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This post is part of my 2022 Word Project. You can read what that’s about here.

Thursday, June 29, 2023

Ralph and I are watching a show called From, which is on a channel we don’t have but they dumped the first season on Prime to get you hooked. I guess it kind of worked, because we started a free trial of MGM which is the network it’s on. The thing is, we also plan to watch the rest before the trial is up then cancel it.

Does that sound terrible? Not as terrible as the show, I assure you. Think of Lost, in a “been there done that” sort of way. But worse.

Which begs the question, why are we hooked and why are we watching it? In some ways it’s about the horror show. And I don’t mean that literally, although it falls in the horror/mystery-thriller genre. I mean the horror show as in the roadkill you can’t look away from. You know it’s awful but a little part of you is thinking… hm, is that the intestine??

Anyway it’s also the kind of thing where the plot, if there is one, is so random that you keep thinking, surely it has to come together.

If you watched Lost you probably know what a pipe dream that is.

If you didn’t watch Lost, let me sum up the premise of both shows. I promise this won’t be a spoiler if you manage to watch this fever dream of a show before it gets cancelled.

A bunch of people end up someplace mysterious where random, unrelated, pointless, bizarre things happen that are supposed to be scary. You don’t know what’s going on any more than they do, and you’re fairly certain the writers don’t either.

Nothing happens.

You’re welcome from saving you the trouble of signing up for a free trial of MGM.

Anyway, it’s good background noise while I’m playing word games. So today as I was contemplating a topic to write about, I thought it might be interesting to make a list of things that scare me. Not scare as in creepy guy in a Halloween mask scary, but scare as in actually fire up a few neurons and make me not want to think about it scary.

There are two kinds of scary, both of which are included in today’s musing. There are things that are physically scary, like when you’re trying to make a left turn across four lanes of high speed traffic in Middle Tennessee. And there are things that are existentially scary, like what if there is a zombie apocalypse and I’m the only one left on the planet?

Fair warning, it’s after 9PM, after a very long, busy day of obnoxiously dull, tedious minutia, so I did not exactly spend all day thinking about this. I’m making it up as I go, which is saying something considering that’s my usual MO.

Here goes.

Thing that scares me number one: being trapped. This is more of a phobia than a fear, but elevators to me are just lurking death traps. My last panic attack was in the car going through a car wash. I can’t ride a roller coaster because the minute the shoulder harness locks down I hyperventilate.

This is closely related to my fear of drowning. I can swim just fine, and the number of times I’m anywhere near water within a given year can be counted by how many times I take a shower plus one.

Still, that doesn’t stop me from looking away in terror every time someone in a movie goes overboard on a ship or falls through ice into a lake or something.

Titanic was my worst nightmare. It’s literally the only movie I sobbed during most of. Literally, in the way you’re supposed to use the word literally.

Ask Ralph, and he will tell you that after my 1989 Nova finally kicked the bucket thirteen glorious years later, I panicked because new cars all had automatic windows, and I was terrified that I’d go over a cliff into the water and not be able to get out of the car because I wouldn’t be able to crank the windows down.

Number of times I drove on or near a cliff? Zero.

Sometimes, just being in bumper to bumper traffic for a long time will put me into a panic.

Airplanes? Terrifying. Not for the possibility of crashing but for the being locked in a tin can, whether it is in the sky or sitting there on the runway doing nothing.

This fear of being trapped has an existential component, too. I am absolutely terrified of ALS. I’m not saying the idea of getting cancer or having a heart attack is comfortable, but I don’t worry about those things. I do, however, worry about ALS, even though it’s probably a lot lower on the totem pole of Things That Can Kill Me.

I don’t even want to think too much about it right now because did I mention it’s after 9 and I will need to sleep soon?

These are the things I will lie awake and stare at the ceiling thinking about.

So yeah. Thing one.

Thing two that scares me: dreaming about doors.

Worst. Nightmares. Ever.

I’ve already mentioned that in some prior post so I won’t repeat myself but if there is a door in my dreams you can bet I’m waking up in a cold sweat trying to scream and nobody is getting any sleep after that.

Upon further reflection, I think that doors opening in are a lot scarier than doors opening out. A door opening out implies you’re going somewhere, that you can peek around the edge to see what’s coming. A door opening in implies something is coming to eat you and you won’t be able to see what that is until it’s too late.

Thing three: public speaking, where public speaking means three or more people listening to me talk. While this isn’t a bone-deep fear like the other two, it is something I will go to great lengths to avoid.

Fortunately it’s not something I need to deal with much these days, but once in a while I’ll have to run a client meeting where half the C-suite shows up and it’s incredibly nerve-wracking.

