Being chased or attacked. Being nude in public. Dying. Drowning. Falling. Flunking a test.
These calamities star in the classic nightmares that haunt our sleepy time under the sheets.
I bet Sam Rubin gladly would have traded any of those nocturnal nerve-rackers for his nightmarish day at the office last week.
Rubin — an entertainment reporter for KTLA-TV, you might recall from the viral video — is the poor soul who committed the cardinal sin of confusing actor Samuel L. Jackson with fellow African-American actor Laurence Fishburne.
Shooting the breeze in the opening moments of an interview to promote Jackson's new action flick, "RoboCop," Rubin asked one of the highest-grossing actors of all time about the reaction he'd received from "that Super Bowl commercial."
Except Jackson wasn't in a Super Bowl ad.
Fishburne was, reviving his Morpheus role from "The Matrix" trilogy in a Kia spot.
"What Super Bowl commercial?" Jackson asked.
"Oh" — Rubin responded after an awkward pause — "you know what, my mistake."
Perhaps — as Conan O'Brien tweeted — the poor schlub assumed the "L" in Samuel L. Jackson stood for "Laurence Fishburne." As several minutes of live, cringe-worthy TV unfolded, we learned one thing: The "L" certainly doesn't stand for leniency.
"You're as crazy as the people on Twitter. I'm not Laurence Fishburne," Jackson blasted.
He brushed off Rubin's repeated mea culpas, perhaps recalling the wisdom of Trip, his character in the movie "Juice" ("Just 'cause you pour syrup on something doesn't make it pancakes!").
So Jackson unloaded again: "We may be all black and famous, but we all don't look alike!"
And on it went.
Talk about a nightmare. One shared recently by the E! channel, which mixed up actresses Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer, and George Stephanopoulos, who confused basketball icon Bill Russell with ... Morgan Freeman.
I don't know if Rubin's faux pas was a slip of the tongue, an innocent gaffe or whether he, as Jackson implied, is afflicted with what psychologists call "cross-race recognition deficit" — aka all-blacks-look-alike syndrome.
I do know Jackson couldn't have whacked the poor guy any harder had he wielded a Louisville Slugger — as he did playing bat-wielding Principal Joe Louis Clark in "Lean on Me."
And like Clark …
That wasn't Jackson? It was … Morgan Freeman?
Well, that clinches it. As a public service for Black History Month, and in the spirit of the Rubin-Jackson dust-up, let me clear up any potential misidentification of seven famous black firsts:
•In 1845, Macon Bolling Allen became the first black to ace the bar and practice law in the United States, not to be confused with Denzel Washington, who played personal-injury lawyer Joe Miller in "Philadelphia."
•In 1983, Guion Bluford soared as the first black astronaut to travel in space, not Jeff Burton, who in 1968 played the astronaut Dodge in "Planet of the Apes."
•In 1950, Gwendolyn Brooks became the first African-American to win the Pulitzer Prize for her poetry collection "Annie Allen," not Janet Jackson, who played the poet Justice in the movie "Poetic Justice."
•In 1975, Lee Elder cracked the barrier as the first black golfer to play in the Masters Tournament, not Will Smith, who played caddy Bagger Vance in "The Legend of Bagger Vance."
•Louis E. Lomax caught on as the first black television journalist in 1958 after joining WNTA-TV in New York, not Terrence "T.C." Carson, who played a TV reporter in the film "Livin' Large!"
•In 1953, Willie Thrower became the first black quarterback in the National Football League, not James "Jimmy" Alexander Dix, played by Damon Wayans in the movie "The Last Boy Scout."
•Barack Obama is the first African-American to serve as president of the United States, not Jackson, who plays the commander in chief in the forthcoming flick "Big Game."
There you have it. Jackson, as the DJ in "Do the Right Thing," asks, plaintively, "Are we gonna live together? Together are we gonna live?"
Avoiding Rubin-esque nightmares with a little cultural awareness — and a little understanding from the aggrieved — can bring us closer to that.
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