I’m also afraid of mice, sharks, zombie attacks, malevolent spirits, large birds, nuclear holocaust, grasshoppers, rush hour traffic, and being trapped in underwater and not knowing the way out.
I know that last one is oddly specific. It really goes back to The Poseidon Adventure. You know that scene when the way out to the bottom of the boat (because they’re effing upside down) is blocked by all this water? And Gene Hackman’s all “I got this rope and I’ma swim to the other side and you guys can follow the rope.” But they don’t even know if there’s another side and even if there is, what if it’s too far and he runs out of air? Or what if he gets there and there’s a shark or a nuclear holocaust or a shit ton of grasshoppers? But dammit, it’s their only chance and he swore he would get them out alive, so he dives in. The rest of them are all waiting and waiting with the rope because he’s supposed to tug on it when he gets to the other side but he doesn’t because he GETS STUCK UNDERWATER. Shelley Winters knows he’s taking too long and she’s all “I’ma save him, I swim like a boss.” And so she dives in and she FINDS him and drags him up to the other side! And there are no sharks or grasshoppers or anything! And then she DIES OF A HEARTATTACK. If that doesn’t give you nightmares about water, well, then you must have gills. Maybe you’re a shark, I don’t know. If you are, we probably shouldn’t be friends anymore.
Once in junior high, I actually had to swim underwater without being able to see. It was supposed to an innocuous free swim day in P.E. By this point in my life, I had been wearing contact lenses for about three years. I needed goggles in order to do serious swim days, but since this was supposed to be free swim day, I left them in my locker. Once we got to the pool, my teacher unexpectedly announced that we had to swim one lap as far as we could underwater before we could get to the free swim fun times. I immediately started to panic. I knew I couldn’t open my eyes underwater; I had tried that once and my contacts popped right out and I never saw them again. I still had two classes left in the day. What was I going to do? I tried to explain my dilemma to my teacher. She didn’t seem to understand the crisis at hand.
“Just hold your breath, close your eyes and swim in a straight line,” she said matter-of-factly. Clearly, she had never seen The Poseidon Adventure.
I let every single one of my classmates jump in the water before me. Finally, I had to go or face an F for the day. I jumped in, closed my eyes, took a deep breath and submerged. Instantly, my brain let go of ten years of swim lessons as my limbs began to independently thrash and convulse in an effort to propel myself forward. A little voice in my head started screaming, “Shelley Winters! SHELLEY WINTERS!!” I felt like I was somehow sinking away from the surface into a bottomless pit of chlorinated doom. I started moving my arms like I had to grapple my way (through water, mind you) to the top. I sprang up quicker than I expected when I realized that my feet could still touch the bottom of the pool. I saw that I had managed to move all of five feet to the left, under the lane line and into the next lane of oncoming swimming traffic. My teacher was yelling at me to get back underwater. What followed must have looked like a human game of Whack-A-Mole as I zigzagged across the pool, popping up my head every few seconds to see if I was actually getting close to the other side.
This has been a really roundabout way of me saying that I am typically not scared of things that frighten most people. I’m scared of a whole different realm of things which don’t particularly make sense and sometimes make me look ridiculous.
I’m sure somewhere out there, Shelley Winters understands.