Exercising my claustrophobia demons with a truck toolbox

By: Andrew Bernhardt

As a youngster growing up in Wichita, the golden bosom of our glorious heartland, fear was practically unknown to my pure mind. Sure, I was mindful of papa’s belt and my older brother’s killer wedgies. But I wouldn’t think twice about climbing the tallest tree on our property, and I never needed a nightlight to fall soundly asleep. Unfortunately, reality is a coarse towel soaked in icy ocean water, and once it’s flung in your face, you’ll never be able to close your eyes to its briny sting ever again.

For me, I lost my childhood innocence on Flag Day, 1968. Dwight, my crafty older brother, and I were looking for an excuse to get out of our morning chores. We realized that we wouldn’t have to sweep and dress the chickens for the night’s patriotic feast if no one could find us to ask. So we split up to make ourselves invisible. I don’t know what I was thinking, but I decided that the oven would be the perfect place to hide. I guess I’ve always thought that freshly baked bread looks like the most contented food in the kitchen, so I must have wanted to feel like a bun.

No matter the reason, I climbed into that cast iron coffin and couldn’t help but snicker thinking about how cleaver I was. Well, my ma got the last laugh. About twenty minutes into my stint, she decided to start baking her famous rutabaga cobbler. I didn’t realize it, but she turned that stove up to 375, and I started to sweat buckets. At first, I thought it was my conscience working me over for ditching out on my chores. But once my sneakers started melting and my nose was filled with the reek of singed hair, I bolted out of that hot box like a Brit from a dentist. Needless to say, I couldn’t even eat a hot supper for a month afterwards, and I never felt comfortable in confined spaces or around blow driers again.

Three decades and 4 failed marriages later, I decided it was time to work past that childhood trauma. Now, I wasn’t crazy enough to climb into another oven, so I started looking around online for a decent substitute. That’s when I ran across some sites pushing truck tool boxes. I figured that would work pretty well, so I set about finding the right one for my needs. Though Dee Zee tool boxes got a lot of rave reviews for their ingenious AlumaGuard latch design, I went with a Deflecta-Shield, which had enough elbow room to house my adult frame. It arrived a few days later and fit right into the rear of my Ranger. Of course, I powered through a half-pack of Winstons and a quart of rye before I had the courage to face my fears. But by that last pull off my bottle, I was ready. I climbed in, closed the lid, and stared down my demons.

And it worked! There was just one problem. I didn’t think that there wouldn’t be a release button inside the tool box, so I was stuck in there for 16 hours before my neighbor heard my screams. The good news is that I went out and bought my very first over. HoweverFree Reprint Articles, now I can’t even walk past a tool box without getting the sweats. Oh well.

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