A few weeks ago I was having a lovely conversation with colleagues about childhood memories and the fun things we all did on our family holidays, as children. We chatted about summers spent at the beach, boogie boarding, eating giant scoops of ice-cream, mini-golf and slip-slop-slap. Winters spent on skiing holidays or playing board games and being ‘arty-crafty’ by the fire. An Easter road trip to visit rello’s, games of eye-spy or spot-the-Datsun turning ugly and competitive, slapsies or knuckles ending in tears. A spring camping trip, playing cards by torch-light and fishing in the river.
Fun times. Good memories. Being a kid is carefree and all about the laughs.
Then someone mentioned this one time they went to a water park and carved it up on the waterslides and I literally felt my face go white.
I HATE waterslides.
This sudden change in my pallor did not go unnoticed and while I went from cracking-myself-up mini golf memories to heart-palpitations waterslide memories, the girls at work stopped talking and watched in awe.
I HATE waterslides.
Of course I then had to explain the reason for my sudden downward spiral and I know from previous experience in this area that telling people you have a phobia of waterslides usually leads to an extended period of loud laughter and general teasing.
*insert standard response here*
I understand full well that my fear is irrational (that kind of goes with the territory when it comes to phobias though, right?) and totally ridiculous, but I can’t help the fact that one bad experience has scarred me for life.
The story goes something like this…
I was on Year 10 activities week at the Penrith Water Park. After a day spent gunning it around the waterskiing “track”, ripping my hands to shreds, using muscles I didn’t even know I had and generally perfecting my skills as a water sports guru, I didn’t hesitate when the group headed for the waterslides for some last minute fun before we headed back to school.
We all queued at the top of the slide, the sun setting in the distance, the sounds of laughter echoing all around. One by one, we grabbed our mats and headed into the tunnel. As teenage girls are wont to do, there was plenty of screaming and screeching, as bends were hit hard and fast and speed picked up on the final stretch before that last exhilarating splash into the pool.
Without a care in the world, except that niggling need to do a wee that always inconveniently strikes when queuing (running water obviously doesn’t help the cause…), I launched myself down the tunnel (I should probably mention here, that before I developed a full-on phobia of waterslides, I wasn’t overly enamoured with the tunnel variety anyway, because I have a teeny tiny fear of small enclosed spaces as well…). One short, sharp, involuntary scream later and I was off, cruising round the bends.
And then I wasn’t. Cruising. Or even moving. At all. I was stopped. Stuck in the middle of a bloody waterslide.
Panic set in as I heard the next person let out the launch-yourself scream behind me and I suddenly had a vision of me being rear-ended by an increasing-in-speed human canon ball.
“STOP! STOP! I’m STUCK!”
I madly tried to un-stick myself. I tried to clear the pocket of air between the flowing water and my useless piece of crap mat by splashing water, bouncing up and down, performing unsightly humping actions and begging momentum to work with me.
It was all in vain and before I knew it, there was a rush of water and the shocked gasp of the person who flew around the corner and slammed straight into my back. Now we were now two people stuck in the bend of a tunnel waterslide…
“Why are you stopped? MOVE!”
“I don’t know! I just stopped! I’m stuck!”
Bang. And then there were three.
“Why are you stopped? MOVE!”
“She’s stuck. We’re stuck.”
My two “passengers” started shouting at me, at each other and at the sliders on their way behind us. We were all doing the unfortunate humping action, we were all splashing and pushing. And then just as suddenly as I’d stopped, the pocket of air dissolved and we began to move. A slow conga of watersliders, heading towards the light. And freedom.
And there you have it. Thus began my fear of waterslides. And conga lines. Kidding.
Of course the ladies in the office found it the most ridiculous phobia they’d ever heard of and continued to laugh at me for several days afterwards.
Needless to say, it got me thinking about fears and phobias and rational human beings having irrational feelings of terror about a huge variety of things. Weird things. Weirder things than waterslides thank you very much. Here’s some of the more obscure ones I found when I googled “strange phobias”…
… old things (what age is old? Does Granny count?), certain breeds of flowers (by colour or by scent?), going to the toilet in public toilets (scary at the best of times, I suppose), repetitive noises (ringing phones, alarm clocks), pickles (anything from chutney to gherkins), wet tissues (ha ha ha!!!), mustard (bizarre!), insects (this makes a bit of sense), large objects (like a ship…), mushrooms (I didn’t like them as a child, but a fear of them? Really?), green olives… The list goes on.
Then there are all the common phobias as well – a fear of heights, of flying, of deep water, of confined spaces, of snakes, of dogs, of spiders, of crowds, of injections, of germs & dirt.
I know people that are affected by each of these more “normal” phobias, which isn’t entirely surprising considering statistics say that approximately 10% of adults are affected by phobias.
A phobia is defined as “a persistent, irrational fear of a specific object, activity, or situation that leads to a compelling desire to avoid it.”
Yes, I would say I have a compelling desire to avoid waterslides.
My fear is silly and irrational, I admit, but I can laugh about it. Or appreciate why other people laugh about it, at least. And I think that might be the key to coping with phobias. You have to learn to laugh at yourself. And if you can’t laugh at yourself, then watch the episode of Modern Family when Phil Dunphy’s fear of clowns is exposed for all the world to see.