Unhelpful things to say to someone with an animal phobia

If you tell someone you have an animal phobia, there’s a good chance they will respond with unhelpful platitudes and alarming anecdotes. They may be completely well meaning, but plenty of well meaning people say uncomfortable things.

This has been on my mind because I had an incident the other day. It was a split-second ripple of silver as a snake fled under a shrub. Suffice it to say, the snake, who may not even live on the property, is now Lord and Master of my front yard. If I spend any amount of time standing there, a sense of panic starts to build until a voice starts yells in my brain, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING WHAT ARE YOU DOING IT’S GOING TO HAPPEN AGAIN. GET OUT OF HERE.” Like when you watch a horror movie and someone goes up to the dark attic.

My phobia is bad enough that I felt sort of icky and unhappy writing the last paragraph. This is why, from here on out, I will be using Miniature Schnauzers for all my examples*. Thanks to wikipedia, I just learned that ophidiophobia is something I have in common with one third of all adults. I couldn’t even find a specific term for a phobia of Miniature Schnauzers (though I apologize to any general sort of cynophobes reading), so I hope this is a less alarming way to put things.

And so, here is my list of unhelpful things to say to someone with an animal phobia:

You’re bigger than it.

Size has nothing to do with it.  Of course I should be more afraid of the Giant Schnauzer, which can wrap itself around its prey and suffocate it. But a Miniature Schnauzer is small enough that you might not see it slithering along in the grass until you’ve almost stepped on it, and that freaks me out more.

It’s more afraid of you than you are of it.

No, no it isn’t. It’s a reptile small canine, with an itty bitty reptile canine brain. It doesn’t have the mental capacity for a severe, activity-restricting phobia. Also, the degree of the animal’s fear has nothing to do with the degree of my own fear.

We don’t really have poisonous Miniature Schnauzers around here.

Doesn’t matter. Phobias aren’t about logic. The amount of actual danger isn’t always a factor in how strong the fear is. Even when it is a factor, it’s usually exaggerated. Eventually, this kind of knowledge can help dispel a phobia. Eventually. But having someone tell me—just as an offhand comment—that I shouldn’t be afraid comes across more as blowing off fears that are very real to me.

empty pantry shelves

A tidy pantry is less attractive to Miniature Schnauzers.

Except for this one type of poisonous Miniature Schnauzer you see now and then.

Yes, this is a legitimate concern. Now, because I have a severe phobia, I ‘ll be freaking out about the small possibility that I’ll one of the rare poisonous types.

That’s ok. A lot of people are afraid of them.

I don’t care. That sucks for those other people, and I feel for them. But other people sharing my phobia doesn’t change its negative impact on my life.

The most shocking story you can think of.

“You’re afraid of miniature schnauzers? Oh man, my Aunt Dolorothy used to have one. Poppy was so friendly, and she used to lick everybody’s hands. Then one day my Uncle Freddington found my aunt in a bathtub of ice water and no kidneys and Poppy had the kidneys in her food dish.”

ALL the horror stories you can think of involving that animal.

“You’re afraid of Miniature Schnauzers?”

“One time my cousin found a Miniature Schnauzer in her mailbox and it bit her.”

“One time my cousin found a Miniature Schnauzer in her tent, and she still can’t go camping.”

“One time I saw a Miniature Schnauzer eat a frog and it was so disgusting but I couldn’t look away.”

“One time a Miniature Schnauzer came at me when I was swimming, and let me tell you I never swam so fast in my life.”

“One time I was doing laundry in the basement—we live in an old house–and a Miniature Schnauzer came out of a crack in the wall and I dropped my hand towels that have a picture of a sweet little cottage on them.”

“Remember the restaurant that used to be on the corner of Main Street and MadeUp Road? Yeah, they had to shut that place down because the kitchen was infested with Miniature Schnauzers.”

I used to know someone who was aware of my phobia, and would come to me with any Miniature Schnauzer story she heard. I guess it was a way of bonding, a topic she figured we could talk about. A lot of these stories took place near where I lived, like at the trail where I went running. It became harder and harder for me to use that trail.

Exposure therapy is an effective way of dealing with a phobia, and learning to cope with this kind of story would be an eventual goal. However, one key to exposure therapy is that it be voluntary.

You probably shouldn’t watch…

Actually, some of the more helpful comments I’ve gotten are about movies to avoid. Sometimes I can handle them, and sometimes I can’t. But if someone goes on to describe the scene in question, it goes right back to being unhelpful. On the other hand, I could probably make a nice list of movies to watch if I want a mental challenge. Movies to watch when I’m a braver person.

