Friday, March 6, 2009

freakin' phobia

I'm not easily scared. Okay, a little scared. Vermin disgusts me, but I'm not afraid of mice. When I was eleven I took four steps into an indoor zoo and a snake slithered between my bare foot and my sandal. Startled by the unexpected sensation? Yes. Scared? No. I'm cool with fish, birds, bats, large groups of teenagers, heights and blood.

Horror movies scare me--somewhat. Few things are more terrifying than the opening sequence of Scream when Drew Barrymore is alone in the house with all those windows--outside lurks the psychopath and she's totally vulnerable. That sh*t freaks me out. I cannot watch it. I couldn't get past the first half hour of I am Legend for the same reason.
Person Alone & Isolated + Possibility of Someone/thing Jumping Out to Attack Them = My Heartrate Dangerously High

Fortunately for me, horror movies are avoidable.

Bad economies, war, famine, nuclear proliferation--all scary things, but I'm not scared of them. I dread and despise them.

But one thing is guaranteed to make me leap and squeal with palpable fear:

Yep, I get that they eat other bugs, are smaller than me, probably won't bite me. I've read and seen Charlotte's Web and that was a piece of fiction, people. Spiders can't spell and they have bloodlust. Spiders scare me. I. Don't. Like. Them.

In college I worked 3rd shift at a Country Kitchen on weekends (an experience that still features in some of my nightmares for many reasons) and one night I arrived back at my dorm around 4:00 a.m. Dog-tired, I pulled back my comforter and there on my sheet was a cluster of black spiders.


My scream woke half the floor. I jumped from foot to foot, screaming, clutching the front of my blue ruffled polyester waitress uniform. Should I try to smush them with my white orthopedic rubber shoe sole? What if my mattress was infested with them? I'd heard the story about the lady who bought the cactus and ended up covered in a nest of tarantulas. Should I leave my room and sleep in the common area?

A giggle from my doorway gave me pause and my buddy M flipped on the light. Plastic spiders. Planted on purpose. To freak me out. Indeed. Ha ha ha. Laughs all around. Everyone returned to bed and I headed down to hall to the bathroom.


You guessed it. More black plastic spiders clustered in the shower.

The following morning I found another half-dozen in my mini-fridge. To my credit, I didn't scream the third time.

Years later I had a job tending bar along a river. Every Monday I had to wash the windows and the building was dripping with webs and those brown barn spiders that get really big and juicy as the summer passes. Well fed on prolific amounts of mosquitoes, gnats and flies, these spiders could get as big as my palm. I am not kidding you. I'd stand on my ladder warily eying them scuttling along the window's edges and I'd brush their webs away with a 4-foot long broom handle. I lived in terror that they'd fall into my hair while I was wiping the windows clean (yes, I'd also heard the story about the lady with the beehive hair-do who had a nest of spiders living on her head). I'd scrub those windows as fast as humanly possible, my entire body leaning back as far as I could. I despised that particular task more than almost anything else I've ever done for money.

Obviously I've learned to control my violent emotions concerning spiders. I'm past going to any and all lengths to destroy any I find nestled in the corners of my ceiling or webbed up along our garage wall. Yet every now and then I'll be walking through our prairies and nearly crash into one of these:

These spiders get HUGE and their webs are wider than me. My scream echoes through the woods and along the creek while I regain my composure and step around to give that arachnid its space.

Spill it, reader. What's your freakin' phobia?


  1. My Dad used to play with Black Widow spiders when he was a kid in Idaho. He said they'd go out in the fields and flip them over to see the belly markings - no t.v., video games, internet- what can I say?...

  2. Shame on you for posting those pictures. You could have at least warned us. I'm gonna have nightmares.

    That "joke" your dormmates played on you was just MEAN. Man.

  3. I don't know if I'd call those people "friends" after that.

    My phobia is mountain roads with steep drops off the side. The drive to go skiing is not my friend.

  4. I get what you are saying about horror movies. I also can't handle movies in which the tension hinges on someone's children getting taken. That's just too much. Avoidance = best strategy.

    But, we have orb spiders in our garden and often in the pine tree by our front porch. My children love to see them spin their webs (and I don't mind because they're so big and bright that they're easy to keep track of -- theoretically.) My basic rule about most bugs is Outdoors okay. Indoors not okay.

    I do have a phobia of the dreaded roach, not because they live in my home, but because I lived in Moscow for a time, where roaches are *everywhere*. Seriously, they sell RAID roach baits on streetcorners. I counted 4 different species of roach in my apartment alone. It was extraordinarily creepy. In fact, the roaches probably made the difference in my decision NOT to pursue a career path that would bring me back to Russia. Some people questioned my decision, but they didn't have to turn the light out and wonder what was crawling around in the dark.

    - Julia

  5. My phobia?

    You wanna know MY phobia?


    So...consider me FREAKED.

  6. I'm a spider phobic, too.
    That's why I will NEVER get rid of my cats. Because while I know they must be here in my home somewhere, I never see them because they are eaten first!

