I’m not afraid of many things…scratch that. I am afraid of a lot of things, but there aren’t many I would classify as “phobias.” I don’t like small insects or amphibians that can jump, for example, but that’s not the kind of fear that stops my body from functioning or makes me cry (unless said jumping things actually land on me – then all bets and non-aerodynamic clothes are off.) But there are two fears I have that I consider overwhelming: heights, and the ocean.
My fear of heights doesn’t need much explanation because heights are the worst. Period. But let me explain the ocean one a bit. This fear came up for me recently because I read the Erik Larson book Dead Wake for Blogging for Books last month, which is about the sinking of the passenger ship The Lusitania in 1915.
The Germans hit it with torpedoes. It sank in less than 20 minutes. 1,198 people died. In the ocean. All bad, bad stuff. I chose to read it because I love Erik Larson and would read anything by him, even if it was a 500-page book on the various ways you can stuff a couch. He’s that good. Dead Wake did, however, make me think about how much I hate the ocean. Or, part of the ocean.
See, I don’t mind a beach. I love a beach as long as I don’t have to swim in the water. It’s when you get into that black water that’s miles deep that I need to nope out. Looking into that blackness and knowing there’s a whole world down there filled with creatures as large as whales and as God-awful as Anglerfish does not fill me with awe. It fills me with pee. I mean, look at this picture of an Anglerfish from the Monterey Bay Aquarium:
If I could say the word “no” in every language on earth, I would. If I could then follow that up with an interpretive dance titled “All The Ways I No,” I would do that as well.
The idea of being in that deep, enormous blackness (where, p.s., I can’t breathe) surrounded by who-knows-what-especially-not-me-because-I-won’t-be-able-to-see-it-till-it-has-my-foot-in-it’s-mouth holds absolutely no appeal for me whatsoever.
It’s also important to add here that I am almost positive that I am going to die in some stupid way. I am the person who will flip her head over to use her hairdryer on the underside of her hair, hit her head on the bathroom sink, and die. That’s going to be me. So when I read in Dead Wake about the many passengers who put on their life jackets the wrong way and ended up dying with their faces in the water and their asses in the air, I said, “Yup. That sounds about right.” I’ve already got to watch out for bathroom sinks — I don’t need to put this idiot on a boat in the middle of the ocean.
Sadly, the magic of the ocean is lost on me. All I see is cold, wet darkness that can hold animals as large as Blue whales. Did you know that the tongue of a Blue Whale can weigh as much as an elephant? Amazing, right? Wow. Now, please excuse me, but my eyes are filled with terror tears and I need to lie down.
By the way, Dead Wake is phenomenal. Just don’t think about the deadly darkness beneath the boat.