If life were perfect, the terrifying things of the world would live in their own remote part of the planet so the rest of us could avoid them entirely. But life isn't perfect, and sometimes horror seems to just materialize out of nowhere. Unfortunately, when that happens, it's usually in the last place you'd ever want or expect to have something pants-soilingly awful to contend with. For example ...
Bedbugs have been big news over the past couple of years. However, most of the horror stories we've heard concerning these bloodthirsty nightmares have come in the form of travelers picking up a batch at some sleazy Third World motel (like the Ritz-Carlton in New York, for example) and inadvertently bringing the infestation home with them. So those of us who don't travel regularly have been sort of shut out of the bedbug craze, and that sucks.
"Bedbugs are so last year. It's all about sofa scorpions now."
But help may be on the way in the form of your Eastwoodian refusal to cash in your library card for an Amazon account and an e-reader. That's because bedbugs have been popping up in libraries on an unnervingly regular basis for the past few years, like the outbreak at a NYC public library back in 2010, or the more recent scare at the central library in Hamden. I assume I don't need to tell you that Hamden is in Connecticut.
If more useless facts coupled with even more tales of bedbugs hitching a ride home on your town's weather-beaten copy of the latest True Blood novel is what you crave, you should check out this needlessly long L.A. Weekly article, which is filled to the brim with both of those things. It's a fascinating read that takes about 750 words to tell you that a woman checked out a book about Sookie Stackhouse daydreaming about boys and, when she got it home, found a bedbug running across one of the pages, likely confused by the complete and total lack of blood inside a book with the word "blood" right on the cover.
We're also treated to a detailed explanation of why the woman who might have just introduced a bedbug infestation into her home does not want her identity revealed, because nothing is too obvious to warrant an explanation anymore.
"Alan, we're being told that a bedbug is a type of bug that infests people's beds."
If you're assuming that bedbugs find their way into libraries on the backs of America's hard-working homeless population, you're probably half right at least, but don't discount the layman's role in the impending disaster. A lot of reading happens in bed. That means a lot of books end up lying in beds when the person reading them passes the hell out. Bedbugs, being a resourceful lot, will shack up in pretty much anything that promises a warm place to hide until the bloodfeast (meaning your bloated mess of a body) returns each night. The spine of an old-timey book is as cozy a place as any. And then some do-gooder returns that book, and before you know it, your local library is crawling with parasites.
Just another benefit of books that you're never going to get with your newfangled Kindles and such.
If there's one thing we learned from the movie Jaws, it's that no obstacle is too great to overcome as long as we have Roy Scheider and a bigger boat. But Roy Scheider is dead now, and in this economy, "downsizing" is the word for boats and everything else.
Sensing this weakness in our defenses, sharks have taken their deadly game closer to the streets. Luckily, the closest they can get is the shallow water of your local beach. Unluckily, that's exactly where most of us confine our frolicking to when we hit the water, and something about being able to stand comfortably just makes it seem like you're not in the ocean at all. Once you start thinking that way, a shark is the last thing you're going to see coming. Just like that, you're rocking a stump.
It recently happened to a 10-year-old girl in North Carolina. The story points out that the attack was a "copycat" of an attack that happened a year earlier, because ABC News apparently has evidence that sharks have gained sentience and are now mimicking each other's crimes.
"Seriously, it's the best thing ever. All you have to do is ring the bell and say 'Candygram'."
Bull sharks are particularly fond of shallow water, almost as fond as they are of snapping chunks of flesh off of the calves of unsuspecting beachgoers. In Texas, a 12-year-old boy was attacked by a bull shark while playing in just 3 feet of water. The problem with bull sharks as opposed to, say, tiger sharks, or those delicious Shark Bites fruit snacks that were all the rage in the '90s, is that they're aggressive and territorial. So it's not enough that they like to play in the people water; they also like to chase the people out of that water, and they aren't afraid to use their razor-sharp teeth to clear a path for themselves.
In fact, the shark attacks that the novel version of Jaws were based on happened along the coast of New Jersey, just like so many other horrible things before and since.
They had to change the location for fear of readers siding with the shark.
Here's something nobody should need to tell you: Getting away with a crime is made exponentially easier if you're able to get far away from the scene as quickly as possible. Naturally, being close to a highway or an interstate makes getting away from pretty much anything a breeze. That's probably why our nation's highways are littered with serial killers.
Lest you think that's an overstatement, there are some terrifying numbers you may want to keep in mind. As of 2010, FBI statistics show that as many as 459 people may have been killed at the hands of highway serial killers over the past 40 years. There are approximately 200 suspects in those crimes. Almost all of them are truck drivers. Maybe that 44-point safety inspection upgrade you scoff at every time you get an oil change isn't such a crazy idea after all, huh?
"Here's your problem: You're a quart low on your anti-murder. You need to make sure you check that every 3,000 miles."
It's certainly a more appealing option than finding yourself staring uselessly at your blown engine when someone like Bobby Jack Fowler strolls up to "help," which is actually code for "bind your hands and feet with duct tape, toss you in the trunk and murder you a short time later." That's basically what happened to 16-year-old Colleen MacMillen in 1974, and it took until this year before police finally pinned the crime on Fowler. In the long years between the crime and the conviction, another 17 bodies were found along the same stretch of highway where MacMillen was last seen hitchhiking, Highway 16 in British Columbia, which has taken on the chillingly appropriate nickname "The Highway of Tears."
It narrowly beat out "Dieway 16."
But that should all be over and done with, right? The killer is caught, the crime spree ends. As it is in movies, so it is in life, right? Unfortunately, no. Not in this case, anyway. See, Fowler has been charged with that one crime, and currently he's suspected in one or two more. Obviously, that leaves a lot of dead bodies unaccounted for, and it's the same story on highways all across the land.
In the United States, the most dangerous states for highway murder are Texas and California, with 38 and 37 known cases to their credit, respectively. Hawaii (because you can't drive there) and North Dakota (because you don't want to drive there) can both proudly claim to be the only states in the union with no reported cases of highway serial killer activity.
I'm no tourism expert, but I'd recommend adding that shit to the travel brochures as soon as possible.