Fears, frights, phobias - and the Willies!

We all have something that pushes our most primitive panic button. I’m not talking things like Tyrannosaurus Rex or the shark from Jaws or even 10-foot-tall, brain-sucking aliens with ray guns. Think smaller. Waaaaaay smaller. The very same human who will rescue a family of nine from a burning building or face down a burglar armed with nothing but a folding chair will turn to Jello on stilts in the presence of his or her personal demon. Said demon of course is not in its brimstone-chewing and pitchfork-wielding form, but in the guise of a deceptively harmless-looking creature such as a mouse.

And then it hits – that peculiar fear reaction known only to homo sapiens. An attack of nerves so complete that in ten thousand years of civilization we still can’t think of a single intelligible name for the condition. We’re assailed by the heebie-jeebies, the creepy-crawlies, the jitters, the all-overs, the jim-jams and the screaming meemies.

Me, I get The Willies.

While I have no reaction whatsoever to slugs, bugs, snakes, rats, mice, lizards, bats and even the inner workings of cows (don’t ask), I come down with a severe case of The Willies when confronted with a spider. I don't know why that is – some mis-mutated survival mechanism? After all, while I'm dancing around, rubbing my arms and legs, flapping at my clothes and yelling EEYEWW at the top of my lungs, the spider has plenty of time to run off. When I've finally finished with The Willies, my enemy is long gone, leaving me safe and sound – at least for the moment. Instinct triumphs again.

I'm ready for a different evolutionary leap though. Recently I stepped into the shower only to discover that I wasn't alone in there. Eight beady eyes met my gaze. If they’d belonged to four mice or four beetles or even four plumbers, I’d have reacted better. But nooooooo, not only did all eight beady eyes belonged to a single spider, but this spider was big enough to wear a t-shirt and I'm certain he had a tattoo. I immediately suffered an attack of The Willies that was so extreme, I leapt backwards out of the shower and straight into the nearest wall, braining myself with the towel bar. It might have been just the ringing in my ears but I could swear I heard high-pitched spider laughter as I crawled hastily from the bathroom, naked, whimpering and cursing. So much for that inner defense mechanism. Thanks a lot, Darwin.

It’s important to note that the adage out of sight, out of mind does not apply to situations like this. Once The Willies have been activated, they have to run their course. It took me half an hour of pacing, shaking and jumping around to get up enough nerve to assess the situation rationally. My rational assessment said that I was on my own. Have you noticed that scary-evil things only show up when you're all by your lonesome? Sure, husbands and boyfriends will save you from a charging grizzly bear, but it’s a perverse Law of Nature that they’ll never be on hand in true emergencies such as power failures, cars that fail to start or spiders in the bathtub.

I confess, I considered siccing my pug onto the beast (Kill, Scooby, KILL!) but finally decided against it. My benign pug has all the ferocity of an eggplant. The spider would be in no danger whatsoever unless Scooby accidently farted on it. Besides, if my pug did actually TOUCH the spider (Ick, ick, ICK!), then The Willies would render me completely unable to touch my dog for heaven knows how long. I'd have to hand him biscuits with a pair of barbecue tongs...

I next considered waiting the six or seven hours until my husband got home from work. I could go without peeing or brushing my teeth that long, couldn’t I? Then I remembered I had an appointment I’d waited three weeks for. With mounting horror, I realized just how many things associated with getting ready for the day were trapped in the bathroom with the eight-legged invader. Makeup. Toothbrush. Earrings. OMG, my bra was hanging on the back of the bathroom door! For a wild moment I thought I could make it without all those luxuries and then I caught sight of myself in the bedroom mirror. My hair was sticking up in a lopsided morning mohawk and nothing, but nothing, would render it fit to be seen but a shower.

I would have to confront the enemy.

The flyswatter looked too flimsy to be of much use and the broom couldn't be wielded within the confines of the shower. A hammer would be a little rough on the bathtub enamel and would also require too much precision. I finally decided on the bathroom plunger as my weapon of choice – it had a nice heft to it. Not as good as a baseball bat but I didn't have one of those. In retrospect, it was probably a good thing I didn't think of our deer rifles....

I opened the shower door carefully, praying the spider wouldn't be startled. Not because I cared about its spider feelings, but because one sudden move from the creature would have cost me another hour of The Willies. Fortunately, the eight-legged invader was paralyzed by incredulity. A plunger? Are you kidding, lady?
I launched my attack.

It was grim, it was messy and it was accompanied by strangled shouts of EEYEW, EEYEW, EEYEW, EEYEW, EEYEW and many GODDAMMITS. I think most of them came from me. After the battle, I turned the hot water on full blast and left the shower to disinfect itself while I ran to my room (still naked). I was dancing around but not with victory.

And that's the pity of it. More evolved gals would no doubt feel empowered enough to raise that plunger over their head and triumphantly shout "I AM BETTY, DESTROYER OF EVIL!". But me? I’m in the throes of an even bigger case of the creepy crawlies, a heebie-jeebie meltdown of epic proportions.

The Willies have struck again.


Dani Harper
http://www.daniharper.com/


Halloween provided me with a perfect opportunity to dust off this all-too-true story and add the gory details (kind of like "the director's cut" version of a movie -- now expanded and uncensored!). So now I've told you what sends me screaming down the street --- it's YOUR TURN --- What scares YOU? Can anyone add to the list of synonyms for "heebie jeebies"? (My personal favorite is the screaming meemies -- one of my relatives used to say us kids gave her those...)

Happy Halloween to everyone!