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Lizard at the Wheel

The dentist loomed over me with predator eyes, his finger twitching on the drill. I gurgled that my mouth wasn't frozen yet. "Igh ott odenn! Ot odenn!!"

Dang plastic sucker thing. My cerebral cortex's response to terror had all the muscle of a substitute teacher with laryngitis breaking up a fight in the locker room.

But wait! My limbic system unleashed a massive piloerection. No, I'm not talking dirty. The hair on my arms and legs stood up so fast it popped the sequins off my sweater and shredded my pantyhose. And the naugahyde chair? Toast.

The limbic system is part of our "reptilian" brain: home of instincts like fight-or-flight, mating, and drinking milk out of the carton.

Britney Spears gave a terrific lecture explaining how it's "reptilian" because neurons shed their skins and leave them inside our blood vessels. Hence, plaque! Like most women in Mensa, Brit's prettier with hair.

We did the limbic thing in the sixties, remember? Lift a broomstick for the Limbo, and we either fought to the front of the line or fled the party. Such memory resides in the hippocampus.

Where is this hippocampus? And when did they get their own college? Wow, imagine the size of the loft beds in their dorms!

So anyway, stress triggers sympathetic arousal. Man, what is it with you and the dirty thoughts today? When aroused, reptilian gangs beat the snot out of sissy neurons with a "Hi! My Name is Cortex" badge, and hijack our responses.

Scary, huh? I mean, a deployed airbag could hurt the little guys, and then no one would be having sex while driving!

Marketing ads target the lizard. Have you seen the Camel Wide cigarettes? Labeled "Big, Fat and Delicious!" in testosteroneous packaging designed by tattoo artists. If you find a pack of those babies outside a Weight Watchers meeting, odds are on the Hells Angels newcomer.

Ever hide from someone? Me neither. Okay, once. I spotted my ex at Applebees, and I slouched behind the menu. Pondering the elusiveness of "maturity," I ruined my dress while belly-crawling to the car.

I read that baby rats need facial licking to stimulate the neural growth for emotional stability. Right on! My mom forever wiped our smudges and cowlicks with a gob of saliva. Despite my chronic dermatitis, I suspect she should've licked me more.

Our cortex devises coping strategies. Need to feel bigger, more confident in life? Forget self-esteem, and think props!

Wear football padding under your suit, strap on disco platform shoes, and tease up a ten-inch beehive hairdo. This technique works swimmingly for men, too. I learned it from my dad, an 83 lb. jockey who moonlighted as a prison guard.

Exercise calms the lizard. But first, put down the sharp tools. I know a woman who vented her rage by splitting firewood.

Was I - boy, was she lucky all her toes remained on board! A nozy neighbor called the cops to report a crazed executioner. Note to self: Next time, lose the hood.

Our inner reptile can be a 15-foot 'gator, gripping us in a death roll. Like the time I…er, a friend…yeah, a friend saw a snowplow bury her car for the third time, whereupon she chased the truck, screaming obscenities at the grinning driver.

Trust me, her pupillary reflex at that moment did not signal an urge to mate. Yup, sometimes the cuss words saved for really special occasions need a #&$%! good airing.

Make friends with your lizard. I nicknamed mine "Fuzzy Butt" and gave him snakeskin boots with elevator heels. Hey, I can't stop him from driving, but at least now the rascal can reach the pedals.

Mom isn't around anymore to spit on me, but I follow a nocturnal regimen of neural network maintenance. And judging by the puddle of drool on the pillow each morning, my emotional stability remains, thank God, at an all-time high.

Copyright © 2007 Mary Tompsett

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Mary Tompsett
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