People under the pretense they’re walking a straight line at a reasonable pace in front of me while they focus on their text messages. Inconsiderate drivers blaring their horns while making rude gestures and mouthing obscenities at me; I had plenty of room to make that turn! Linguistic acrobats who twist and contort perfectly good words to sound “cool” among their peers. All those times that I’ve had to apologize for interrupting a conversation as I dived between two participants who hadn’t the presence of mind to stand on the same side of the hallway. These are all things which annoy the piss out of me. But none of these come close to the irritation of a toe finding its way through a newly-formed hole in the tip of my sock. That feeling of frustration that will quickly mutate into desperation and panic when I am unable to resolve the situation quickly.
This sensation is one that belongs in the devil’s arsenal: it would surely be included in my regime of everlasting punishment if there were indeed a hell. Given that I don’t believe in hell, I am relieved of this agonizing thought. But the truth is, we don’t know what happens to us when we die. I suppose it could be possible that our “spirit” or energy continues on without our physical form – most likely as universal energy, not our consciousness as we know it. Or maybe this energy transforms into new life in the Buddhist sense of reincarnation. Perhaps we will find out that heaven and hell are real, but the men who wrote the scriptures did a spectacularly shitty job of making the story sound believable… Ok, I almost maintained a straight face on that one. My point is that no one actually knows what will happen. My best guess is that we will just cease to be; we will become the nothing that we were before birth. If we do cease to be, then a new question arises: how long will we maintain our senses before fading away?
This idea first came into my mind in 1988, after watching “The Serpent and the Rainbow“, but was further refined on Friday, June 19, 1981, after an episode of Tales from the Crypt entitled “Abra Cadaver” aired. Beau Bridges and Tony Goldwyn played a couple of brothers; the story was set years after a brotherly prank-gone-wrong leaves Bridges’ character, Marty, partially disabled and unable to achieve his goal of becoming a surgeon. Marty is convinced that brain activity continues long after clinical death, and kills his brother to prove the point to him. The story focuses on the experience of the cadaver, who is still aware of his senses: sight, sound and touch!
I’m not a fan of holding my breath, and I can’t handle being under water for more than a handful of seconds. If, upon physical death, I could still think, aware of my inability to breathe… I think this would fuck with me. The embalming and autopsy would be an unimaginable horror if I could feel every moment of it without the benefit of anesthesia. And then the mental torment of having to listen to friends & family speak at the funeral; no one should have to endure that! All of this sounds pretty miserable, but my thoughts dwell mostly on one particular event: lying on a cold steel table in a morgue with a tag upon my toe.
I seriously hate having anything around my toes. Whether it’s the wandering toe through the hole in my sock, or a hair on the floor winding its way around my barefoot digits, it drives me nuts. I quickly fall into desperation when I realize a toe has found its way between my sock and shoe; it’s worse than the itch that occurs somewhere between the throat and the eardrum! I cannot continue on my way until it is set right. If I were to experience this sensation and be unable to move or call out for assistance, it would be entirely thought-consuming, and I would not be able to come to terms with my death. So, given that we don’t know what will happen after we pass, I’m not willing to risk it: my wife is aware, and it shall be declared in my will… Under no circumstances should I be the recipient of a toe tag!