I suppose it’s not too early to make an exciting announcement. The powers that be at the Manteca Bulletin headquarters, have decided to turn the Manteca to a T column – into the Manteca to a T coffee table book – or bathroom book — or waiting room book— or book used to level a pool table. Feel free to use the book however you see fit, but know that it is coming!.A short collection of the columns many people loved – or that many have hated – over the last 2 years. I was asked to bang out three or four new columns, ones that would be exclusive just to the book. No problem right?!
The fact that these new columns, would end up in a book, and not just the newspaper was some added pressure. The newspaper ends up lining a birdcage, or waiting to become kindling by the fireplace. But something written exclusively for a book should carry a little more weight. The noose was tightening, as the stark reality that I’ve pretty much been winging it the last 20 months set in. I made a stop by my mother’s house for a little divine intervention. She always has a way of blowing smoke up just the right place to inspire me.
Often reminding me of how I used to make her laugh by reading Garfield and Heathcliff books to her when I was little. “You were so funny, like a little comic trying to get his timing down” I have little to no recollection of these tour de force performances. But most of the columns I’ve written are kick started by a pat on the back, or a “that should be your next column.”
No sooner did I walk in the kitchen to greet her, that I was met with the hands up stop sign. She was trying to give a motherly warning, but it was too late. The smell and sight of what was happening slapped me in the face, like a childhood bully on a playground.
She was whipping up a batch of egg salad. Yuck! My Pavlovian gag reflex sent me scurrying to the living room. “I’m sorry, I didn’t know you were coming over” she yelled.
But it was too late. The floodgates of childhood trauma were open, and actively soaking my senses.
I was just a kindergartener, when my school bus driver decided it would be best that I have an assigned seat — the seat right behind her. A sentence imposed after an under the seat, length of the bus crawling incident. The sentence was made all that much worse when I saw who my cellmate would be. Little Fabiola DeSilva. She was a cute little waif that lived down the street at another dairy. Quiet and unassuming, she pretty much sat there unaffected by the surrounding morning bus commotion. And she sat there of her own free will. Her dairy was the stop just before ours. And every day that I’d board, she be sitting there – smacking on an egg salad sandwich. Or she’d be holding the egg salad sandwich on her lap. Or smelling of the egg salad sandwich she’d eaten before getting on the bus.
The odd thing was, I didn’t mind the sights and smells of egg salad when I started kindergarten. It became a learned response.
We’d stop at the next dairy and best friend Elliot Nunes would get on the bus, sticking his tongue out at me, as he made his way to the back of the bus. “Sit down Christopher, quit looking over the back of that seat!” I’d hear. All the while Fabiola is focused on that stinky sandwich. Day after day, I was locked in my own egg salad purgatory. She didn’t speak the best English, and rarely spoke at all. When she did, I’d see egg salad in her teeth. And smell egg salad in the air. She was turning into a living breathing egg salad sandwich right before my 5 year old eyes.
Familiarity was breeding contempt on an egg salad scale.
I started treating it like a prison ride. I’d force her to give me the window seat, and then crack it open while mushing my forehead against the pane of glass, counting telephone poles, as I internalized what I had done to end up here.
My 1st grade teacher once told my mother, “Chris is his own worst enemy”. That assessment couldn’t have been more spot on. Because just a few weeks after being paroled from Egg Salad Prison at the beginning of 1st grade, I found myself being reassigned to the same seat behind the bus driver. But I was becoming institutionalized. I had that 1,000-yard stare. It was my only salvation from the egg salad torture that was being forced upon me. Talk about cruel and unusual. I learned to take small breaths – and focus on the back of the seat.
I don’t remember the exact date that I realized I was too far gone for rehabilitation. The egg salad sandwiches that I’d once loved, now sent me into a tailspin of emotion. My family was alerted to the issue. And soon all egg salad, and mixed cold egg related dishes were kept from my sight and smell. They knew it was a trigger mechanism, and that though I was free from the shackles of Egg Salad Prison while not on the bus. Any reminder of it could send me into a fit of rage. And I had little sisters and a brother around that needed to be protected from this fact. My mother knew she couldn’t take the chance.
I grew older, but those old egg salad cell nightmares still haunted me. I’d warn all new friends of the trauma I’d once suffered. Most would just take heed. But some would try to see if they could pull me from the dark abyss I crawled in, maybe trying to mix in some egg salad with the potato salad, just to see if I’d notice.
Tony Coit tried that on me when we were 12. I held him hostage at a family barbeque with a paper plate I’d fashioned into a shiv for this maneuver. He never made the mistake again.
