IT'S A LITTLE LATE in the new year to be bringing this up, but something called the National Anxiety Center in Maplewood, N.J., has published a list of the Top 10 things to worry about in 1990.
The list also includes 90 other things to worry about, but we probably shouldn't worry about them, because the center's point is that we ought to set some priorities, so we don't worry about everything.
As a person who tends to be a worrier, I really don't need the list. I have my own priorities.
I worry mostly about things that aren't going to happen. As my wife says, on vacation trips I always carry a bag of worst scenarios.
Just to get them out of the way, here are the anxiety center's Top 10: AIDS, drug abuse, nuclear waste, the ozone layer, famine, the homeless, the federal deficit, air pollution, water pollution and garbage.
Those are formidable bugaboos indeed. They give us a sense of despair. They seem to be rushing toward us like a tidal wave.
I have no idea how to alleviate any of them. Alan Caruba, executive director of the NAC, hasn't either.
"People ask the center if we have any solutions to these problems," he says. "Frankly, we haven't the slightest clue."
I can't figure out what the center's game is. From the flyer I was sent I don't see how it hopes to make any profit. It gives an address (P.O. Box 40, Maplewood, N.J. 07040) but doesn't offer anything for sale and doesn't appeal for donations.
Maybe the anxiety center has taken its cue from the Transcendental Meditation folks, who believe that if enough people meditate about the stock market or China or the Israeli-Palestinian problem, they can alter such matters in a favorable fashion.
If everyone in the country were to worry simultaneously about the ozone layer, could that protect it? Perhaps--if their worry prodded them into doing what has to be done.
The trouble is, most of us worry only about the calamities that may overtake us as individuals. I worry about an earthquake.
I suppose that the Big One will level the city, but all I can think about is my own house.
I worry that the earthquake will not only destroy our house but will destroy it just as our remodeling is about to be finished, thus leaving us not only homeless but in financial ruin as well.
I worry that when the Big One comes, I will either be riding in an elevator or driving through the 2nd Street tunnel. If I became trapped in an elevator with several other victims, my claustrophobia would kill me. Being buried alive in the tunnel would be worse than death.
Though the NAC doesn't mention it, I worry that a comet will strike the Earth, killing me. That's quite possible. Some scientists believe that a comet wiped out the dinosaurs 60 million years ago. There's no reason to believe that one couldn't get me.
I worry that when my wife and I go to Egypt (if we do), the Great Pyramid will collapse and bury me in it. The fact that it has stood firm for 4,500 years is no reason to believe that it won't collapse while I'm in it. If things are going to happen, they're going to happen.
I worry that I will buy myself a winning lottery ticket but that I will forget to find out the winning numbers and will go on never knowing that I have won.
What I don't know won't hurt me, of course, but that doesn't keep me from worrying about it.
I worry that our income tax returns will be audited--and we will have nothing to hide. One of our tax men said my wife and I were the most honest taxpayers in his experience. That doesn't mean the auditors couldn't find something. Even with expert help, nobody can file a tax return that something can't be found wrong with.
Sometimes I worry that I will be caught in a traffic jam on the Santa Ana Freeway and will die.
I do not worry about a heart attack, since my bypass is supposed to protect me from that, but I worry that in a traffic jam on the Santa Ana Freeway I will die of old age. I worry that I will die either of having too much cholesterol or not enough. One day I read that cholesterol is good for you, and the next that it will kill you. I've decided to leave it alone.
I worry that I will die of malathion poisoning. We live in one of the areas that they sprayed by helicopter. I can't believe that anything that will kill fruit flies is good for me.
One of the anxiety center's Top 10 things was garbage. Garbage used to be kitchen scraps, and everything else was trash. I worry that the distinction has been lost.