Don’t ask me to do your wedding toast or read a psalm at your funeral. Don’t ask me to “introduce myself to the group.”

For years Ralph and I went to BNI meetings and the 30 seconds I had to stand up and say Hi my name is…. were the worst 30 seconds of every week.

My brain goes blank, my hands shake, I get incredibly stupid and then spend a month afterwards thinking of all the things I should have said if only I had been able to unstick my tongue from the roof of my mouth.

I think this fear is less to do with the act itself and more to do with a fear of failure, of looking stupid, of judgement. Look at that, three fears wrapped up in one!

Thing four: losing a part. Leg, arm, eyeball. Enough said.

Thing five: making someone mad. I don’t like conflict, which you may think, well, who does? But some people seem to thrive on it. They create it, they perpetuate it, they play it like a ten piece band.

I like people to be happy. Perhaps more importantly, I like to make people happy. When I can’t, don’t, or fail to, it is very upsetting.

This mostly applies to people I know and like, but sometimes it manifests by being a little too agreeable with strangers, too. Like the guys who knocked on our door recently and said Hi, we’re from Verizon…

My smart brain knows that you don’t talk to people like that, even if they are from Verizon, especially if you haven’t invited them, don’t expect them, or have AT&T so there’s no reason Verizon would be at your door.

It’s like getting a phone call where someone says you absolutely must give them you bank account number or it will catch fire.

It’s dumb, and you say, but how does someone fall for that?

Because your lizard brain takes over and probably you don’t want to say no and risk a conflict.

It’s a good thing Ralph was here because he immediately showed up behind me and said, Sorry, we’re not talking to you, and shut the door on them then called the management office immediately and reported it.

In that moment I was less afraid of two random guys showing up at my door than I was of causing a conflict. They were from Verizon, by the way. Soliciting. And they got booted off the property.

But still.

This is probably a fear I should get over.

Thing six: pitch black. Not “the dark” but when it’s so dark that you can’t see anything at all. Like sometimes in the middle of the night I will get up to go to the bathroom and shut the door. Our bathroom is between the bedroom and the closet and there are no windows, so when you close the door in the middle of the night it gets pretty pitch black.

That’s the point at which I’m absolutely certain that a monster is going to come out of the closet and eat me, and I will try to escape but it will be too dark to find the door handle so I will end up a pile of intestines right there in my own bathroom.

Thing seven that is tangentially related to thing six: basements. Especially dark ones. Especially dark ones that are below ground or semi-submerged. Basements in daytime are ok, but at night, forget it.

When my grandparents lived in the Bronx, my grandmother used to go down to the basement of her three-story apartment building to do the laundry. It was a basement in the true sense of the word, unfinished, just a bunch of utilities, with a big old boiler that you had to sidestep to get to the washing machine.

That basement scared the ever loving daylights out of me. I’d be fine going down with her during the day, but at night I couldn’t even think about it being in the same building.

If the door was not locked, I could not sleep.

When my family first moved to Mahopac, we had a “basement” which was really just “the downstairs.” It was completely above ground but it was down there.

During the day, again, it was fine. It was the playroom for us kids and we had plenty of fun there. But at night I couldn’t even look over the stair railing.

There was definitely a monster there.

Thing that is scary when it happens but doesn’t worry me otherwise: dreaming that you’re awake but not being able to move. And then dreaming that you woke up and thinking phew, it was just a dream, but still not being able to move. It’s a disturbing sort of Inception reality.

There is a whole other category of scary things which are more like “things that are uncomfortable,” like being stuck talking to someone’s teenager at a dinner party or getting lost because you refused to make a left turn and now you’re stuck on a road with no egress. These are the things people mean when they say “do something that scares you every day.” They mean go talk to that weird 15 year old kid with the blue hair, not drive your car off a cliff and laugh in the face of death.

But that is for another post.

Then there are things that WOULD be scary if presented with them, but they don’t keep me awake at night worrying. Skydiving, bungee jumping, finding out that a meteor is about to hit the earth, slicing my hand off on a mandolin…

And finally, for good measure…. things that don’t scare me: spiders, clowns, sharks, heights, doctors, change, “the unknown”, and, interestingly enough, actual scary movies and shows.

I wouldn’t call this an exhaustive list because I’m a lot more neurotic than this, but these are some of the most unhelpful and ridiculous things that scare me. Now let’s see if any doors make their way into my dreams or if I’ll find myself naked about to give a speech.

Photo: come on, even in the daytime it’s kind of scary, right?