Donít Tell Me Youíre Scared of That...
Fears, Phobias and Mod-Cons
By Karen Johnson, from Out of the Kaje #1 (June/July 1998)

Have you seen (former) ABC program "Good News Week" lately? It reminds me a bit of the old BBC sister programs "My Word" and "My Music" where two teams led by Dennis Norden and Frank Muir tried to outdo each other in the production of obscure facts and revolting puns. The highlight of "My Word" was the final story, where each team told an obscure story ending up in a twisted popular saying. One of the most memorable was the long and involved tale of the Eskimo who took a trip to the big city and discovered the comforts of modern living. When he went home to Alaska he decided to take the innovations with him - a fridge for the igloo, an electric blanket to keep his huskies warm etc. All was going well until he went fishing, taking a portable electric heater with him. While he was hauling an extra-large fish into the boat it wriggled and flipped furiously, landing on the heater and knocking it over. As overturned heaters are wont to do, it heated the base of the boat, setting it alight and demonstrating the truth of the old saying "You canít have your kayak and heat it too."

Alas the radio program is long gone, but the stories live on. If youíd like to see the original version, Muir and Norden collected them into four or five books which make great reading.

But back to Good News Week. Flacko has some great observations to make, and last week one of his comments was particularly apt - he said "Iím suffering from arachnophobiaphobia - Iím scared of people who are scared of spiders."

Iím afraid of many things in this life - large dogs, black swans, getting mugged while walking on a dark night, escalators and being bitten by a poisonous spider/snake just to name a few, but thereís a rational reason behind all of them. Spiders and snakes can kill or severely injure you, big dogs have big teeth and can be ferocious, and a mugging is a very real possibility if you wander around at night without a car.

Even my more irrational-sounding fears have a basis in fact. Iím scared of black swans because when I was about three years old, my parents took me up to Lake Wendoree for a picnic. I started wandering around saying Ďhere birdiesí and they came in their thousands. At first I was delighted, but the swans didnít want to wait for me to drop the bread before they ate it. They mobbed me and I fled to the car in terror, vowing to avoid swans for life.

The most irrational fear I have is of escalators. I know it sounds stupid, but when I was about 5 I got my sandal stuck in the escalator tread and it scared the life out of me. The escalator became a fearsome creature that was going to a)trip me up and make me fall from a great height, or b) suck me up into the machinery. Either way, I was going to suffer grievous bodily harm which could easily be avoided simply by taking the stairs. I wouldnít go near an escalator if I could help it, and if I had no choice then Iíd cling onto my motherís arm and step on when she said to. I was still phobic when I went to University. Then I had no choice but to de-phobe myself because I had to take a bus from Box Hill Central, and the only way up was the escalator. It took a long time, but eventually I did it - I stepped onto a moving escalator without hanging onto the railing, and with both eyes open! I ím not the only person in the world to have a phobia, not by a long shot. Did you know that 6 people out of every 1000 are seriously afflicted with one or more of the 267 officially recognised phobias? Thatís a lot of fear.

Iím not sure how they decide which fears get onto the phobia Ďhit listí as worthy of official recognition, and which donít make the grade. Is it based on the number of victims? The intensity of the fear? The general stupidity of the belief? (In that case, there should be a special Australian phobia just for One Nation Supporters - AsianImmigrantsTakingOverOurCountryAndRuiningThisBrownAndSunburntLandPhobia.) One of the latest phobias to be added to the list was the excessive fear of catching AIDS. Other Ď90s phobias are fear of catching cancer from a mobile phone, fear of radiation from power-lines etc., but there are a few that I think they may have left off the list:


Back to the Index

Want to contact me? E-mail karenji@labyrinth.net.au