Irrational fears: everyone’s got ’em.
When I give ghost tours, I talk about hauntings and serial killers and people love it but heaven forbid a rat runs by, and they lose their shit!!! Rats are just squirrels with bad haircuts! Rats are a totally irrational fear – leave them alone, and they won’t bother you!
With Halloween around the corner, I’m interested to know: What are YOU afraid of? (I’m not talking about the big guns here, like death or losing a family member or Trump becoming president or any of that legitimately scary stuff.) Here’s what I’m talking about:
There was a news story in New York City when I first moved here about a new father who was killed in Central Park while taking his newborn baby for a stroll. You’re wondering, “Was he mugged?” NO. He was killed by a TREE BRANCH. There was a storm, a branch got loose, it fell on him, AND KILLED HIM. I would call my fear of tree branches fairly justified, then.
My Gas Oven
My last apartment had a broken oven that would turn itself off mysteriously (poltergeist?) and leak natural gas into the apartment. I lived in terror of the thing and never touched it (well, what New Yorker USES their oven besides for storing shoes?). Now that I’m in a new place, I have a hard time trusting this oven. I watch it like a hawk, sniffing the air for any sign of potentially EXPLOSIVE gases. I’ve used it maybe three times, only once completely alone, and I was convinced I was going to blow up my apartment while making taquitos for breakfast. Taquitos. For breakfast. Now there’s something truly terrifying.
Toxic Shock Syndrome
Did anybody else read that scary, scary piece in Seventeen, or was it CosmoGirl!, around 1998, where the girl told her Scary True Story of how she got Toxic Shock Syndrome from a tampon? And then she lost her hair? Somehow? I don’t even know if those things make medical sense, but I’ve been terrified ever since of going into septic shock because the 14-year-old me was really, really attached to her hair. Right. Toxic Shock IS scary, and even though I’m like the most responsible tampon wearer, setting alarms on my phone for tampon maintenance (seriously), I constantly fear I will fall prey to this horrifying illness.
Running Out of Toilet Paper
When I first moved out of the house, I tried the old “trade off buying toilet paper” thing with my roommates – didn’t we all? That’s how come we all feel like we need to keep toilet paper in our bedrooms, furtively hiding a stash. Running out of toilet paper in your own home! Your own home! Is kind of the worst and so I currently have a stockpile of toilet paper in an undisclosed location. Sometimes I just check on it to make sure it’s still there…
Dropping My Phone on the Subway Tracks
Two hands on the phone when getting off the train. If it’s in my pocket, I put my hand in my pocket to hold it in there. I cannot imagine anything worse than dropping your phone onto the subway tracks, short of an actual living being on the tracks, which is ALSO HORRIFYING. But not enough to keep me back from the yellow platform edge strip.
Okay, now you gotta spill. Spill what you’re afraid of! Share those irrational fears!!!
12 Comments Add yours
Toxic shock syndrome totally freaks me out! As does being trapped in the London underground or trapped anywhere really.
EEEK yes! When the train stops between stations…and then the lights go out… and the power shuts off – this used to happen to me all the time on the E train out in Queens, but not so much anymore, so when it does, I find myself hyperventilating!!!
TOTALLY IRRATIONAL FEARS, YOU SAY?!
1. Blacktop pavement/getting hit by a car.
As a kid I was terrified of blacktop. Screamed and refused to walk on it, etc. (There's a story my parents like to tell about my dad having to carry tiny me over a HUGE parking lot at a fairground because I was Just. Not. Having it.) Except, the fear wasn't the material itself, but the idea of getting hit by a car. My thought process was: roads are made of blacktop –> anything made of blacktop is a road –> roads are where cars are –> blacktop is where cars are. These days I'm okay with blacktop but I get panicky crossing the street, even if there are no cars in sight. I do a goofy-looking power walk every time I have to.
I got over the blacktop fear by basically putting myself through exposure therapy when I was, like, 6? We lived on a dead-end street in a development in the boonies and one summer day I just ran back and forth across the street a bunch of times to prove to myself that I WOULDN'T get hit by a car as soon as I touched foot on blacktop.
Always scary, always creepy, have never liked them. Like, have been freaked out to tears by them. I hear stories about professional clowns who do hospital visits or show up in refugee camps and all I think is THOSE POOR KIDS, HAVEN'T THEY BEEN TRAUMATIZED ENOUGH?