So there I was, huddled in my mom’s living room last week, trying to stave off the episode that was close to consuming me. Mom entered the room slowly with a linguica sandwich held far in front of her. She didn’t look me in the eye. Much the way you approach and feed a scared stray dog. The smell of linguica is the only thing that counteracts what is known as “The Egg Salad Effect” within me. She placed it on the ground, I ate it as I watched the Little League World Series...
Anyway, I still haven’t written anything new for the book. I’ll probably think of something today while in the tractor. Have a great Friday folks. And if this column gives any of you the wise idea to shove an egg salad sandwich in my face the next time you see me. Just try it! I still carry my paper plate shiv.
Here are some from Phobias that other town weirdoes have....
Emma Haney — I’m afraid of grocery stores. And malls. Unless I have my hoodie on then, I’m fine...CHRIS STOP MAKING FUN OF ME!
Renae DeBoer Gonzalez and Melinda Patrick — Wooden spoons!!!..Unfinished wood, especially the ones that come with the little cups of ice cream. Can’t hold them.
Amy Moore-Witt — I am afraid of tripping being unable to catch myself and knocking out my teeth... I have NO IDEA why I am afraid of this... I have never witnessed that happening to someone, I have never heard of it happening to someone.
Angela Salazar — None here, but my dad Labita is deathly afraid of mice! Cracks me up! That man can get in a ring with a bull, but screams like a girl when he sees a mouse.
Raymond Escalante — Black Widows because when I was a child, my dad made me clear out a stack of old lumber from our back yard that was infested them. It was either clear out the lumber or get a spanking. I chose clearing out the lumber but in hindsight, I should have chosen the spanking. I have much less anxiety about spankings than I do Black Widows.
Kevin Berry — Aliens.....”Fire in the Sky” ruined me when I was young. Though if one showed up and offered me a shot of Jameson, we would probably kick it.
Jami Kirby — For me it’s chicken, won’t touch a bone to save my life. When I was younger a rooster attacked me.
Christine Rocha — What the heck is wrong with egg salad??? I fear the hell out of horses! How can such beautiful creatures be as skittish as cats? Oh, and have the ability to cause you major bodily harm? My frickin’ daughter loves them...urgh!! I hate trying to be a good mother!!
Shim Lacy-Watson — I cannot stand the word moist. Like even just typing it right there made the back of my neck have a shooting pain, also the word sausage. Yes, I know this is ridiculous but I just can’t.
Crystal Herzog — Mayonnaise. It’s disgusting...that’s why. Makes me want to vomit every time I see it. It’s completely irrational and not at all normal.
Michelle Esquibel — Treat — Feet. People who touch their feet ( while wearing flip flops) while having a conversation. People who touch things with their feet. People who want a foot massage after wearing shoes all day. And feet that look like they belong to a creature in a horror movie. I literally have a physical reaction and get the heeby jeebies. Its just unsanitary and I am a huge germaphobe.
Nate Dycus-Coma. — I’m afraid that one day I’ll just slump over into a coma and wake up 20 years from now. But don’t worry I have a plan, every day my wife will write in a journal and keep it under the bed so if I wake up alone then I can flip through it to learn about the aliens or what not that have taken over. It’s a fear
Mindy Machado — Makasa — Celery!!! I made a gingerbread house as a child and used celery and frosting as trees flocked with snow. Then, I had the brilliant idea to eat it. I cannot even smell celery to this day without having flashbacks. I’m going to conquer this fear one day:)
Jennifer Juanitas — I cannot stand cotton in my mouth, like when the dentist tries to put that little piece of cloth to soak up the blood. It’s says on my file at the dentist office, no cotton in mouth. One of the dental hygenist asked if someone had stuffed a sock in my mouth when I was younger to shut me up, she said it could have caused PTSD of cotton in my mouth. My response, not that I recall....
Nina M. Bagnasco Winters — Mice!!! I remember them running over my hands when I was putting down a lug of tomatoes to put out for the fruit stand. There were a few that were spoiled and here comes two mice that scurried across my hands. I thought I was going to have a heart attack.
John Isola — Lint from the dryer and cotton balls. Can’t stand the feel of them on my fingers.
Cathy Frausto — Balloons..... they freak me out
Melissa Brocchini States — Manhole covers and grates in sidewalks.And the Manteca DMV caused some anxiety today-but hopefully I don’t have to go back anytime soon!
Jesse Sandoval — The number 6