Two runaway tires and the bad-luck T-shirt

door wide open

If you have OCD, this is how you picture your front door when you’re halfway to work. (But at least there’s an inexplicable shower curtain draped across the doorway, so I can rest easy knowing I have this bastion of security to protect my home.)

“I am not a superstitious person. I am not a superstitious person. I am not a superstitious person.” 

I’m convinced I must say this phrase at least five times a day, or else something bad will happen.

I assure you, the irony is not lost on me.

A friend told me I must have Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. People who have it often perform constant, ritualistic behaviors — such as hand-washing, flicking light switches on and off, and repeatedly checking locks — in an effort to ward off anxiety.

To the general public, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is known as OCD. To the people who have it, it’s known as A Royal Pain in the Ass.

OCD does have its benefits, however. For example, I’ve never once left my apartment and forgot to lock the front door.

For most people, that’s not a tremendous accomplishment. But when you have OCD, you worry about things like that … in addition to all the other things normal people worry about. We sometimes worry if we feel we’re not worrying enough.

Most of the time as I’m driving somewhere, I’m never sure if I remembered to lock the front door — even though I checked the lock at least five times prior to reaching my car.

I can’t resist. I’ll be down the staircase and halfway to the parking lot when I suddenly turn around, dash up the stairs and start jiggling the door handle like a horror-film villain chasing a beautiful woman (an apt description for my dating life). It’s embarrassing, especially when my neighbors glare at me through their peepholes. I’m sure they used to wonder if I was some kind of weirdo. By now, I bet they have no doubt.

Here’s another, more embarrassing example of my OCD. In my closet, there’s a T-shirt I’ve owned for nearly 10 years. I’ve worn it only twice. I’m afraid of it, because each time I’ve worn it, something bad has happened.

The first time I wore the shirt, I was working on a construction project and lost control of a truck. I barreled downhill and crashed into a loader, crumpling the back of the truck and crushing a taillight.

Luckily, I wasn’t hurt … at least not until my boss got a hold of me and wrung my neck. I somehow kept my job, though when payday arrived, I received a bill instead of a check.

The second time I wore the shirt was three months later. I had no other clean laundry (an unfortunate byproduct of involuntary bachelorhood), so I decided to give the shirt a second try. I put it on and went to work … and narrowly avoided hitting a pine tree and killing myself.

Here’s the story: Me and another guy were driving to a job in Lake Tahoe in a rickety old dump truck. We had two yards of dirt in the back, along with our tools.

Just past the turnoff to Nevada Beach, I heard a metallic tinkle, like a coin being dropped on a sidewalk. Then I heard another. And another.

“Did we lose the pin off our tailgate?” I asked the guy with me, who had been dozing during the ride.

He opened an eye. “Dunno. I’m not driving.”

“Ah. I appreciate your keen investigative prowess.” I looked at the mirror and frowned. “I wish I knew what made that noise.”

Meanwhile, a guy in an SUV sped up alongside of us in the fast lane. He honked his horn and flashed his headlights, waving frantically.

“Up yours, dude,” I muttered, glaring at him. “Just pass me.”

At that moment, the two left-rear tires fell off the truck. The wheel slammed onto the asphalt and threw us into a skid.

Luckily, my panther-like reflexes kicked into action: I immediately let go of the wheel and screamed like a girl. My passenger lay asleep with his hat shielding his eyes.

We slid off the road, our wheel gouging a rut into the asphalt. The truck veered off the shoulder, skidded through some dirt and brush, and came to a sudden stop six feet in front of a 50-foot-tall pine tree. I looked up to see our two tires bouncing like basketballs down the road.

The SUV pulled up alongside us, and a young guy jumped out and ran to our window.

“Your tires fell off,” he said, pointing at the truck.

“Oh,” I said. “I was wondering what happened to them.”

“I saw your lug nuts coming off,” the guy said. “I was trying to warn you. Did you not see me? I honked.”

“Um.” I bit my lip.

The guy unholstered his cell phone. “You mind if I get a picture? You don’t see something like this every day. This would be great to post on Twitter.”

He motioned to my passenger. “Hey, you. Can you move closer to your friend? I want to get both of you in the shot.”

My co-worker lay asleep with his hat shielding his eyes.

I looked up and saw that our tires had stopped bouncing. One had fallen on its side on the shoulder. The other was still rolling down the road, keeping pace with traffic.

***

It’s probably needless to say, but I haven’t worn that particular shirt since. I admit that it probably had nothing to do with the accidents. And besides, you might say, things turned out fine each time. No one got hurt. In fact, in both instances, the situation could have been much worse.

Nevertheless, the shirt still hangs in my closet, a testament to my superstition and my OCD. I should toss it, but it’s a perfectly nice shirt. It may bring bad luck, but I do like the design. It’d be a waste to give it away or toss it.

I’m not trying to make light of OCD. It’s a very real and sometimes very disabling disorder. I’ve often found, though, that laughing at OCD is a good way of coping with it. I have to chuckle when I check my locks repeatedly, or when I skip past that “unlucky” shirt in my closet I know I’ll never wear. They say laughter is the best medicine. It may not be the best (alcohol probably takes the cake), but it ranks right up there.

So to all those with OCD, go ahead and laugh. You’re entitled. And as you’re traveling down Life’s highway with the road unfolding before you, be sure to absorb all the sights and appreciate the beauty … and stop worrying about whether you remembered to lock the front door before you left home.

But do check your lug nuts to ensure they’re tightened. You don’t want to be traveling down Life’s highway and have your tires fall off. Trust me on this one.

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