3. Losing my glasses over the edge of something
I actually had a lens pop out on a roller coaster in high school so this isn't a totally irrational fear! But whenever I'm looking over the edge of something, like a balcony or whatever, I have to keep one hand on my glasses.
I'm with you on gas ovens/stovetops. One of my apartments in Korea used gas and I basically never cooked when I lived there because I was afraid I would fuck up and burn the place down/asphyxiate myself.
"I hear stories about professional clowns who do hospital visits or show up in refugee camps and all I think is THOSE POOR KIDS, HAVEN'T THEY BEEN TRAUMATIZED ENOUGH?"
I think clowns start to slide us down the slope of the Uncanny Valley – but in reverse? Humans acting like dolls is weird. Humans acting like robots is weird. A.I. freaked me out. Ted – the Buffy episode – freaked me out. I used to get uncomfortable when people were really good at "doing the robot" (now called "popping and locking") because it looked unnatural.
There is definitely something grotesque about the traditional clown make-up: chalk-white pallor, oversized/exaggerated mount, oversized nose….just no. I was never a fan of pratfalls and physical comedy either, even as a little kid (I am moreso now, on a meta "i appreciate the training it takes to be able to fall that well"), so clowns had nothing going for them to make up for their uncanny appearance.
"Humans acting like robots is weird."
But what about Brent Spiner/ Data?????
I saw an AMAZING dance performance where the girls acted like mannequins while the male dancer kept them from falling down and DAMN, the skill it took to fall flat on their faces…but it was terrifying.
THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for bringing up Data! I wanted to cite him as an exception in my original comment (but decided against it because it was too long). In acting class in college, our professor told us that the key to playing a character who was drunk was NOT TO ACT drunk, but to try to act like we were NOT drunk, because the reality of being drunk is that nobody likes to act drunk when they're drunk, they want to act like they're not drunk.
Brent Spiner, as Data, is an android who wants to be human (he even confesses it in season one, when offered the opportunity to be made human, like Pinnochio). However, he is an android who exhibits his desire to be human by acting, as he interprets, like a human. (He is an alcoholic acting like he is not drunk, basically) This is not upsetting because it is higher up on the uncanny valley for me. Jerky movements and stunted speech are upsetting, but Data's confusion comes across more like a cultural confusion, less like AHHHH TERMINATOR RUNNNNNN
I am immune compromised and have early stages of osteoporosis (osteopenia) due to another medication soooo my irrational fears are:
Little kids coughing. Is that whooping cough? Is that the start of measles? Am I gonna be in the hospital for a month because some hipster thinks her precious Alyce Danger will get autism from a deactivated virus?
Is that ice? How much ice? Am I going to fall on my a– and break a hip and be in the hospital for a month and then get pneumonia like a 90 year old because the landlord didn't salt? Broken hip equals dead in a year for the senior population in most cases. (Not a senior, btw)
I also have nightmares that the highway ends, just completely ends, while I'm driving on it and I'm trying to drive on nothing. That one is less likely to happen, but pothole season is coming.
The highway thing sounds pretty terrifying – like there the sidewalk ends, but bigger? My nightmares frequently feature staircases that get narrower and steeper (like caves you have to crawl through) and not being able to find a bathroom in a large building. The latter, like your concern over illness and falling, feels completely rational and justified.
I once heard of someone who was freaked out by power-generating windmills. And needles that were used to heal, but not of tattoos needles, and of one particular troll….
I would add my favorites:
Heights (after sister held me over the edge of a bridge so that I would have a better view),
deep water (after parent tossed me off a boat to "teach me to swim"),
icy sidewalks (after falling too many times to count),
missing or forgetting a very important deadline/appointment/assignment
I had seven vials of blood drawn today at the Doctor's office and the nurse practically had to hold me down!
Missing an assignment is truly serious. That sort of "wake up in the middle of the night, anxiety-ridden, mentally scrolling through things you may possibly have forgotten!"
It's funny how many of these apply to me too: I've read similar stories about tress in Central Park, especially after storms (although I'm okay with them generally), and I think about the gas thing once in a while ever since we learned about Sylvia Plath's suicide in high school English class. And the TSS thing, which I think I first heard of in grade school when they pulled us out of class to talk to us about periods in the nurse's office, is one of the reasons I've always disliked wearing tampons! One of the best parts of switching to a menstrual cup was knowing that TSS would never be a factor again.
I seriously have to make the leap to the menstrual cup. I just worry about turning into a fountain of gushing blood everywhere like The Shining in the hallway scene which – oh there's another fear – hallway filling with blood!