Monday, October 11, 2010

Fear: It's In The Heart Of The Beholder

["Let Inga Tell You", La Jolla Light, published March 25, 2010] © 2010

A few months ago, a friend and I went to see the Amelia Earhart movie where at one point, Amelia asks, “Who would want to spend their lives cocooned in safety?” Both of our hands shot up in the dark.

In my next life, I have it on my list to be more like Amelia, but in this one, I have a world class fear of fear. My older son, Rory, and I were at a theme park a while back watching one of those rides that drops people from 300 feet to the ground in about two milliseconds. I couldn’t imagine why people actually pay money to do this, but then, as I observed to Rory, “I’m already my own scary ride.” I come from a family of people whose highly over-amped nervous systems seem to be hardwired into disaster mode. People who opt for the Supreme Scream are looking for an adrenaline rush of terror. I get that from leaving my house in the morning.

Yes, I said to Rory, who grows ever more grateful he is adopted, there is definitely a genetic element to Mom’s aversion to scary movies, scary rides, scary freeways, and even just plain life. As for the freeways, it probably didn’t help that my father drove like a maniac, happily careening in and out of five freeway lanes at stunt driver speeds, passing on blind curves, and generally making any family car trip a bid for a land speed record. The kids, meanwhile, peered through fingers covering their terrified little faces whimpering, “Are we dead yet?” Dad was quick to point out that he had never had an accident. He was less quick to point out that he had his license revoked for speeding in almost every state in the northeast.

But, as I also pointed out to Rory, that while I’ll never stop coveting that elusive cocoon of safety, fear - like life - works in curious ways. Some years ago, four friends and I had gone out to the desert for a rare weekend off, leaving five unhappy husbands home to cope with ten weepy toddlers. Our bliss was short-lived, however, as we settled in for our first round of margaritas only to discover that our rented casita was also inhabited by small straw-colored scorpions, the deadly kind, and even the odd tarantula. Mentioning this at the resort’s front desk moments later, the clerk could only express ennui. Really hard to keep the little guys out, he said. It’s the DESERT. Just shake out your shoes before you put them on. Worst case, the Life Flight helicopter could have you at the hospital in El Cajon in fifteen minutes.

This was not the answer my compatriots wished to hear.

We’d already paid for our pricey accommodations. The logistics had been formidable. What to do? For some reason, I’d never gotten around to being afraid of bugs (so much to fear, so little time) hence I volunteered to do a search-and-destroy mission. While my quaking friends huddled atop the safety of the dining room table, I tipped back each piece of rattan furniture and squashed anything that moved. (The one baby tarantula, I shooed gently out with a broom.) Finally, one of the friends observed from her perch, “Gee, Inga, you won’t drive on freeways but you’re willing to take on deadly scorpions?” I could only shrug. “It’s not my fault you guys don’t know what’s scary in life.”

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