This was a response to a Vox Question of the Day: What were you afraid of as a child?
I am answering this question without the “that seems silly to you now” addendum, as per navelgazer’s original submission. When I saw the question this morning, I wasn’t going to answer it, because, frankly, none of my childhood fears seem all that silly to me now. In fact, I am still pretty much afraid of the same things now as I was then. Since I read that she hadn’t submitted the question that way, it suddenly became answerable. Then, I guess, without further ado:
Heights: Once, in the mall with my parents, I was walking behind them as we all stepped onto the down escalator. Well, actually, they stepped onto it, and I just stood there, paralyzed, at the top of the moving stairs, too afraid to put my foot down on a step that looked like it wasn’t going to stay under me. My dad had to ride back up and get me, since I was standing there blocking traffic for about five minutes, refusing to move or come down. I still effing hate escalators, especially the down ones. The up ones are no picnic either, especially when you have to ride up multiple floors in a big, open, glassy atrium-type situation, where you can see all the way down and it doesn’t look as if anything solid is below you. I’ll ride escalators like that, but you can be sure I’m white-knuckling it the entire way. Similarly, I hate going down big stairwells, especially walking on the side nearest the gaping opening. I won’t stand at the edge of anything–cliffs, balconies, etc. There is a picture of me and my high school boyfriend standing on the observation deck of the Empire State building, and the expression on my face is one of complete and utter torture. I won’t even tell you about how, on that same trip to New York, we had to climb to the top of the Statue of Liberty to look out of the tiny windows in her crown, because if I try to remember that in any detail, I might up and die right here.
Bees, etc.: I got stung by a bee right on the stomach when I was about three or four years old, and ever since then I go running and eeeking whenever a big buzzy flying thing comes near me. A whole colony of bees used to frequent the holly trees flanking the front door of the house I grew up in. Entering and exiting the house via the front door was known as “running the gauntlet.” In later years, I embarrassed myself during marching band practice by jumping out of formation to avoid an approaching bee. These days, if one gets into the window of my classroom, I make one of the students chase it back out before I can relax. Ugh. Bees.
Big, Snouty Dogs: This one is kind of specific. Generally, other people’s dogs, especially big dogs, make me nervous. I make exceptions for the ones I know and trust, of course, like Stanley, my family’s old Bearded Collie, and Greta, my friend’s Great Dane. The ones that really do me in, however, are the German Shepherds and Dobermans and other such dogs–your basic mean, snouty dogs that want to eat six-year-old girls for dinner. Like the ones that lived next door to one of my friends in kindergarten, who would chase us any time we stepped outside. When my mom came to pick me up, we had to race to the car where she would toss me in and slam the door, and I got a perfect through-the-glass look at the bottom of that Doberman’s paws as it jumped up on the side of the car and gnashed its teeth at me. I hate those dogs. They take the fucking cake. Honorable mentions for Scariest Snouty Dog Ever include Woody, my high school best friend’s vicious and poorly trained German Shepherd (he ripped her boyfriend’s jeans from hip to ankle one time) and Daisy, the growly Doberman mix belonging to one of my college friends.