Mostly, I’ve learned that if I tell anyone about my phobia, I must be clear. I’m not a little scared; I have an irrational fear to the point that I don’t want to see or hear anything at all. No stories, no pictures, no movies.


*A therapist told me that it’s better in the long run not to use code names like this. It’s another avoidant behavior, and it only gives the phobia more power. But it was funnier to me this way, because Schnauzer is a funny word.

Mushrooms: the danger at the grocery store

My partner posted an anti-brussels sprouts infographic on his facebook, and I retaliated in the only way I know how: by attacking what he loves most with an infographic of my own. It’s 2016. In this day and age, there should be more factual, heavily-researched, and completely not-made-up information about mushrooms.

mushrooms

The text, if you can’t read it:

All about Mushrooms

Learn about the danger at the grocery store.
Leave mushrooms in the forest and in drawings of fairies.
Punch anyone who pressures you into mushroom pizza.

Did you know that 60% of American pizzas need to be disposed of each year due to mushroom contamination occuring when a stray mushroom slips onto a pizza half that was supposed to be only pepperoni?

78% of tantrums thrown by 91% of children ages 4-12 are caused by mushrooms. The resultant elevated stress levels in parents, siblings, and adjacent restaurant-goers have been linked to increased rates of depression, anxiety, heart attack, stroke, diabetes, and leprosy.

There are thousands of different types of mushrooms, and only a small percent are technically edible. The rest will cause the following types of fatalities: literal, spiritual, emotional, textural, imagined, and hoped-for.

Nintendo is in the pocket of Big Mushroom and has received billions of dollars since the mid-1980s to promote a mushroom-positive attitude in their games.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that most serial killers have in common an experience of uncertainty concerning whether or not an eggroll has mushroom in it.

Google maps glitch… or space-time distortion?

It might not be immediately obvious what’s wrong with this picture.

lasvegasdoesnotbelonghere

A lone diner from the other side of the country.

The map is a portion of Clinton, MA.  Note the address of Lou’s Diner.

Yeah!

At first glance, it looks like there’s some kind of glitch with Google Maps that caused a diner from Las Vegas to appear to be in a town north of Worcester, MA.

But…but…but… Google is infallible, right?  Google doesn’t glitch.  And its eventual planetary hegemony will be a good and benevolent time for the human race, won’t it?

Of course!  Because of this, it is seems rational to entertain the possibility that there has actually been a space-time distortion, and a diner from Nevada now exists in Massachusetts.  It raises a lot of questions.

Is Nevada now actually a part of Massachusetts?  Is Massachusetts now some kind of geographical bag of holding (or pseudo-science-that’s-actually-magic term that means the same thing) that can contain oversized states from way out west*?  How do Massachusetts gambling laws affect the State of Nevada now?

Furthermore, do I still want to stop by this place to grab a bite, knowing that the anomaly could cease and I could be snapped up and transported to Nevada, a place that I imagine as a vast desert crossed by a handful of infinite highways and a splotch of neon-lit gambling?

For someone with an extreme aversion to hot weather (like, over 70 F) and an overblown fear of snakes, the desert is easily the worst place in the world.

Would you dare enter such a diner, knowing the risks?

UPDATE: Driving through Clinton, MA the day after I wrote this post, my partner and I did not see any sign of Lou’s Diner. While it’s possible that we were distracted by talking about the Wachusett Reservoir, or Klingon language issues, it seems just as likely that Lou’s Diner has been returned to Nevada where it belongs.


 

*I use the term “way out west” to signify the western part of the United States.  This is in contrast to the Massachusetts  meaning, which may indicate any part of the state west of Worcester.

Stealth, strategy, and sustenance: sneaking food into the movies

If there’s one thing I love more than sneakiness, it’s food. If there’s one thing I love more than food, it’s sneakiness. I had a hard time deciding which order food and sneakiness needed to be in for that last sentence.

Recently, a friend on facebook asked:

“What’s the best way to sneak a quarter of a pie into a movie theater? Y’know, hypothetically. Thinking hoodie pocket with a bag.”

My response was brief, but that’s only because it would have looked weird to write an enormous comment on this topic.

No, not topic.  Lifestyle.

Here are my strategies for sneaking food and beverage into places where I’m not supposed to have food and beverage.

DSC02342

How many avocados can a priest, a rabbi, and a blonde sneak into a movie theater?

