AS MY PERSONALITY fragments, I have assumed many personas. I have been Impunity Man, who does things mere mortals do not have the guts to do (like throw rude store clerks through the window). I have been the Ruler of the United States, who, among other things, insists that in every elevator in the land the first floor be marked "1" (none of this "L" or "G" or "LL," whatever the hell that is). But now I want to be Oblivious Man. This is the guy who zooms down the shoulder of the Beltway when traffic has brought all lanes to a standstill.
Oh to be Oblivious Man! Oh to be unmindful of danger. Oh to just zip down the shoulder, doing a good 40 or 50 mph, not worrying that someone might pull to the right, that a door might open or a cop might spot me. Such a person does not think of such things. Such a person does what he wants because he doesn't know any better. Such ignorance, I am even more convinced, is freedom and true, true happiness.
As Oblivious Man, I would return to smoking. I would take deep, satisfying draws on the cigarette, let the smoke cuddle my lungs and release it from nose and mouth at the same time. Oblivious Man smokes because he is oblivious to the fact that smoking can kill you. To be so ignorant is, truly, bliss.
As Oblivious Man, I would never use a seat belt. Never -- and especially not for short trips. I would not even use a seat belt as I drove down the shoulder of the highway. I would drive as if I were oblivious to all danger because -- and this is the point -- I would be. I wouldn't care about such things. I wouldn't even know about such things.
And so, in my reveries, I become Oblivious Man. I have no children's car seat. I have no air bag. I have no fire extinguisher in the house, even though I smoke in bed. I back up on the highway if I miss my exit. I do not signal when turning. I drive fast and I drink when driving. I am oblivious to the danger. I feel pretty close to immortal.
Oh what a mentality. I start the day with bacon and eggs. Do I know about carcinogens? Do I know about cholesterol? No. I eat what I want. I have French toast and eggs and pancakes. I have lots of coffee. I eat lots of meat. I see something, I eat it. I am unconcerned about gaining weight. Not only am I oblivious to the health dangers, but I don't even notice I'm fat. If I'm a woman, I wear shorts and a tank top. If I'm a man, I wear shorts and a tank top. I'm also oblivious to fashion.
Oblivious Man has my admiration. He has my envy. He is the person I will become when my personality fragments some more, but he is not who I am at the moment. Instead, I am the sort of person who thinks almost anything can explode. In my head, I am always saying to myself, "Get back, it can explode." This applies to batteries being jumped, sitting cans of gasoline, power mowers, light bulbs, anything that in the last year ran on electricity as well as automobiles involved in the slightest of accidents. Even though I approach the collision, I say to myself, "Get back, it can explode." I am not -- not yet, anyway -- Oblivious Man.
I am obsessed with safety. I see peril everywhere. Foods are fraught with danger. Travel is dangerous. Love and sex are dangerous -- the former more so than the latter, but that's a different column. But Oblivious Man has never heard of safe sex. Oblivious Man has never even heard of feminism. He calls women "honey," doesn't think of them as persons and hasn't spent a moment of his life thinking about relationships. Say this about Oblivious Man: When he wants to have a good time, he has a good time. God, how I envy him.
Oblivious Man gets a deep tan every summer. Oblivious Man hunts and thinks there's nothing wrong with wearing fur. Oblivious Man keeps a gun in his house, which means that he's oblivious to all its dangers, but -- oh boy -- when the stairs creak at night, he sure feels safe. Oblivious Man doesn't floss, hasn't seen a dentist since the Army and, of course, has pretty good teeth. Oblivious Man doesn't worry, doesn't fret, doesn't give a damn about anyone, doesn't know where Liberia is but has really regular bowel movements.
Oblivious Man swims in the ocean and doesn't fear sharks or, much more realistically, that crabs will come off the bottom and nip his toes. He is, I tell you, oblivious to all the very real dangers of the deep. Oblivious Man hitchhikes and picks up hitchhikers and has had nothing but wonderful experiences as a result. He drinks water out of picturesque but polluted streams, has never exercised a day in his life and starts the day with an RC Cola. For a man approaching an early death, he looks great.
Oblivious Man walks at night anywhere he wants. He pays no attention to politics, never votes, never reads a newspaper. It's hard to say he's worse off for his ignorance. He camps out in the summer, oblivious to the dangers that lurk in the woods: bears that crawl into tents at night and escaped homicidal maniacs from the nearby, but unseen, mental hospital. Oblivious Man is as oblivious to these dangers as he is to poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac, three very good reasons never to leave home.
Oblivious Man is the guy I want to be. He is the guy I envy, the very one who passes me on the right, zipping down the shoulder of the road -- not just because he's oblivious to the dangers, but because he's also in a hurry. There's so much to do and, because of the way he lives, so little time to do it.