Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Haphazard - 1

There's a scene in the splendid Prizzi's Honor where Kathleen Turner's and Jack Nicholson's characters are executing a hit, and in the middle of said hit, the elevator opens, and a woman walks on the scene. She gets a good look at Kathleen Turner, who then shoots her, though not before the woman mumbles something about being on the wrong floor. Ms. Turner (There is a rhetorical device whereby one refers to someone as a stand-in for someone else. I can't remember what it's called, but in this case, I'm using it by referreing to Kathleen Turner as a stand-in for her character in Prizzi's Honor because another thing I can't remember is the character's name.) is upset at having to kill someone whom she was not meant to (and is not being paid to) kill, but as she explains to Mr. Nicholson, she had to because this woman had "made" (i.e., was able to identify) her.

To this day, if I am in an elevator and either I or someone else pushes a button for a floor other than my, his, or her intended destination, I experience a mild spell of Prizziphobia, which I define as the fear of being killed by a professional assassin when the elevator stops at the wrong floor.

You might consider this more a quirk than a phobia, but the (or at least a) definition of phobia is "a persistent, irrational fear of a specific object, activity, or situation that leads to a compelling desire to avoid it." Persistent? More than twenty years now.

Irrational? Boy howdy. What, after all, are the odds of a hit in an office building in Bethesda, which is where the overwhelming majority of my elevator experience occurs? And even if there were a hit, what are the odds of my stumbling upon it. And we simply cannot ignore the likelihood that most paid assassins are neither as diligent nor as scrupulous as Ms. Turner: they probably just shoot into the elevator as it opens.

Compelling? Well, that's why I call it a mild case of Prizziphobia. (I'm not even going to argue about the appropriateness of the name. I will stipulate that I have no other organized-crime-related phobias.) If I had a moderate case, I'd likely start to shake, sweat, or breathe faster when someone says, "Sorry, wrong floor," and if I had a severe case, I'd likely avoid elevators altogether, which would be a real nuisance. But I only have a mild case, so when the elevator opens at the wrong floor, I stare at the ground. And I feel like an idiot, because I'm compelled to do so.

It almost seems a little sad this is the best I can do: I have no other phobias, or at least none that I'm aware of. I have a fairly strong startle reflex when, say, a bug drops on me or I come unexpectedly into contact with vermin, but it's just a reflex, I'm not afraid to examine the insect, reptile, rodent, or person bursting into my office after I climb back into my skin and/or get it out of my hair.

Ultimately, I don't spend a lot of time thinking about the Prizziphobia. People don't hit the wrong button all that often, and staring at the floor for a few seconds can't really be considered a major inconvenience. It certainly doesn't seem worth curing. Especially given that I can, if I really want to, overcome it. I can't help glancing at the floor, but I can, if I really want to, look up. I can, if I really want to, stare out the doors of the elevator and shout, "Bring it Kathleen!"

But I don't really want to. Besides, elevator floors are interesting.