  7. I have 'insectophobia' *haha!* Actually, smaller spiders don't bother me, really, but the orb-spinners and other huge ones really quease me out. And grasshoppers, because they're so spazzy and clingy and random with thier jumping.

    We have tarantulas here in the 505 - an acquaintance of mine captured one on his neighbor's lawn a couple summers ago. bleh!! And we have scorpions too, which, you do NOT want to let your cat handle! Also VINEGAROONS. And we also have something called a 'child-of-the-earth bug' which sounds terrifying to me and which, luckily, I have never seen in actual life. They are supposed to look like a big, squishy spider with a baby's head (!!) Oh. And HOUSE CENTIPEDES. google that up and try not to hurl.
    Okay I need to think of something else now...*hahaha!*

  8. One of my college friends was so afraid to find out his exam grade, I had to check it for him.... that's because the grades were posted next to a poster of a snake, bearing its fangs.

    The more spectacularly creepy a critter is, the more wonderful I think it is.
    So I totally agree that masses of ordinary black spiders and those crunchy brown cockroaches are absolutely VILE!

  9. If I know I'm going to see a snake, spider, mouse, ax murderer on the screen, etc., I'm ok. But if I don't know it's going to happen - or there's creepy music telling me it might happen - my heart wants to jump out of my chest.

    I am, however, officially afraid of bad storms - thunder, lightning, tornadoes, etc. I can't take it and become completely pathetic.

  10. June bugs. They dive bomb the front door, they clatter when they hit glass or brick, and that sticky feeling when they actually land on me - SHUDDER!!!

    I'm so with you on the horror movies, too. I just do. not. do. horror. Everybody knows it. A good friend of mine thinks it is hilarious to say "hello, Clarice" if he calls me after dark. yeah...haha.

    My only other real ICK is the feeling of falling. That weightless, stomach suddenly at the base of my skull feeling is awful. And so I will never bungee jump. Not for any amount of money. Nope.

  11. I am with Jenn, I will shake and cry like a baby on those steep drop offs. No desire whatsoever to see the Grand Canyon.

  12. Just the other morning I want to pull on my jeans and a big black spider crawled out. Yikes!

    I'm another one who can't take those winding mountain roads...I hold my breath every time we're near the edge.

  13. Heights and spiders. I get woosy going to second floor of our office if I get to close to the edge. I also worked at a Country Kitchen, late shift. It was often entertaining. We didn't call it the Country Kitchen, it was the ***chen Kitchen.

    Back then, when I used to swear. I never, ever do that any more.

  14. Rats. Hands down. Hate em!

    But that last picture could add spiders to my list. Eek.

  15. I agree with you about the fear of being alone. I can't stand it. I lock every door.

    My other fear: head lice. It's not the screaming kind of fear, but it is still irrational. Since I taught 1st grade for years, I was constantly terrified of getting headlice. One mention of a case in another classroom and I would be itchy all day. I can't tell you how many times my husband has been forced to check my head because I was certain I had lice. Probably has something to do with my mom telling me in elementary school, "Don't let other kids play with your hair, or you'll get lice." I think she fears it even more.


  16. Spiders for sure...I can barely even read the word "skuttle"

    I also have a phobia of driving in curved, mountainous areas and the sound of scissors cutting into paper.

  17. My phobia? Fire. My nightmare is that I'll die in a fire.

    It used to be rats - then I had 20 pet rats and cured myself. ;-)

  18. What's your phobia?

    Numnber one biggie: losing the people I love.

    I'm thinking of this because I just received the sad news that Barbara Jean Parker passed away this monring after a long illness, and while we wren't close friends I took a grad course with her and she was a very generous writer. She was a lawyer and went on to write at least 13 mystery books...the "Suspicion " series and was twice on the best-sellers list.

    There's nothing you can do in the face of death, so why fear it? Because it is the unknown. Because it means you'll be deprived of the dead person's company, laugh, smile for the rest of your own life.

    So while this is not an obssesive phobia, it is, I find, a great intospective question, and a great writing prompt for ficiton, non-fiction and poetry.

    Thanks, Mel. I think I'll post this on my blog as a farewell salute.

  19. I'm not a huge fan of spiders, especially big ones, or large groups of teenagers; but nothing makes me scream and run like a girl more than roaches. UUUUGGGHHHH. I have shivers thinking about it. UUGGHHH.

    That is something I don't miss about living in the caribbean. Estonia doesn't seem to have them. Or at least they are as ''reserved'' as Estonians themselves and don't feel the need to introduce themselves to me.

  20. My 14 year old son is still terrified of spiders. Every now and then I'll hear him call Mom?! in that very special tone that means only one thing: There's a spider on my ceiling! Can you come get rid of him?

    Always makes me think of the spider scene in Annie Hall.

  21. Oh my Lord, that's a big spider. Me, I'm scared of snakes. And heights, sort of.

  22. I guess it's the element of surprise - I've screamed if a baby bunny hops out of nowhere when I'm gardening!


Spill it, reader.