AIDS! I remember reading about it in The Wall Street Journal like it happened yesterday. The truth is it was back in 1985 and Rock Hudson had it. An insidious disease was carried by one of Hollywood’s great leading men.
I was in my late 20s and a researcher for an investment letter, which meant I read every day, usually eight hours a day. That gave my mind plenty of time to wander. I wasn’t happy with my life at that time. I had been a feature writer back home, but I was told I was too young and inexperienced to write about markets and the economy. My wife was homesick for her parents; we had a newborn and two toddlers, a big mortgage and a boss with whom I didn’t get along.
So I immediately assumed the worst. I knew if Hudson could get AIDS, anyone could get it — even me. It didn’t matter that I was not a homosexual and I had never injected a drug. The WSJ was writing about AIDS on the front page. It even said that while Hudson may or may not be gay, you didn’t need to be homosexual to be infected with it. It also said that it was first identified in North America in the 1970s and that it could lay dormant for years before some deadly symptoms showed and then you died a terrible, shriveled-up death. It even said an infected person might easily infect his loved ones, not even knowing he was carrying the deadly virus.
I was a blue-blooded young man before my marriage, and I calculated that I was feeling listless and unhappy because my blood was coursing with a terrible virus from the darkest part of Africa.
There was only one thing to do, drive like a bat out of hell and barge in on the family doctor. When I walked in and told him I needed a blood test then and there, he started laughing. To humor me, he asked me personal questions about my total intimate history. Then he started laughing again.
“You know the chances of you getting killed in a car crash coming to see me were 1,000 times greater than you testing positive for AIDS.”
My doctor suggested I start exercising five days a week and that I take my wife on a vacation. After I did that, my worries about AIDS were eradicated. A year later when I bought some life insurance and had blood work, I knew I was simply stewing in worry to ever think it was possible that I had the AIDS virus.
For years, I was embarrassed about that neurosis. But I began to appreciate something my mother used to say: “Our biggest hopes and worst fears are seldom realized.”
She was right, but what should be added is that our biggest hopes and worst fears are often played upon. In the case of hopes the lottery serves as a good example. Your chances of being run over in the parking lot buying a lottery ticket are higher than your chances of winning a million-dollar lottery.