Irrational fears

March 25, 2010


Oh, don’t worry, I’m not going to be all controversial and rail against the people who think that President Obama is turning America into a socialist or communist state (he isn’t), or that he’s *gasp” Muslim (he isn’t) or wasn’t actually born in the U.S. (he was). It would probably make for more interesting reading, but no, I’m talking about irrational fears such as stepping on a crack and breaking your mama’s back.

I have two irrational fears that easily come to mind. The one that pushes to the forefront of my thoughts about ninety-five percent of the time when I’m in a situation where it could happen is getting my foot stuck in railroad tracks.

I grew up in a small town in Ohio that was bisected by the Pennsylvania Railroad. Historically it was the Pennsylvania Railroad; what it is known as today, I don’t know. The former depot is in the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.

What I do know is that when I was a child, my mother warned me never to step directly on the rail when I was crossing, lest my foot become inextricably lodged and I’d be trapped there, only to be made into mincemeat by the next passing train. Our town was a speck on the map. Trains didn’t slow down as they passed through. They blasted their horns and the crossing gates lowered, but the trains did not slow down.

This was back in the day when parents didn’t mollycoddle and overmanage their children. Comparatively speaking, I ran wild as a child. I walked or bicycled to my friends houses. I informed my mom that I was spending the day in the library or swimming pool. I went to play in the woods at the end of the street. No one saw me for hours. Nobody panicked. Eventually I showed up.

But I digress, because I’m having fond memories of the first thirteen years of my life. Why do I, thirty-three years later, still wax so nostalgic about this basically nondescript place? Okay, it’s not completely nondescript. It has the only Wilson football factory in the country. The balls you see being thrown and kicked around in the Superbowl are made in my hometown.

But I digress.

Nervousness about the consequences of stepping on steel at an unfortunate angle still haunts me. I ride a train to work every morning. The rail is at street level and I must cross it to get to and from both platforms. I am always very careful to extend or contract my stride by ten inches in order to avoid disaster. I always take extra looks both left and right to ensure that the beast is not going to hurtle down on me mid-stride.

Wow. Thanks, Mom.

The other irrational fear? That, when I come back after having had to get up in the middle of the night, some under-bed gargoyle is going to grab my ankle and pull me under, and I will never be seen again. I don’t know where this one came from. As I’ve tried to remember today, I’m guessing that it was what my parents told me when I was a youngster so that I wouldn’t dawdle in said middle of the night.

Thanks, Mom and Dad.

Mom’s coming for a visit tomorrow. I could confirm these things with her. It’s her birthday today. Happy birthday, Mom!



Street View © Google Maps

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