow us there, selling us cold beer and letting us rent their giant parasols. The water was clear and warm, and all of the negative stuff I usually associate with going to the beach simply wasn’t an issue here.


The way that the cove was set up for some reason protected our little spot from any serious waves. And so I could go out and swim, fill my lungs up with air and bob up and down, relax, look up at the endless sky and forget that I was in the ocean.

Way out in the distance there was this one buoy, and whenever I went for a dip, it called out to me. Could I make it out there? I’m not a bad swimmer, but there’s no way I could justify labeling myself anything above amateur. Aside from the swimming lessons when I was a little kid, there was little in the way of any formal aquatic education. Still, I could maintain a doggy paddle for a long time. I’d hang out in the deep section, just past where my feet could reach the sand, and I never felt like I was in any particular danger.

Every time I went in, I had the urge to swim all the way out to that buoy. And it was this huge mental game. I thought I could do it, but I’d never really attempted anything so big. And sure, it’s just a swim, but there’s no room for any error at all. If something unexpected were to happen, a cramp, a shark, a missile strike, I’d be gone, that would be it.

And I always think about people flocking to the beach. You look at the earth from above, those eternal oceans comprising the vast majority of the planet. And here we are, these little ants doing our best every day just not to get annihilated on dry land. Let’s take a swim in the water. Let’s dip our feet in the very beginnings of a vast body of water that could at any time extinguish us from existence.

Still, the call to this particular buoy simultaneously terrified me yet pulled me out. Each trip to the beach I’d wade out just a little bit, trying to get myself just to make a decision, trapped in the space in between heading out or falling back.

One day I decided to go for it. Nice and easy, I used my elementary breaststroke to keep my head down and swim straight out. I didn’t want to freak myself out, so I decided not to look for a while, just to concentrate on doing what I was doing. After what I assumed had to have been at least ten or fifteen minutes, I raised my head to the horizon, hoping that my destination wouldn’t be that much further away.

But as I wiped the water away from my eyes, it looked like I hadn’t made any progress at all. Worse, when I turned around to look back, the shore looked ever farther away than what I had originally estimated the distance would have been from beach to buoy. I started freaking out a little, realizing that maybe I had bitten off a little more of the ocean than I was prepared to swallow.

My body was doing OK, I mean, I was tired, but not on the verge of collapse or anything. Still, my mind imagined what that collapse would feel like, and how much longer I’d have until that fatigue became an inevitability. My breathing picked up, I was starting to panic. Not really sure if it would have been shorter to the buoy or back, I wound up settling on the buoy. I calmed myself down as best I could and concentrated on my stroke, slowly, steadily.

And yeah, I finally got there. The buoy was huge, which I think gave me the impression that it was a lot closer to land. There wasn’t really anything to grab onto, and the whole surface was covered in this thick layer of barnacle or whatever that stuff is that accumulates on objects that spend their lives floating in the ocean. I rested. I bobbed up and down with the buoy. I waved to everybody back on the sand, not even sure if they could see me, or if they’d been paying attention to my swim at all.

I was reluctant to let go, seeing as how I’d definitely be more tired going back, and the prospect of another mini panic attack was still a very fresh fear. But I floated on my back and only moved my arms enough to propel me in the general direction of the back. It took longer than it did to come out, but when I finally got to the point where I could reach my feet to the ocean floor while at the same time keeping my head above water, I finally let my muscles relax, and yeah, I was pretty beat. I have no idea how much longer I could have remained moving, but it takes work to keep yourself afloat.

I think about when I started freaking out, how I got a very real feeling that I was in some serious trouble, and body’s response to that danger served as the one thing I couldn’t afford to do to keep myself from sinking. Looking back, it’s a cool story, but only to me. I try to tell people whenever I’m at the beach about this one time that I swam to a buoy. But I can never really capture the excitement. Swimming out and swimming back I guess isn’t that big of a deal.

