Several members of my family are not fond of snakes. Let me clarify by saying that several members of my family are terrified of snakes. If a snake is within a mile of them, they completely fall apart. They make distress sounds reminiscent of scenes from “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.”
Although they realize that this anxiety is over the top, they are still frozen in trembling, irrational panic over something that, for the most part, can’t hurt them.
Of course I’m not talking about killer snakes. They frighten me, too, and I certainly understand the fear of something that could end your life prematurely. It’s the other brand of snakes, black and garter, or garden, or gardener snakes.
These critters are good for balancing nature, and they eat deer ticks, or almost any other living thing that they are capable of consuming: slugs, earthworms, leeches, lizards, amphibians (including frog eggs), ants, crickets, rodents and minnows.
When I Googled phobia, I found nearly 500 phobias listed. For example, we’ve all heard of fear of spiders, Arachnophobia, and some members of my immediate family are concerned with heights, but how about Acerophobia, the fear of sourness?
That one took me back to some of my middle school teachers who had very sour dispositions. “Francis, did you finish your report on Medieval European Confrontations?” “No, ma’am, not yet,” I’d reply. “Well, if you don’t finish it by tomorrow, you will never graduate from middle school, never get out of high school, and you will be a failure for your entire life,” she’d say. Boom. Acerophobia.
During the past several years, I’ve developed another disquieting concern, Aeronausiphobia – the fear of vomiting secondary to airsickness. That one evolved from a flight in a private plane. As we flew through the clouds, I sat in the back of my then chairman’s beautiful airplane throwing up things that I’d eaten in first grade. This wasn’t a short run sickness either. It went on for hours. As we landed, he came through the cabin to exit, looked at me and said, “Fly home commercial.”
A former business acquaintance once told me that one of the primary reasons that prisons are built in rural areas is that the vast majority of the prisoners are from urban areas, and that they suffer from Agrizoophobia – the fear of wild animals. It seemed funny to me that these hardened gang bangers were terrified of being confronted by an angry opossum or a rabid squirrel, but, hey, I’m afraid of barfing in a plane.
Several of us have developed a new phobia, Anglophobia – fear of England. After the Brexit vote, it became clear that some of the things that encouraged 52 percent of British citizens to vote to exit the European Union may also be driving the elections in the United States. If there’s one thing that we older folks have learned, it’s to be afraid. Be very afraid.
Recently, one of my children decided to raise chickens. The rooster is a very aggressive attack animal, and from that perspective, at least a few of the kids have developed Alektorophobia – the fear of chickens, or at least the fear of one big chicken.
We had a dog once that developed Arachibutyrophobia – the fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of the mouth. My Italian grandmother had Astrapophobia, the fear of thunder and lightning. She’d make me sit on the cellar steps with her and pray the rosary during storms.
I’ve personally understood Automatonophobia – fear of ventriloquist’s dummies, but only because I’ve known so many of them personally. In my case they were actually human dummies, and clearly someone with their hand in their back (or somewhere) was making their mouths move. Actually, that phobia might better have fit under the category of Proctophobia, the fear of buttheads.
My very favorite phobia, however, is Phobophobia – fear of phobias. I’m sooo scared of being scared.