Welcome to my phobia

Jimmie Batchelor

Guest Columnist

I wouldn’t say that all phobias are irrational. I don’t believe mine is! My phobia is bugs. How irrational is that? I suppose you entomologists might disagree.

I have the belief that we are not born with phobias, stemming from a story my mother told me long ago. Living in Texas, around age 3, I was sitting on the porch. My mother walked over to check on me at the same moment I was reaching for a tarantula. I am almost 100% certain that my phobia might have been born on that porch, in that moment, created by my mother’s scream.

Throughout my life, I have felt that bugs search me out. Paranoid? Maybe, but someone in my state of bug phobia should not have some of my experiences. In a previous article I mentioned playing with ants often as a child. I guess they were so tiny, my fear was not great. In another childhood memory, I mentioned running around outside the house with mouth open and a wasp flying in. That did teach me to not run around with my mouth open and I am careful to this day.

I’ve had numerous run-ins with the monsters. The first I can vividly remember is playing hide-’n’-go-seek. Another child and I slid into this small lean-to against our house my father had used to store trunks by draping and framing canvas on top and sides, leaving one end open. It was dark in there, but there was light at the open end. The other child immediately screamed and ran out. As I looked toward the open end, I saw a huge spider. I don’t know how we got into that space without running into it. I found the nerve to run out past that thing, which was just an awful experience and taught me a big lesson of where not to go when you have bug phobia.

Over the years, I survived many clashes with spiders. A standout was our visit to my stepmother’s in Cape Cod. My then husband was sitting in the front seat of our car with my dad as we had just packed up to go to the beach. My husband looked back at me and calmly instructed, “Do not look down, slowly reach over and open your door.” As I did so, he leaned over and swatted something off my shirt out the door. He stated that had been a close call . . . for everyone.

Once we lived in an apartment that backed up to a moving company. I remember the day I saw them fumigating a van from Florida with a load of, not only furniture, but an infestation of “palmetto” bugs. Huge roaches, in case you don’t know. That took a while to get over. Husband had to cover every vent in the apartment with fine mesh and exterminators were called in.

I could cite many more, but I left the best for last, wanting to leave room for this memory. In 1972, Memphis TN, I worked for a land development company in a beautiful four story building situated on a lovely pond. My desk was on the fourth floor and a co-worker and I had gone into the restroom. Inside a stall, I could not see what my co-worker was screaming about, I just knew it wasn’t good. Looking at the floor, a couple of crickets hopped into my space. I was out of there. When I opened the booth door, I lived my worst nightmare. Crickets were pouring out of the heating vent and covering the floor like a carpet. Never could I have dreamed such a horrible scene. My co-worker had climbed up onto the laboratory counter top. I joined in her screaming as she jumped down with me and we high-stepped out into the hall. A moving carpet of crickets were heading towards the stairs straight across from where we came out. How could all those crickets know where the exit was? About four male co-workers came running, thinking we had been attacked.

They had missed the first mass exit, not getting the full impact of the exodus. It turned out that the exterminators had come and started spraying on the first level. As they moved up each floor, so did the crickets.

My then husband got a good laugh. His comment, “Of all the people that could have happened to, how was it YOU?” Just lucky I guess. I told you that I believe I’m being picked on by the bugs! At least twice a month I’m suddenly frightened in the shower, letting out a scream by what I see as a bug but turns out to be shower curtain weights. Every time this occurs, I remember Janet Leigh in Psycho. I’m not psycho yet. I have a right to my phobia. I earned it and I guess I’ll keep it! I just wish the bugs would back off!

Jimmie recently retired from Henry Co. Senior Services in Stockbridge, where she managed Hidden Valley Senior Center and resided for 38 years. She plans to use her new found time writing (for The Times) and enjoying life!