Everyone has at least one phobia. Yeah, somebody can talk tough all day long, but we all know a fear so deeply ingrained in our psyche that logic and reason cannot hope to penetrate. There are the classic phobias and then there are the more...unusual varieties. We’ll address the classic varieties in this chapter, boys and belles.
Classic phobias are obvious. They are fears that all of us can understand regardless of whether or not we feel the same way. Personally, I’m not scared of water, but I certainly understand and respect that someone else would be. One of my best friends is one of the strongest and bravest women I know, but she is terrified of heights. I’ve known her for nearly twenty years, but I didn’t realize the extent of her fear of heights until last year as she drove me through the Blue Ridge Mountains whilst screaming in horror. She only took her hands off the wheel to cover her eyes a couple of times and we made it to our vacation spot alive. I’m driving next time.
The love of my life is scared of spiders. Actually, my handsome and strapping man isn’t a big fan of bugs in general (you should have seen him when a bug crawled into his ear several years ago), but arachnids are undisputedly at the top of the list. I don’t have much of an opinion about spiders—although I did get bitten by one once and it hurt like a sonofabitch for a remarkably long time—so that means that I’ve been the partner in the relationship charged with killing the eight-legged menace for eighteen years.
What is my overriding phobia? Bats. I shred every single cool point I’ve ever earned when one of those little bastards is sighted. For starters, they look nasty as hell with their furry little rat bodies and membrane-like wings. They have beady eyes, pointy ears and fangs. (I also realize that such descriptors can be used for my Chihuahua, but let’s ignore and persevere, shall we?) Bats and their poo can carry horrible diseases.
I think the deciding factor that pushed my fear of bats into phobia-land is that you could be bitten by bats and not even know it. Oh yeah, I’ve watched the National Geographic specials. I’ve watched the interviews of those folks who spent nights deep in the jungles of South America. The hapless campers were the main course in an all-you-can-eat bat buffet and woke up the next morning none the wiser. That is seriously freaky.
A year or so ago, I was out in the yard with Scott and the girls at twilight. We were just kind of piddling around when I happened to look up and notice what I thought was a bird. “Scott, what in the world is that bird doing? It’s flying around like it’s on crack,”
Scott looked up and said, “That’s not a bird, it’s a bat.”
Scott hardly had time to utter the “t” in bat before I had a child under each arm and was hauling booty back into the house whilst screaming as though Freddy Kruger dropped by for a visit. I swatted imaginary bats around my head, neck and shoulders for the rest of the night. I furthermore locked the doors, checked the windows and set the burglar alarm in spite of Scott’s annoyingly logical assurances that my precautions weren’t necessary as bats don’t have hands.
A while back, I was talking with some folks that live in Texas and they told me about the “amazing” Congress Bridge Bats in Austin. From March to November, one and a half million Mexican Free Tail Bats come out from their little hidey holes under the Congress Bridge and cause quite a nightly sight. Apparently, folks think that watching the rabid little bastards flying around and dropping guano all over Hell and half of Georgia is entertainment. I stated that it sounded like something that hunters in duck blinds needed to take care of. I don’t know why they were so taken aback by my statement—I thought you could shoot pretty much anything in Texas.
I will furthermore admit that, once or twice in my life, I’ve been driving on a road at twilight and have seen one or two bats. Even though the nasty things are in the sky, I still swerved the car. I also tend to speed up and check my rear-view mirror compulsively as though I have some sort of bat target on my car that would cause them to seek me out personally. I’m not crazy. Nope.
Without a doubt, the biggest stress test on my phobia occurred when I had to take my mother to Duke for a doctor’s appointment. A family friend very kindly invited us up the night before so we didn’t have to get up at the crack of dawn and deal with the insanity that is RTP rush hour traffic.
Our friend has an absolutely exquisite house. It’s older, so it’s got the originality and special touches that homes built in this day and age don’t have. Her house is also impeccably decorated and neat as a pin. We spent a lovely evening in good company and we spent the night in high cotton.
About a month or so after our stay, Mom called to tell me some rather distressing news. Some bats found their way into our friend’s home and set up some sort of base camp. Unbeknownst to the owners of the house, the varmints had apparently been having little bat parties in the house at night.
As I’m sure you can imagine, I handled the news with the dignity and grace one would expect of a well bred Southern Belle: I ran screaming down the hall of the law firm swatting at imaginary bats that might or might not have been present about my person months before. I also got a fine case of the hives.
Although rabies shots were offered all around, we determined that the little bat bastards had not, in fact, been visiting at the time of our stay. Although the news was welcome, I couldn’t help but take extra vigorous showers for several weeks thereafter.
The mere recounting of the saga has me twitching and itching. I fervently pray that my non-contact with the house bats is the closest contact I ever have. Just remember that, if you see me running down the street screeching and swatting at what appears to be nothing, you could very well be involved in an Alfred Hitchcock scenario involving bats.