Thursday, March 22, 2018

Claustrophobic? Let Your Mind Wander.

essay
by Gregory E. Larson

 Preface: Believe it or not, there are no pictures with this blog post. You’ll have to use your imagination, since that is what the essay is all about.

           “Mr. Larson,” said the nurse, “Are you claustrophobic?”
           The doctor had ordered an MRI test, and the nurse was ready to have me lie down on the large sliding tray that rolls into the machine. I chuckled and said, “I don’t think so.”
          “Well, this test is one of the longer ones,” she said, “It takes about thirty minutes.” She handed me a button on a cord. “If you have any problems at all, just push that button and we’ll come right in.” She handed me some ear plugs. “These should help block out some of the noise.”
          I answered, “As long as I don’t have to hold my breath for thirty minutes, I think I’ll be okay.” Once I got on the big tray, they positioned my head so that it would not move. While they rolled the tray into the machine, images of my youth came flooding back to the time my brothers convinced me that it was okay to fold me into the couch on the hide-a-bed frame.

* * *

          I tried to remember why my brothers decided to fold me into the couch. Were they punishing me for some injustice or were we just curious to see what strange things we could do in a normal household? Whenever Mom and Dad were gone for the evening, it was open season to do just about anything as long as no one got injured and no property was damaged.
          I thought it strange that once my brothers folded the frame to the point where part of the mattress covered me, I actually thought it was fun. I pretended I was a piece of chicken, and the mattress was the piece of bread for the giant chicken sandwich. They pushed the frame into the couch and down into place. Things got really tight, but I just laughed. Then the punishment came. My brothers flopped down on the couch without putting the cushions in place.
          “Hey! Cut it out! Get off me!”
          I heard them put the cushions on top of me, and then they said, “Good-bye. We’ll check on you later.” Fortunately, they were only kidding.  In fact, my little brother, Tim, wanted to give it a try. His turn at being folded into couch didn’t last very long. He started screaming and laughing immediately. When my older brother, Dan, and I gave the frame one last push, we heard a POP . . . then looked wide-eyed at each other.
          “Hey, what was that?” asked Tim.
          Dan replied, “We don’t know but we’re pulling you back out and no one is to say a word to Mom and Dad. We might have cracked the frame. Once Tim was out and the cushions put into place we quickly pursued other mischief.

* * *
          My mind was jolted back into the present when the MRI machine began vibrating weird, high and low pitch sounds, with short bursts and long tones. It was a bizarre experience. Who needs drugs to enjoy this strange world? A bluish-white light shone on a surface that was about two inches in front of my nose. To pass the time, I imagined I was in a pod of a spaceship or a time machine going to another galaxy. What would I see once we got there?
          Yes, I like to daydream. I figure if they ever make a pantheon for daydreamers, my name will be etched in marble in a prominent location on the entablature.
           The daydreaming started at a young age, and it has never stopped. It is a blessing and a curse. It’s not a good thing when you imagine flying in a jet over the Rockies and you get interrupted by a teacher or professor. But it does come in handy when you are waiting in line somewhere or you’re tired of doing Sudoku puzzles in the doctor’s waiting room.
          Absent-mindedness is a spin-off from daydreaming. It can get complicated when you think of two or three things at the same time. I’ve never been a big fan of multi-tasking.
          Claustrophobia. Daydreaming. I thought of those two words side-by-side and said, “Yes, if you want to fight off claustrophobia or any bad situation, just let your mind wander to a good place!” In the book Unbroken, when the famous athlete Louis Zamperini was being tortured in a Japanese prison in WWII, didn’t he imagine he was running barefoot on an endless beach? I’ve read accounts of people starving in prison or in the wilderness, and they imagine the best Thanksgiving dinner possible. It does help, at least temporarily.
          The machine noises subsided and the lights came on in the room. It was time for them to pull me out.
          Claustrophobic? Nah.
          While tucked into the MRI machine, I’d gone back to the 1960s, returned to the present, only to be shot out into interstellar space. Now that’s about as wide open as it gets.
          So . . . if you are claustrophobic, the next time you feel it coming on, just let your mind wander. The universe is a big place.

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