I get the willies when I see closed doors

                                                ...Joseph Heller




Oftentimes, after spouse has embarked on her journey through the Land of Nod, I stay awake into the wee hours, listening to soothing music, propaganda, and tales of the weird and wonderful on late night radio from places as far away as Moscow, Beijing, and Washington. A few nights back on Voice of America, a noted psychologist, Dr. Lucy May, expounded at length on the epidemic of dire phobias afflicting the entire human race, an extreme situation worsened by the continuous news cycle, social media, and a crop of unscrupulous politicians, all of which have unleashed a torrent of nostalgia for the simple life of our cave-dwelling ancestors who roamed the earth at will, unbothered by flu epidemics, taxes, or where to get the next joint, whose only worry was being ripped apart by a sabre-toothed tiger or being gored by a mastodon, and who had not yet bothered to elect untrustworthy shysters  who would stop at nothing to gorge themselves on the fat of the land.

Ninety-nine percent of us are obsessed by these phobias, said the psychologist. Moreover, these fears are deeply embedded in our subconscious. Fifty percent of us are now consumed by nomophobia--the fear of not having our cell-phone with us, a fear well-founded according to the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, who recently warned in a broadcast on Radio Moscow that people's dependence on smartphones could bring about the coming of the anti-Christ.

Another ten percent of us, said Dr. May, have a condition we call pantophobia--a fear of everything.

All of which has led me to ponder my own condition and whether I might join the race back to the stone age. The recent spate of hurricanes and blizzards has provided ample opportunity to reflect on life's modern conundrums as well as on the need to adjust to being trapped inside a house inside a cocoon of snow inside a city wrapped in a dense blanket of fog which threatens to hold us prisoner until well into spring. Opening a door and being confronted with a solid wall of the white stuff is unsettling, to say the least.

Fortunately, kindly neighbors came to our rescue and dug a tunnel from the street to our front door--a tunnel which spouse refuses to enter because she has claustrophobia. This has become somewhat of a problem because she now expects me to attend to the many long-delayed maintenance tasks inside the house while we endure the endless winter season in these pine-clad hills.

All those years I have been keeping my phobias a secret from spouse ever since she announced shortly before we embarked on wedded bliss, that she suffered from occasional bouts of anuptaphobia, a fear of marrying the wrong person.

Just yesterday, she began to complain about a picture hanging at a 30-degree angle in the stairwell. "just bring in the stepladder and get up there and straighten it," she said.

"It looks fine to me," I said. "The impressionist style of this piece of art requires it to be hung at a certain angle. It's a Salvador Dali."

She was having none of it. I brought in the stepladder and informed her that she would have to get up and fix it. "I have a serious philosophical problem with standing on anything higher than a chair," I said.  "I don't want to create the impression that I am above everybody else."

"You mean you have acrophobia."

"Yes, I confess to this character flaw," I said, "But at least I respect your opinions so I don't have allodoxaphobia."

I proceeded to relate a story from my past which I had kept well hidden as it involved disruption of public order with potential legal complications.

"Some years ago," I said, "on a foolish whim, several friends and I, decided to walk across the Angus L. Macdonald Bridge linking Halifax and Dartmouth, intending to return by the harbour ferry. We set out on our merry way just before rush-hour in the morning. At the time, I had not thought the whole excursion through; that the suspension bridge was rather elevated above the water; that, at its peak, it dangled over a hundred meters above the inlet; that I could be in serious trouble if I did not keep my eyes focused on the rising sun. In fact, these things did not dawn on me until the halfway point when I happened to glance down through the grating and saw a toy ship--which in reality was a massive freighter--meandering down the channel beneath my feet.

"An icy chill filled the lower part of my stomach, after which my brain transferred all responsibility for action to my legs--which stiffened and wandered off in all directions. I envisioned splatting like a jellyfish on the ship's deck.

"Choosing the lesser of two calamities, my legs opted to move into the very busy oncoming lane, thereby causing traffic chaos. After many rude and defamatory shouts from drivers, my two companions dragged me back to the pedestrian walkway and encouraged me to continue. I was to close my eyes and place my right hand on my friend's shoulder while my second friend walked behind me with his hand on my neck.

We made it to the far-side banks of Dartmouth where a kindly police officer inquired as to our motives whilst issuing a citation forbidding us from ever going near the bridge again on pain of arraignment before a magistrate of Her Majesty's Court.

" I'm sure there's a drug to cure that," said spouse. "Now, you should think about how to deal with your fear of the government."

And on further reflection that day, I began to arrive at a better understanding of my recently developed aversion to some politicians.

Several years back, Dr. Dale (he who toked with a female Liberal colleague in Gander--all in an aging punk-rocker 1980s kind of way) came to our door to ask for our support as he campaigned for a position to feed at the government trough. His gaze fell on a book I held in my hand. As he talked about a better tomorrow, his voice developed a high pitch and extreme anxiety furrowed his face of a fraudulent messenger. Mumbling a hurried goodbye, he rushed off to the next home up the street.

After he became the minister of illiteracy some months later, I was not the least bit surprised when he announced that he would be closing all community libraries and that the government would impose a fifteen percent tax on books. Bibliophobia immediately came to mind.

"After four years of oppressive taxation from politicians that excel in abusing the great unwashed, it is little wonder," I said to spouse, "that I have now developed politicophobia."





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