Fear and Exploding in the Real World :: THIS IS NOT A BILL


Despite Therapist Bob’s new-age psychotherapy treatments, my fear of mailboxes returned last week. Albeit this fear may be irrational, since it’s not mailboxes themselves that I’m afraid of, rather what’s in them is what scares the living bejesus out of me.

Caution: contents may be hazardous to your health

Caution: contents may be hazardous to your health

Sometimes I feel blessed having stepped foot into the real world — leaving behind 18 imagined years of pain and suffering, frustrations stemming from having been exiled from the real world, a desire to run for the mere sake of running, a steady supply of hormonal Molotov cocktails calibrated by some sadistic power to go off at the most inopportune times (e.g. teacher calls on me to solve pi on the chalk board or stand up and give an impromptu speech on egg fertilization), and a misguided faith that the Cubs will one day win the World Series.

What a long, strange trip from the womb it’s been. Thank Flying Spaghetti Monster I had enough sense to wake up from this dream in time to register for the Selective Service on my 18th birthday.

Other times I regret having made the descent into the real world, especially when I’m shadowed and stalked by William (a.k.a. Bill) since my downward descent. Now the good William works in mysterious ways, often times sending out reconnaissance patrols to prepare intended targets for the eventual knock-out blow. He makes this clear with emboldened letters at the top of his message: “This is Not a Bill.” Not yet, anyhow.

Last week I received one of these non-Bills in my mailbox sandwiched between a stack of real Bills, which somehow, like me, managed to survive the imagined world. The difference between us, however, is that William survived adolescence with the express purpose of wreaking havoc on my reality, forcing me to long for the nostalgic pre-real world days.

The non-Bill in question was from my health insurance provider, Wellmark BlueCross Blueshield of Iowa, and the heading of the recon-message read in all caps:


Given what the first paragraph said, the heading should have read:


Welmark actuary caught on film crunching more numbers in woodchipper to help justify exponential premium increases

Wellmark actuary caught on film crunching more numbers in woodchipper to help justify exponential premium increases

The Health-Insurance Syndicate wants to raise my monthly premium 17.3 percent from $529 to $629. My initial thought was that this was some sort of April Fools’ Day joke, since the effective change date is April 1. What reputable, LEGAL business can jack their price up 17 percent and still stay in business during an economic crisis? Reputability aside, the Big Health Insurance and Big Pharma are the only industries that can pull this off, while our employers, The Big Three Branches of Government, haggle over policy proposals as their bosses sit by and watch our savings accounts bleed to death, one painful payment at a time.

I plan on sending my Senators a letter voicing my concerns about the health industry’s price gouging and using the following heading:


But my fear of mailboxes did not initially manifest with William’s Army, rather it stems back to 2002, when the community I lived in became a target for the “Smiley Face” piper bomber. In 2002, while living on a farm outside the small town of Tipton, Iowa, Luke Helder, 22, planted pipe bombs in people’s mailboxes. When later captured in New Mexico, Helder admitted to the terrorist crimes, and said he did it because he was angry at the the government.

To show his anger, Helder ironically planted pipe bombs across the country in a ‘smiley face’ pattern. Tragically, a bomb did explode in the face of one of the Tipton locals, Delores Werling, 70, who received third-degree burns. For the next week or so, we had to leave our mailboxes open at all times, thus ensuring nobody had tampered with them. Helder never stood trial for his deeds, because the courts labeled him mentally incapacitated.

Not only did this incident exacerbate my fear of mailboxes, but it led to my irrational fear of smiley faces as well. While I refuse to shop at Wal-Mart for several reasons, their smiley-face symbol helped solidify my self-exile from the Epicenter of Cheap Crap and Labor Exploitation. Moreover, I’m reluctant to go and see the new Watchmen film because of the smiley-face symbol with blood dripping from its forehead. Forget about all the violence, rape, and immoral activities in the graphic novel version, it’s the damned smiley face that will keep me away from seeing the comic unfold on the big screen.

Who is watching the Watchmen watching our mailboxes?

Who is watching the Watchmen watching our mailboxes?

While so many other Americans ensnared in the current economic crisis are afraid to open their Bills or investment portfolio updates, I imagine mailbox phobia is growing exponentially. If I weren’t one of them, I guarantee I would start my own mail-opening business and serve as the middle-man between the victim and the impending financial blow waiting to spring out of the envelop like a jack-in-the-box. Don’t worry, mom; I would wear a helmet.

But what I’m really wondering now is: If a mailbox phobia, like planting bombs in shape of smiley face, is a legitimate mental health issue and I never opened my mail, do I really ever have Bills?

I guess there is only one way to find out (sinister laugh here)…


::T.M. Lindsey also writes at Say Something Funny::

March 10, 2009 10:15 am

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