Purgatory in a picnic basket

Posted on May 7, 2012



Hell in a handbasket



It’s 2012 and you know what that means: yup, it’s the end of the world. Well, that’s what the Mayans said. OK, they didn’t say that, they just ran out of paper and had to stop their calendar at 2012. Other, weirder people said it’s the end of the world, and there aren’t that many Mayans around who really care to argue the point today. Or maybe they’re letting the other 5 no-show raptures in the last 5 years speak for themselves. Whatever.

Anyway, given the theme of 2012 as International Year of the Rapture Part VI, I thought I’d toss you a post that I originally published about a year ago and have since reworked for a chapter in the soon-to-be-nearly-almost-queried I’ve Become My Parents book.  I even made a shiny new cartoon for the occasion.

Hell in a Handbasket

Son, one of the particularly frightening parts of becoming our parents is when we look in the mirror and see them looking back. But there’s an even more cringe-worthy experience, at least in my opinion: it’s when we open our mouth and our parents’ voices come out.

At least when you walk up to a mirror, you know what’s coming. But you never know when your mouth might open and “you’re not going out dressed like that, are you?” is released like so much water vapor in your breath. Or its modern version: “I’m glad I caught you before you went out and embarrassed yourself. I’m sure you didn’t notice, but those pants make your butt crack show.”

Nature says that when you grow up, you will parrot the phrases you hated as a kid; nurture loads your head with them and stores them for later release at the least convenient times.

Sometimes it’s something about our parents’ expressions that just gives us the mental equivalent of a wedgie. I have expended countless amounts of energy training myself away from “Hell in a handbasket,” for example. That one was my dad’s: “This whole world is going to Hell in a handbasket, what with Lady GooGoo and Bieber Timberlake taking over the radio.”

Even if it wasn’t a hand-me-down from my dad, it would still annoy the crap out of me because it’s just plain silly. Is travelling to Hell in a handbasket really worse than getting there any other way? Seems to me that getting there, say, sandwiched between Lindsay Lohen and Carrot Top in the back seat of a 1971 Ford Pinto driven by Paris Hilton would be a fair bit worse.

I’m picturing Osama bin Laden down in Hell chatting with Muammar Gaddafi:

“So Muammar, how’d you get here?”

“Engulfed in a burning fireball. Boiled my skin right off. Damn, that hurt. In fact, you could say it hurt like Hell. Get it, Osama? Hell? It hurt like Hell. We’re in Hell.  Geez I’m funny.”

“Yeah, I don’t know why people never got that about you.”

“No kidding. So how’d you get here, Osama?”

“Banshees. About a dozen screaming deathmongers with claws the length of my right pinkie fingernail swarmed me and dragged me all the way here. Scratched my eyes out on the way down. And look what they did to my beard.”

“Ooh, yeah, that’s gotta hurt. Hey, at least it’s not as bad as that poor soul. Check him out.”

“Yikes. Handbasket. Sucks to be him.”

Anyway, the point is that the things we hate hearing the most are the ones that stick. So I got “Hell in a handbasket” wedged in my head right between “Kids these days…” and “I don’t care if all the other kids have it…” and now it’s everything I can do to avoid letting it escape (Don’t get me wrong; I do have a problem with kids these days, and I actually don’t care if all the other kids have it).  You’ll be walking out the door on your first date with some girl you really like and I’ll blurt out, “That skirt’s a bit short, don’t you think?” It’s not like I planned it or could stop it even if I noticed it coming.

There’s some kind of a gene that gets activated when we have kids that causes your head to start releasing all that stuff you’ve been storing. But if you have any chance in–  well, in Hell of living a life free from its control, you’ve got to start working on it now.

Don’t tell mom I said this, but your best chance is probably to stop listening to anything I say. Or, maybe repeat my most annoying sentences backwards in your head to mess up whatever process stores them permanently.

It’s too late for me. Maybe you can be the first one to break the cycle. Good luck.