Saturday, March 22, 2008

What Do You Worry About?

I got to thinking about worrying last night at one in the morning as I was leaving The Playwright in Hamden. I had spent a few hours watching Villanova upset Clemson and now I just wanted to get home and go to sleep. As I left the bar I reached into my pocket and took out the key to our Ford Windstar. And then I immediately put the key safely back in my pocket as I walked to the van.

Believe it or not, that key is probably the object I worry about most in my life. I have never assigned actual percentages to the things I worry about, but if I were to make a list and then divvy it up proportionally, I have a strong suspicion that key would top the list. It might even come out with a 20 or 25 percent share of all the object-related anxiety (ORA) in my life.

Some of the other objects on that list would include the roof of our house, my wallet, my shoelaces, my fake front tooth, my laptop, the wine glasses on our somewhat-tippy wine cabinet, my wife’s bank card, my wife’s sunglasses, my wife’s cell phone, our basement floor, our water heater, our furnace, and the dogfood bin on the floor of the kitchen.

Don’t get me wrong…I don’t spend huge amounts of time or energy worrying about objects in my life. It’s not like I have an ORA fixation or anything. Worrying is mostly a waste of time. To the extent that it makes you consider the possibility of things going wrong and then prods you to take measures to make it more likely that things will go right, then worrying can be said to be productive. But anything beyond that is really just a misappropriation of scarce mental resources.

But in the case of the key to our Ford, the amount of worrying I do feels entirely justified. You see, since we have owned the vehicle, we have had only one key for it. It is some special sort of key that can’t be duplicated at a standard hardware store. The dealer tells us that in order to get another key made, we will need to leave him the van for up to a week while they make one specially for us. It has been three years and, in spite of the potential hardships that would be brought on by the loss of that one stinkin’ key, we have not yet bitten the bullet and paid the $100.00 a new key would require of us.

Until we do, I always make sure to leave the key in my pocket until I am actually standing at the driver’s door. I can all-too-easily imagine the key falling from my hand and plummeting irretrievably down a sewer grate. Realizing how much of my actual worry-time was spent on that key made me wonder what other people worry about. I know we all have the standard stuff—job, family, spouse, economy, war and peace, etc—but in some ways these seem LESS interesting to me than the quirky and unusual tangible items we spend energy worrying about.

I don’t know how to do it, but someone should create a website where people can post lists of the things they worry about. I know I would check in there every once in a while just to see how crazy we all are.

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