Ladies and gentlemen, I just got even more lovably neurotic. I have developed a delightful new phobia.
You wouldn’t think such a thing was even possible, considering I have about thirty-seven phobias already. What more could I possibly have to worry about?
I don’t know if it’s because the weather’s been in the double digits lately, or if there’s been a rip in the space-time continuum or if there’s a disturbance in the force. I don’t know why, really. But I do know that in the past week I have heard more barking than I have heard in the past … oh, year or so. All of a sudden, the dogs in my neighborhood can’t keep their yaps shut.
My neighbor, Zippy the Pinhead, has two or three of those nasty little fuzzy crap machines – pomegranates or whatever they’re called. I’m not sure why. I’ve never seen him or the vampire chick that used to live there or Bobby Hill or the ugly beer-drinking chick go anywhere near the dogs. No one walks them. No one pets them. No interaction. And every so often, perhaps in protest, one or more of them will start yapping.
The yapping I can handle. My father had them trained, Pavlov-like, to run into their house when our back door opened (he spent months using a powerful spray bottle full of water shooting each dog when the noise got bad). They don’t do that anymore, but I’ve found that they respond rather well to me shouting “Shut up!” at them. Also, I know the exact address of next door so if the dogs don’t shut up I can always call the police.
The booming bark is new.
A few weeks ago at 11:15 it started and didn’t stop until my mother called the police. The next morning it started again. The police were summoned again. The barking stopped. I didn’t hear any barking for about a week. I thought perhaps the police had put the fear of God into the dog’s owner. But a few days ago it started again. At 3am. And again at 4am. Then this morning at 6:30. This dog barks whenever it wants, for as long as it wants to, and the owners seem to neither know nor care.
I can no longer relax.
I spend an unprecedented amount of time worrying that barking is going to start at any point. I dread coming home from stores and events because I think, I’m going to sit down to relax and then the barking will start. I dread going to sleep because I think, as soon as I’m mostly asleep, the barking will start. I’ve been wearing earplugs but I don’t know how much I trust them to keep things quiet in my head. I realized a few days ago how fixated I have become on the possibility of barking and I decided to keep track of it. I made a note of the time each time the paranoid fear hit me. Here’s a sample day:
(out of house for a while)
(out of house)
That is, I believe, at least 70 times. And that was just when I had a pen and paper handy.
I’m not sure what to call this new phobia – the fear that sometime soon a dog will start barking – but I think I’ve got enough empirical evidence here that it does in fact exist. If you can think of a good name for it, let me know. But speak loudly – I’m wearing earplugs.