2013.07.31 So much to be afraid of


Not all the details of the conversation will be divulged because I promised anonymity. It's going to be embarrassing enough as it is.

The conversation started off because of an e-mail that I received. The writer mentioned that going to prison was her greatest fear and she asked about mine.

I never came up with an answer, but I did tell someone else about the question and suggested that maybe I just have a lot of minor fears rather than a major one. I started off mentioning supernatural phenomenon. I'm not convinced that supernatural stuff is even real, but I remembered that night I came downstairs at 3:33 a.m. because I was awake and I saw a dark shape in the kitchen as I turned into the bathroom. It was nothing, but it "creeped me out" as some people would put it.

I mentioned the somewhat similar category of aliens. Are they out there? Among us? I watched "I Married a Monster from Outer Space" at the Rex Theatre when I was a kid. I have to maintain the possibility that perhaps I, too, married one.

I clearly remembered a night in California, walking outside with some acquaintances and the conversation turned to aliens and spaceships as we looked up at the starry sky. Scott from Mountain View stated his philosophy: If they're really advanced beings, they sure aren't going to mess around with spaceships. Scott once escaped a beating/mugging by feigning mental illness. He knew things.

I enjoy lying outside at night watching for satellites and meteors, but I get a little uneasy thinking about a "flying saucer" landing nearby.

Tornadoes. I'm a severe weather fan. I like to go out and look for rotating clouds when the warning comes up. I love driving to an open area during a really good lightning show. I also know how the exhilaration would quickly turn to fear if a large funnel were sighted. I guess I'm just a fair-weather bad-weather fan.

Next I mentioned a problem with fish. All right, we're getting really irrational now. During a couple of college summers I worked at a hotel north of Petoskey and when Lake Michigan warmed sufficiently, I would put on my face mask and spent long periods of time in about three feet of water looking for fossils. Whenever a fish would suddenly appear, it gave me a start. How ridiculous is that? A Lake Michigan fish in shallow water. I think it must have been the element of surprise.

By the time I said "something under the bed," I knew this had become established as Wacko Night and I was the wacko. I don't recall any significant monster-under-the-bed fears when I was a kid, but they must have been present. Well into adulthood, I've been known to notice that my hand is hanging over the edge of the bed and move it back on top of the mattress.

When I come home late on Monday night and walk into my bedroom, I don't turn the overhead light on. Instead, I walk past the foot of the bed, turn the corner at the far edge and turn on the small lamp near my pillow. Sometimes I say nasty things about my wife who might have moved a suitcase out of the closet and into my path. Why not? she would answer. Who would be stupid enough to walk through the room in the dark?

Beyond the stupidity, I reach to push the lamp switch while gazing at the bed, wondering what I will see. Of course I see nothing but a pair of pillows, but you never know when the head of a horse might have been placed on your pillow.

I was feeling too much the oddball and needed to even the score. I was becoming far too strange while my companion just appeared as an amused but normal person. That changed rather quickly.

"I'm afraid of dolls," she said.

Wow, I didn't feel so badly now. There's even a name for that affliction: pediophobia. Actually, there's a name for most every fear out there. She made me feel even better by mentioning her fear of young children (pedophobia), her fear of imaginary friends, her former fear of butterflies (lepidopterophobia). There's also some residual brain stuff left over from being told at a young age about magical trolls that eat children.

It all made me feel better, but I wasn't really at the end of my surprisingly long list. I sound like someone who constantly walks in fear, but that isn't the case at all. I had to dig these things up; they aren't lying around on the surface. They just appear at an appropriate time.

My only hope for some salvation here comes through remembering what a friend told me Saturday morning: Smart people have a lot of fears. Well then, I'm sure I have much more to fret over.