Published in The Ferndale Record, January 11, 2012
What is it about the bizarre, creepy, the all-but-unthinkable stories that makes us want to tell everyone we know? Why do we want to say it out loud? Do we want to see someone else squirm? Do we want them to tell us it’s a hoax perpetuated for use around water coolers everywhere? But it was in the news so it must be accurate, right?
One of my favorite co-workers sometimes hangs around my desk, and we talk—a lot. You know what I mean. We chat about family, work, life, love, weird things in the news, and snakes. That’s how we roll.
Not long ago our topic of conversation concerned a story out of India in which two brothers, feeling wronged by the government, delivered and set loose a couple of bags full of deadly snakes, including cobras, into a tax office. If the mere thought of this actually happening isn’t horrifying enough, someone in that room had the presence of mind to take a photograph of the incident and then share it with the rest of the world.
The reactions of people in the picture are what interest me most. Some of them are still seated, watching the snakes slither and wind up and around table legs. These folks look relaxed, almost nonchalant, like, “Hmm. Look at that. Snakes in the office.” Well, it was India. Perhaps snakes in a public place aren’t unusual over there. And it wouldn’t be the first time anyone had seen a viper in a tax office (insert rim shot here).
But others in the photo were clearly getting out of Dodge. My co-worker said if she’d been there, the shock would have been so great, she would have laid down and died—just simply passed away. I believe her.
Another terrible story out of the United Kingdom tells about a woman who literally coughed out one of her lungs through her ribs. Apparently, violent bouts of coughing can really do that. They can also cause eyeballs to pop out of their sockets, and ruptured spleens. The lesson here? Take a brutal cough to the doctor before you unintentionally become a bad party joke, or fodder for office chat.
My friend and I decided there was so much of this ghastly news in the world, in addition to some of our own unsavory personal experiences, that we could create a blog called “Icky Things We Know” and the number of hits we’d receive would be extraordinary because, well, as much as people say they can’t stand this stuff, they still want to read about it. Odd things happen everywhere, all the time, so our story base would be endless.
Uplifting and inspirational? Not so much—but engrossing in a twisted sort of way. Just last week I saw an article about celebrities who were born with extra body parts. Maybe sometimes these nightmarish accounts could even be called educational, right? Yeah, that’s probably a stretch.
And so, even though I still don’t know why telling unsettling stories is so satisfying, I suppose that’s what I just did.
And you know what? It felt great!