First, let me say that not a day goes by when I don't read Hagar The Horrible. The legendary Dik Browne's strip may be set in a mysterious Nordic land in an unspecified time, but its universal message of hope in the face of wacky Viking hijinks never fails to speak to me and to the issues I face living here in America, 1998. But as much as I love Hagar and all the ways it enriches my life, I must say that yesterday's installment hit just a little bit too close to home.

In the first panel, the stage is set, as Hagar and Lucky Eddie are stranded on a boat in the middle of a lake. The situation becomes far more complicated in panel two, as a horde of rival Vikings launch an attack on the pair's boat, fiercely closing in from all sides. Then, in the climactic third panel, Eddie turns to Hagar and says, "I told you we should've brought a cell phone."

Now, normally, I would've enjoyed a good chuckle over such vintage Hagar. But instead, it sent a chill up my spine, for something frighteningly similar happened to me that very same day.

Panel one: It's 9 a.m., and I'm driving to work on the freeway. Panel two: Thick, black smoke starts pouring out from the hood of my Toyota Tercel, and I pull over. Panel three: I frantically search the car's glove compartment for my cell phone to call for help, but it's no use: the phone is nowhere to be found. Like Hagar and Lucky Eddie, I am helpless, stranded.

At first, I thought the similarity was just a coincidence. But then I got to thinking about the many other ways my life resembles Hagar's. Yes, like Hagar, I have a fat wife named Helga and a duck named Kvaak. Like Hagar, I enjoy eating with my feet on the table. Like Hagar, my best friend wears a funnel on his head. And, if all that weren't enough, while I do not have a bushy red beard like Hagar, I do occasionally winter in Norway.

But before I had the chance to run into the streets screaming and clutching my head in terror, it dawned on me: This isn't the first time the comics have mirrored my life. About a month ago, in Andy Capp, Andy was drinking and carrying on, throwing beer bottles at his wife. Reading the strip made me stop and pause, because I suddenly remembered how drunk I'd been the night before, downing flask after flask of Irish whiskey, and how I'd punched all my family members in the throat and had to go to jail for 30 days.

And whenever Dagwood Bumstead eats one of those giant sandwiches, I get a mild heart murmur, probably because all those octuple-decker sandwiches I'm constantly eating make my arteries constrict. A few weeks back, Dagwood ate a sandwich in every strip, and by Saturday I had to have an angioplasty.

Then there was the time Garfield dreamed he was eating a big lasagna, but he woke up to find he'd eaten his mattress. Well, the very same day that cartoon ran, I woke up with the family cat in my mouth.

Last year, in Family Circus, Jeffy wrote a letter to his dead Grandpa, asking him whether heaven had e-mail. I thought that was eerily prescient, for just a few hours prior to reading the cartoon, I found myself wishing I could e-mail my son Darrell, who'd recently been killed by a runaway tractor. That Bil Keane must be some sort of psychic.

For years, with the exception of Hagar The Horrible, I didn't read the "funny" cartoons in the paper. I did the cryptoquote and checked the obits to see if any of my friends had died of cancer, but other than that, I pretty much got my daily guffaws from wacky local "Morning Zoo" radio programs.

From now on, though, I'm checking the comics every day to see what's going to happen in my life. In today's Peanuts, Charlie Brown seems to have an unusually large head, so I'm bracing myself for a major case of hydrocephalus.