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Thursday, December 2, 2010



No one knows what will scare a person. As a nurse, I’ve seen individuals more scared of having to swallow a large pill or receive an enema than of a brain tumor diagnosis. I’m scared of heavy, expensive outdoor equipment. I don’t think it’ll come alive and chase me around the yard (although you never know) but my lack of experience with lawn-mowers, snow-blowers, and similar machines makes me a coward.

My husband was an engineer and kept our appliances and equipment working long past their natural lives. We had vacuum cleaners and clothes dryers that belonged in the Smithsonian. Not only did my husband repair all things mechanical, he insisted on being their primary operator. When he died, I had to get used to operating a host of hostile items. The vacuum cleaner was square, low to the ground, and weighed more than me. Vacuuming the stairs was a work out for all my muscles. In a fit of pique, I ripped the cord out of the wall and broke it, giving me an excuse to buy a new vacuum cleaner.

Imagine my surprise when the store clerk clearly thought I’d be strong enough to lift my choice of a new cleaner from the shelf. I couldn’t believe how light it was. “We do try to make them of lightweight materials,” he said. At least a quarter of a century ago, manufacturers must have stopped using cast iron.

The first time I cleaned snow and ice from my car, my next door male neighbor came out to tell me what I was doing wrong. When I had trouble starting a lawn-mower, male neighbors offered help. One thing I noticed, men don’t read manuals. They rely on instinct and experience. Only if all else fails—and I do mean ALL else—will they crack the manual’s cover.

I read manuals because my dad didn’t have me sitting beside him in the car so I could learn to drive. No dad explained to me the workings of appliances and outdoor equipment. (My dad couldn’t fix a can opener so my mom relied on her brothers but that’s another story). I read manuals with the same intensity I applied to my notes before an exam in college. All the safety issues and warnings make me a nervous wreck before I even turn on the darned thing. AHA! Another good reason not to read the manual!

My fear is irrational. I’ve mastered medical equipment for patients after open-heart surgery and intravenous pumps when a drop too many could be disastrous. Maybe a younger generation of women has been educated during childhood in the use of appliances and equipment. Since I wasn’t, as soon as I hear news of the first snowstorm on its way to my area, my heart rate triples as I visualize starting my new, shiny red snow-blower. I just hope I don’t let the machine chomp on anyone’s appendages.

Do you have secret or not so secret fears?


E. B. Davis said...

Irrational fear is the basis of the paranormal genre. In a genre class I took, we had to reveal our irrational fears and unleash them when writing scenes. It was a helpful technique. I also go back and re-read Edgar Allan Poe. When evoking fear, he was the master.

I have one fear no one I know possesses. Ever wonder if our irrational fears are based from a previous life or death we once experienced? Yes, it's a far out concept, and yet, there has to be some reason for those irrational fears.

Warren Bull said...

An appliance story: My mother had a toaster that toasted merrily along for many , many years. MY father refused to replace it, saying it worked, "Just fine." One day the toast popped up burnt (I wonder how that happened) and my mother set out to "fix" it with a screwdriver. In the end it did not work at all. she got a new toasted.

As a child I was scared by a particular tall slide. Until I finally climbed to the top and slid down. Then it was fun.

Pauline Alldred said...

I suppose fears could come from a past life but usually I find fear comes from lack of familiarity or a bad experience in the past, that is the life still being lived.

I was on a fair car that rotated around a central axis at rapid speed. Unfortunately I had a huge hat on a string around my neck. Wind caught in the hat and I nearly choked to death and, because I couldn't talk, I couldn't alert my husband beside me to what was happening. It's going to take a lot to get me back on that ride.

Norma said...

Appliances hate me. I suppose it's a matter of survival. I tend to break them....

Pauline Alldred said...

I perfectly understand, Norma. There are times when I lose all patience with appliances that won't do what I ask when I ask nicely. They deserve a thump or gentle kick.