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Ophidiophobia

I’ve decided that I will occasionally attempt to write up some fun or significant memories from my life. Most blog entries revolve around current events, but there are always some old stories that are worth retelling. Hopefully these will be fun or informative for other people to read. The memories in this entry are primarily about Janet.

The earliest memory that I have of Janet is from my 21st birthday party. My roommates and I had about 30 friends over to our small 3rd floor apartment to celebrate the occasion. Everyone was crowded into just a couple rooms and a tiny balcony — sitting, standing, talking, shouting, playing, laughing, and generally having a fun and noisy time. (Our apartment was actually referred to as The Center Of The Universe, because there was always something happening there.) I had never even met Janet at this point, but she tagged along to my party with a mutual friend.

It was a great party, but to be honest, for some reason I was feeling a little bugged by my girlfriend at the time, and I wasn’t having the greatest night. But I was trying to make the best of things. Then suddenly, rising above all the noise generated by 30 college students crammed into a small apartment, an ear splitting scream rang out from the main room… All other activity instantly stopped and there were a few moments of dead silence, and all eyes turned to behold this terrified looking girl who had leaped up from the floor to perch precariously on the back of the sofa, obviously trying to get as far away as she possibly could from the floor.

That was my first impression of Janet. I had no idea who this girl was or why she was at my birthday party, but there she was, freaking out on my sofa and bringing my rockin’ birthday party to a dead halt. Unforgettable.

The culprit

The culprit

What was she so freaked out about? Well, as you might have guessed from the title of this post, Janet has a genuine phobia about snakes. One of my friends was playing with a little wooden toy snake, and when Janet saw it she naturally assumed that a deadly rattlesnake was lunging for her jugular. Note that Janet’s phobia is not precisely the same thing as a fear OF snakes… I mean, she’s not simply afraid of being bitten by a snake or something like that, and it’s not just when there is a snake actually in her presence.  No, Janet squirms with real and obvious discomfort merely from seeing a snake in a photograph or on TV. This is not merely an intense dislike of snakes. I think this really is diagnosable as a full blown case of ophidiophobia.

Of course, her irrational fear is most definitely accompanied by an intense dislike (actually hatred) of snakes. When Janet was growing up in Taft, she and her Dad would often drive out to the hills outside town to do some shooting. One of Janet’s most cherished memories is from the time a rattlesnake had the misfortune to cross her path while she was strapped with a .44 Magnum. Yes, that’s the gun Dirty Harry called “the most powerful handgun in the world, and it could blow your head clean off…” I think the way I heard the story was that she emptied all six shots into the snake (doubtless blowing it into several writhing, bloody pieces), then paused to reload before blasting away again.

That incident happened long before I met her so it’s not really one of my memories, but it illustrates the deeply rooted, bloodthirsty abhorrence that Janet has for snakes, and that’s important to understand when reading this next bit. There’s still one more memory I’ll share that involves Janet and snakes. This one happened just last summer on our family vacation. Janet and I were driving out to spend some time in the Eastern Sierras around Mammoth Lakes, and we were making lots of stops to find geocaches along the way. One place we stopped was in a pretty forested area near a nice waterfall, and as we were driving away we spotted a big rattlesnake crossing the road. Now, while I don’t have the same loathing of snakes in general that Janet does, I’m certainly no big fan of rattlers. Geocachers like me are constantly searching under rocks and in rotted tree stumps — prime locations for both rattlesnakes and geocaches.

So when I’m driving my car and a rattlesnake gets in the path of one of my wheels, I’m not gonna stop or swerve. Tough luck, Mr. Snake! Those poison glands mean you’re dangerous (or even deadly), and that means you’re living in Darwin’s world of natural selection — survival of the fittest, baby! When I need to reach my hand into a dark hole to search for a geocache, I remember that I’m on Mr. Snake’s turf, and I make sure to poke around with a nice long stick first. But when Mr. Snake decides to cross the road when I’m behind the wheel of my car, now he’s on my turf, and it’s his poison glands versus my steel-belted radials. The natural order is merciless like that.

I just kept the car rolling straight ahead, but I did slow down a little bit and looked over at Janet as we passed the spot where we had last seen Mr. Snake. To my surprise, dear Janet (savage snake-hater that she is) had her head craned way out of the car window so she could watch as the car tire crushed her nemesis. All I heard was a sort of wet “pop”, and then Janet quickly yanked her head back inside the car and started frantically wiping snake juices off her face and arms. MMMmmmmm

3 comments to Ophidiophobia

  • Michelle

    I remember that ear-piercing scream and her climbing the couch. I don’t have the same fear, but I’m sure after hearing the “pop” after running over a snake, I would also be frantically wiping snake juices off my face and arms.

  • “One of Janet’s most cherished memories is from the time a rattlesnake had the misfortune to cross her path while she was strapped with a .44 Magnum.”

    I’ve never pictured Janet as Lara Croft – Tomb Raider… but from now on, that’s gonna be it. Woohoo! Tough girls rule!

  • Dan

    Audrey — “I’ve never pictured Janet as Lara Croft…” MMMmmm, but I have.

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