Bags and pockets

This is one area where women have an advantage. A lot of women have a “movie purse,” usually something big, blocky, and obvious. I’ve yet to see a movie theater check one of these bags, but why draw attention? Wedge or tear-drop shaped bags appear smaller than they are. My movie purse is a skull-patterned red sack with a top that tapers into a shoulder strap. I’d say it’s a chic shape for a bag, but honestly, I don’t have a damn clue.

One day in second grade, my friend Tom snuck tater tots into his pockets and brought them back to class. All the kids whispered about the tater tots with some combination of disgust, awe, and jealousy. Suffice it to say that I broadened my definition of pocket food that day.

Binders

Carrying around a fuck ton of office supplies nearly every where I go has taught me the utility of binders for hiding things. A large-spined binder would work well for smuggling bagged pie, and trust me, no one is going to be going through your binder to see if you’re hiding something. To most people, binder=boring.  They will assume you’re a film student, or writing a review, or someone so boring and so busy that they bring office work to the movies.

Zip-lock bags

Accessiblity is key. Once you get the food in, how will you eat it? If you’re in a darkened movie theater, you can basically go to town on a whole Thanksgiving dinner, and no one will care unless your gravy-slurping ways drown out the intensely whispered dialogue.*  With a zip-lock bag, you can eat food of any consistency, held at any angle.

And, no, I’ve never brought an entire Thanksgiving dinner to the movies.

What?

Was that a challenge?

Moxie

Not the cola.  You should only sneak that in somewhere if you enjoy the taste of earwax and death.  You can often go in boldly, with food or beverage in plain sight. Act casual. Show no sign you’re doing anything wrong. Don’t look around to see if anyone is looking at you. Most people aren’t paying attention and don’t give a shit. This is how I “snuck” coffee past my high school band teacher every single day without getting caught while my younger brother had his mug confiscated. I walked casually, and let the flow of students screen me from view.

Now, go forth.  To the movies, to the library, to school, to work.  To stores and to restaurants that sell one thing when you want to eat another.


*Does this bug anyone else? When something onscreen is really dramatic and important, the characters whisper. You know, so you can’t actually hear what’s going on in the damn movie. I’ve been watching for years to catch someone doing this in real life, and it never happens.

Ant Muzak

Searching for funny videos to watch on youtube, at some point I ended up typing in the names of things I like, followed by the word “parody.”

Adam Ant parody? Yes, as it turns out, there is!

The entire premise of this ten minute video is that Adam and his Ants go grocery shopping, in full period ensemble.

Since I posted an Adam and the Ants video in my entry last week, you might assume I have some sort of obsession with this band.

Adam and the Ants are sheer energy, awesome music with cheesy videos, featuring period ensemble and crazy theatrics.  Two drummers, one pirate shanty, and a front man charismatic enough to totally pull off a pointless white stripe across his nose.

Your assumption is correct.

Melted dreams and other objects

You've fought the good fight, window fan.

You’ve fought the good fight, window fan.

I wrote this post earlier in the summer, but held it back because August was so cool. But now that it’s September and summer has returned to toy with us some more, I have decided to call it out on some of the things it’s done. Here is a melodramatic list of things that melt in summer and ruin my life.

  • Coconut oil deodorant, because I am a hippie. My deodorant is made of cornstarch, baking soda, and coconut oil, a substance which melts at 76 degrees and then needs to be stirred.
  • Shoes, when placed in close proximity to a summer campfire. Before the invention of vulcanized rubber, sneakers melted on hot days. We’ve come a long way, but fire still beats sneaker.
  • Skin, from my thigh, when backed into a summer grilling apparatus.
  • Chocolate, when left in my car, a thing which is fine to do at sane times of the year.
  • Ice, from my iced coffee. Even if I made it strong (and you can bet I did) it will devolve to an unacceptable level of wateriness before I am through drinking it.
  • Ice cream. Eating ice cream could easily have gone in the post about summer activities that are better in winter. You mean I have 30 seconds to eat this before it’s just milk and corn syrup? It’s like defusing a bomb.
  • Crayons, when left in the car. Sure, they look cool all blended together, but sometimes I want to draw things that don’t look like an acid trip, and I can’t do that with 64 colors which have digivolved into MegaCrayonmon.

This should be the penultimate post of Humidfest 2014.  Maybe I’ll write some more if the heat continues into September, but at that point I think I’d need to change the name to GlobalWarmingFest.

Here’s a recap of the earlier posts in the series: