Zita Orizaga’s Stress and Worry Blog
Top Ten Things I Am Worried About in The World Right Now
(listed in order of how often I think about them)
My therapist Martha told me that I should keep track of my anxieties because every time we meet I mention new ones and I need to prioritize so we can eliminate some so I should try to figure out what my top ten are and I said that was okay as long as I can have a next top ten after that because I have a lot of anxieties and I would like to get rid of all of them although I think that can never happen because as soon as you fix one bad thing there is always a new bad thing rearing up. But still, I promised to try. If I track them all here in this blog maybe it will help someone else because I can’t be the only person who worries about these things.
- Our neighbor just got a big yardbot with tasers on it and I hope it is obvious why anyone would be scared of that but also my mother has dementia which is why I am living with her again and mostly she sleeps or watches baking shows online but once in a while she wanders outside without telling me and I’m afraid that yardbot will fry her.
- Our other neighbor put in one of those Thermovolt plutonium generators and so did the guy across the street and Thermovolt claims its generators are safe, but, ha. Really?
- The government passed a law that says it’s okay for companies to pollute the water again. I have some bottled water in my mother’s basement but not enough to live on for the rest of our lives plus who knows where the water in those bottles comes from in the first place.
- I think everyone I know has a gun except me and that is disturbing since I think they have guns because they’re all hoping to have a chance to kill somebody someday.
- Pretty much every day I hear about a new disease you can catch from a tick or a mosquito or bacteria that live in the water and there are no vaccines or cures for any of them.
- The world is full of terrorists. Beheading terrorists, torch wielding terrorists, car driving terrorists, child abducting terrorists, machete chopping terrorists, anthrax mailing terrorists, crowd stabbing terrorists (I hope it isn’t cheating to list them all in one item).
- Somebody is selling time machines now. People who use them are not supposed to interfere in the past because they could change the present like in that Stephen King novel where a guy goes back to keep Kennedy from being shot and the world ends up getting destroyed in a nuclear war instead but of course someone will interfere because that is what humans do.
- What if all the animals go extinct?
- The Stealth Service is watching everyone all the time and you never know why.
Top Ten Endangered Species We Don’t Really Need Anyway
I think it’s terrible for any species to disappear even if it’s not something cute and fuzzy or beautiful and majestic that we like to put on wildlife calendars because you never know how it fits into an ecosystem, like maybe it’s the only animal that eats something horrible and the horrible thing will get out of control now or maybe some other animal has a symbiotic relationship with it and will die if this one dies. But my therapist Martha told me to try to look on the bright side or at least the less dark side so I made a list of animals I might not miss too much if they go extinct.
- The guinea worm. If a person drinks water with guinea worm larvae in it a year later a worm a meter long starts working its way out of that person’s leg which takes weeks and hurts bad. It might actually be good that this one is on its way out.
- Hungerford’s crawling water beetle. There are supposedly at least 350,000 species of beetles in the world so if this one disappears we’ll still have 349,999 other kinds.
- The titan arum, aka the “corpse flower.” When it blooms it looks like a ten-foot penis and smells like dead fish and poop and rot and who needs that?
- The Golden Poison Dart Frog. My mother thinks it’s cute but it’s way toxic. One of these little guys contains enough poison to kill ten people and I’m afraid terrorists could turn it into a new secret weapon.
- The Lord Howe Island stick insect is a six-inch long stick bug from an island near Australia that looks gross and would totally freak me out if I ever had to see it in person.
- The death adder might or might not already be extinct. The name says it all plus they have horns.
- Zebra mussels. There was a time when we thought it was impossible to kill the zebra mussels but somebody stumbled on the right mix of chemicals and wham. They sure took over all the lakes so it’s probably good they’re dying off though I worry about what else is getting killed by whatever is wiping them out. But okay, bright side, I will not miss the zebra mussels.
- The burrowing scorpion lives in South Africa which is good because that means I’m not too likely to step on one. They like to hang out underground (burrowing!) and are aggressive when they come out. And poisonous. Of course.
- The Goliath birdeater. These are the biggest spiders in the world (bigger than the ones in my basement) and they really can eat birds although mostly they eat eggs and worms and mice and toads. Their part of the rainforest is almost gone. All kinds of species and medical cures probably went with it which sucks but these are way scary.
- Lampreys. If you have ever seen a picture of their weird-ass tooth-filled sucker mouths I am sure you understand.
Top Ten Uses for a Handful of Beta Blockers
Martha says I need to try to do something about my fears besides write them down because I’ll feel better if I “confront obstacles head-on” so she gave me a prescription for beta-blocker drugs that will help with anxiety when I’m afraid to go somewhere or tell somebody off or try something new. I can’t stay on them forever because they’re only meant to help me practice and I’m sure I’ll still worry just as much after I use them up but here is what I am going to do while I’m armed with false confidence.
- Tell the neighbor to program her yardbot so it stays in her own yard. It comes rolling over here every time my mother steps out the door and the neighbor claims it’s because Mother always wears different hats so the yardbot doesn’t recognize her but that sounds stupid to me.
- Try some of the new foods that have been turning up at the SuperWay, like test-tube beef, algae loaf, and freeze-dried cricket chips. They sound icky but are supposed to be super-healthy and someday that’s all we’ll have to eat so I might as well start getting used to it.
- Clear the giant spiders out of the laundry room. Thermovolt claims the spiders have nothing to do with their plutonium generators but it’s only in the last two years that they’ve started growing larger than frying pans so you’d have to be an idiot to believe that. Maybe if I face those spiders down with oven mitts and a potato masher we’ll be able to use our dryer again.
- Ask my boss for a raise. I’ve been working way too much overtime lately because more students are sending robots to class in their place and it’s my job to keep track of absences and sending a robot used to count as an absence but now the university says it’s okay if you have a good reason and keeping files on everyone’s reasons takes forever.
- Stock our hazmat chamber. If I’m too claustrophobic to spend an hour putting food and water in there how will it save us when the next virus arrives?
- Take my mother to a movie. I think she’d like that remake of West Side Story where the cast is all robots that supposedly dance so well you can’t even tell they’re not human. The new theater downtown has metal detectors and no guns allowed so that one is probably safe.
- Make a doctor’s appointment. I need to find out why my skin is turning so green.
- Read the comments people have been leaving on this blog. You would think I’d have done that already but I’m afraid they’re all from trolls and will make me cry.
- Follow that guy who I think is following me and see if he’s really following me though he probably isn’t because I don’t do anything the Stealth Service would be interested in. Unless he’s following me because of this blog. Shit. I’m taking my first beta blocker right now.
- Get my water tested. It’s better to know. Right?
Top Ten Weirdest Comments People Have Left on My Blog So Far
(not that it’s a contest, please don’t go out of your way to leave weird comments on my blog)
Martha said I should read the comments even if they come from trolls because what I imagine people might say could be worse than what they really say but some of these are way scary. Also some are confusing, like maybe they were meant to be left on somebody else’s blog (I don’t like donuts for one thing).
- “You should blow up that yardbot. Private message me if you want a recipe for explosives. Have your credit card ready.”
- “Guinea worms are effing cool and will never go extinct because I am breeding them in my bathtub.”
- “That Stealth Service guy following you? Girl, you gotta stop saying bad things about Thermovolt or you putting you and your mama at risk. Stealth Service is Thermovolt’s lap dog.”
- “2-dozen pink-frosted donuts for $1 at the SuperWay 2-day only!”
- “You forgot releasing-poison-gas-in-the-subway terrorists.”
- “Fight your fears by joining The Rhizome. Come to the next protest and we’ll tell you how.” (Martha, you aren’t secretly commenting on my blog, are you? That “fight your fears” line sounds familiar and you’ve been telling me I should try to meet more people. But secretly commenting on a patient’s blog wouldn’t be good ethics and you seem like a very ethical person so it’s probably not you but please let me know either way so I can stop wondering.)
- “Of course the robots in West Side Story dance well. That is the least of what we can do these days.”
- “If I had a time machine I would go back and save the t-rex or the sabre-toothed tiger or some other sexy predator.”
- “I have monster spiders in my basement, too. Did you get rid of yours yet? If you did, please tell me how. I’ve tried everything—bug spray (makes them angry and they chase me), throwing croquet balls at them (they dodge), catching them in raccoon traps (they steal the bait without getting caught). I would move to one of those organic communities that don’t allow Thermovolt products, but I can’t afford it.”
- “Jeffrey Nicholson is alive and well. Keep your eyes on the skies.”
Top Ten Worries about Robots on Campus
Working in the student records unit at the university used to be a pretty low-stress job which is why I took it as anyone who reads this blog would probably guess. I have a nice boss a comfy chair a window in my office and all I have to do is keep track of special permissions and exceptions to student requirements, like when a student gets a head injury and has to drop out for a semester and gets a do-over without having to pay extra tuition. I’m alone in the quiet with my computer and my digital records. But lately more and more students are sending robots to class in their place saying they need to stay home sick and every single student in Computer Science 423 was sick every single day last semester so I started flagging cases for investigation and suddenly I’m getting hate mail and my job isn’t low-stress anymore and I want to quit but Martha says this is an opportunity to develop resilience. Easy for her to say. Or maybe not, maybe she gets hate mail too, how would I know. But anyway here are my biggest worries about the robots.
- The class that didn’t have any flesh-and-blood students in it last fall was “Introduction to Artificial Intelligence.” So a roomful of robots was learning how to design robots and isn’t that how the singularity is likely to begin?
- Was it the students’ idea to send robots to class or did the robots decide?
- In the past, the worst thing angry students ever said was that they would sue me but now they say things like “Leave me alone or I will power you down,” and what kind of weird threat is that?
- What if the robots that send me hate mail can communicate with the yardbot next door?
- The lock on my office door is a digital keypad. Wouldn’t that be easy for robots to hack?
- If the robots hacked a time machine, what would they do with it?
- My boss has stopped answering my email and maybe that means I’ve been sending him too many messages because I do ask a lot of questions but maybe it means the robots got him.
- They’re letting robots work in the cafeteria now as avatars for the work-study students which the school says keeps our low-income students from going broke if they get the flu or have a car accident but what if it’s a trial run for replacing the whole staff with robots?
- What if that Stealth Service guy who’s been following me is really a robot?
- What if everyone I’ve seen all day is a robot? What if I’m the only human left? And my mother. I hope she’s still human. I’m going to go scratch her and see if she bleeds.
Danielle LaVaque-Manty is a freelance editor living in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Her fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Glimmer Train, Cimarron Review, Puerto del Sol, The Pinch, and the web edition of Ninth Letter, among other journals. Many of her interviews with other writers have appeared in Fiction Writers Review.