Everybody just stay calm

Everybody just take a deep breath and stop freaking out. All right? All right. We’re not going to get anywhere if we keep pushing, moving, breathing really heavy, whimpering in the corner. Get out of the corner! Stand up! There’s not enough room in this elevator for anybody to be crouching down. If everybody tried to crouch down and take a little rest, we’d all wind up on top of one another. And there’s just not enough space for that to happen. Think about it, if everybody tried to squat, knees would be sticking out, half of the people in this elevator would wind up on top of half of everybody else. And I’m not threatening, I’m not warning, all right, I’m just saying, I’m not going to wind up on the bottom, OK? And I have pointy elbows and knees.

So just everybody stay calm! OK? Well, maybe I shouldn’t have squeezed in the elevator, right, true, but where does that get us now? What about you, I saw you get in right before me. Just because I got in last? And who pressed the second floor button? You? You can’t take the stairs up one floor? Fibromyalgia? Look, I’m not a doctor, I’m just saying, if you couldn’t handle a flight of stairs, you probably shouldn’t have made such a mad dash for the elevator.

So just chill out everybody. Calm down for a second! And why were you holding the elevator doors open? I saw you from like all the way down the hallway, like five or six people running to it, Mr. fibromyalgia right in front of me, and you’re just standing there, sticking your hand in front of the sensor every single time. If you had just stopped trying to be the Jesus of the elevator, like what, you don’t have anywhere to be? You don’t think anybody else in here had anywhere to be? God, if you had just let the doors close a little bit more naturally, this car could have been all the way up and all the way back down again before I ever even had a chance to run over here. Like what are you, the elevator guy?

You are the elevator guy? OK, so don’t you get like any training? Don’t they tell you you’re supposed to like follow those signs, those maximum occupancy signs? All I know is that whatever your duties are, I’d have to say your primary responsibilities are ultimately split between pushing buttons and maintaining those maximum occupancy standards.

Well I’m a big guy, so stop pointing fingers, all right? Quit trying to escalate the situation! Everybody stop talking! I think we’re running out of air in here! Who’s pressing that alarm bell? It’s not doing anything all right? Seriously stop it! Everybody quiet down, did you just hear the intercom? Was somebody saying something? Were those instructions? Goddamn it will you shut up for one second so we can at least try and figure out what they’re trying to tell …

Fuck! Motherfucker! Did you feel that? Holy shit everybody stay still! Stop breathing! You calm the fuck down! Holy shit I swear to God I felt something move. No, stop moving. No you stop moving too! Everybody, we’ve got to synchronize our breaths. We’ve got to stop fidgeting. OK! Don’t touch me! Get your hands off me! No you sit down! No, I mean, nobody sit down! I’m not sitting down first, I’ve already played out how this is going to go down, and there’s now way I’m winding up crushed under the weight of half of the people in this elevator.

Ow! What do you that’s going to solve? OK! OK. OK, OK, OK. All right. Fine. More deep breaths, right. OK, I’ll admit, that got a little out of hand. Yes, well I have a meeting upstairs, it’s very important. OK, yeah, I do realize that I shouldn’t have panicked. Sue me, right? I’m a human being and I freaked out a little from being trapped in this goddamn elevator wall to wall with way too many people and Oh my God, are we running out of air in here, how much oxygen can these vents push through, what is the maximum occupancy standards measured out, by weight? By oxygen flow? Did somebody just fart?

Are you fucking kidding me? Ow! Is that pizza? Does somebody have food in here? Everybody, we’ve got to divvy it up before things take a turn here, I’m not kidding, all right? Let’s just everybody … oh wait, is that? Was I? So you just have to press open? So I was standing … wow. OK, look everybody, I hope we can all learn something here. I always like to stand there, I didn’t think I’d really be blocking, it’s just, OK. Just let me out of here. Just. Excuse me I’m just going to. It’s OK, it’s open, no, yes, no I am going to ten but I can climb, I’m looking forward to hopefully working here someday, I’m really looking forward to someday incorporating this ten flight stair climb into my daily routine. Nobody else works on ten, right? You do? Can you just, you know, can you not say anything? Can we just, like, can I buy you a cup of coffee? Can you just not tell anybody about the freaking out? Please? Yes? Please?