The other day I read an article about a college professor whose way of getting to know his new students at the beginning of the semester was to ask them to write down what they felt would be the most stressful situation in which they could imagine themselves ever becoming involved.
Most of them came up with fairly standard stress-inducers, such as being pulled over by the police, getting caught cheating on their significant others, or having their credit cards denied when attempting to make an important purchase.
Their answers made me seriously think about what types of situations most people might consider to be even more stressful than those. Within minutes, I managed to come up with at least a dozen different scenarios. Here are a few of them:
· The temperature is 102 degrees. You suddenly find yourself trapped between floors in an elevator that contains two guys who have just jogged five miles and do not believe in using deodorant. The music blaring through the elevator speakers is, “It’s a Small World”…on a repeat loop that is stuck playing it over and over again.
· You receive a gift card to a new ice-cream shop that features an all-you-can-eat ice-cream buffet. After you carefully construct a giant sundae with six different flavors of ice cream, you take just one bite and develop an agonizing toothache with pain that shoots all the way up to your eyeballs.
· For three years, you faithfully play the same lottery numbers every week without winning a thing. On the day you finally decide to change your luck and play different numbers, your old numbers come up as the winners, with a jackpot of $100 million.
· You spend all day perfecting your famous ham, potato and cheese casserole to bring to your church’s holiday potluck supper. All of your hard work pays off because your casserole is a big hit, with the guests going for second helpings. On the way home, you turn on the car radio and hear that Oinky brand ham, which you used in the casserole, is involved in an emergency recall because it contains a virulent, highly toxic bacteria.
· You’re driving home from a late-night appointment when your car breaks down in an unfamiliar neighborhood. You look around and happen to see some graffiti spray-painted on the side of a vacant building…“This is the Demon Executioners’ private turf! Trespassers will be dismembered!”
· You wait all year for the annual half-price sale at Harry’s House of Meat and stock your basement freezer with 50 lbs. of chops, roasts and steaks. Unbeknownst to you, the freezer coughs and dies that same night, and you have no clue about it until a week later, when you go down to the basement to retrieve the perfect roast for your in-laws, who are arriving from Florida to spend the weekend. The minute you open the freezer, the smell of rotted meat gets sucked up through the vents and permeates your house, making it smell like a giant septic tank.
· A co-worker sets you up on a blind date with a guy she says is in show business. He turns out to be a sideshow attraction named “Shaggy Sherman,” the world’s hairiest man.
· They say everyone has a double – an exact look-alike. You discover that yours happens to be someone who’s on the FBI’s 10 most-wanted list.
· You can’t stand your boss. He’s grouchy, demanding and unappreciative. Fed up, you secretly look for another job and are thrilled when a large company hires you for a prestigious position with a salary to match.
Cackling to yourself, you sit down and compose a letter of resignation – not an email or a text message – a real letter, for dramatic effect, to send to your boss. In it, you call him such endearing terms as “egotistical pond scum.” Two hours after you mail the letter, the new company calls to tell you they’re sorry but the person whose position you were supposed to fill has decided not to retire for another year. And 10 minutes after that, your boss calls you into his office to apologize for the way he’s treated you in the past and offers you a promotion with a hefty raise.
You later are arrested for tampering with the U.S. mail when a police officer finds you with your head stuck in the corner mailbox.
So, if I were one of the professor’s students and had to write down what my own personal most-stressful situation would be? I’m not sure, but I think it would involve being trapped in a small room with my two very hyper and gaseous dogs, no Hershey’s chocolate, no phone and no bathroom…right after I’ve just had two or three cups of coffee.
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