Fear of Flying (Things)

Posted by Donna on 12:21 PM with No comments

We all have our fears and phobias. Some have more than others. While I’m a big animal lover, I’m not a fan of small, scurrying rodents. That’s why I have a cat. When they were younger, my kids were not allowed to have pet gerbils. It’s something about the tail. I did, however, concede to a succession of hamsters, all named Petey. No tail.

I’m terrified of bats. They are horrendous mice with wings.  That’s why I have a husband, a good friend named Dean, and a tennis racket. Dean will gladly and with enthusiastic animation, tell anyone who will listen about the phone calls he‘s received from Jason, calling from Massachusetts, to dispatch him to our house because I’d locked myself in the bathroom, hiding from a circling and swooping bat.

While my encounters with mice and bats have left me mentally scarred [read:overdramatic], they pale in comparison to my fear of birds. I can’t tell you specifically about the first mouse or bat that sent me screaming, but I can certainly tell you about the first bird. It started with a duck.

Growing up, I remember the stories of children who would find a real bunny, chick or duckling, in addition to the chocolate variety, in their Easter basket. My friend, Angelo, who lived around the corner, was one of them.  I was 11. It was June, school was out, and I had gone to his house to play in the yard (we still played in backyards when I was 11).  And there it was…. a larger than life, oranged billed white duck, its webbed feet tucked beneath it, sleeping in a corner of his yard. “Want to see it?” he asked. I don’t remember answering, but I do remember a blur of white feathers running at me, honking, flapping and chasing me around his yard. I ran home, screaming and swearing 11-year old vengeance, which I don’t think I ever exacted.  Despite the duck incident, Angelo and I are still friends.  The duck, however, was never seen again.

A decade later, my late father-in-law, Bill thought it would be fun to release my mother-in-law’s cockatiel from its cage and let it fly around the house.  The more I shrieked, the more he laughed. We didn’t visit for a while after that.

In the years since, I’ve been chased by a Canadian goose, attacked [read: overdramatic…again] by seagulls at the rest area on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, and have had innumerous close encounters with swooping fowl, including a falcon with a 4 foot wingspan while on the back of my husband’s Harley.

Living in Massachusetts, my new nemesis is the Turkey. They roam wild and freely in our neighborhood, a band of feathered adversaries who chase squirrels from bird feeders and parade down the middle of our quiet road with defiance and arrogance. For one who fears the feathered, these are not foes to be taken lightly.  Some of these birds are the size of small children.

Last week, Jason and I were sitting on our front porch, enjoying the first rain-free day in a week, when I spied them, five of them, striding out of the woods, their wattles wattling, to feast at the bird feeder across the street. There was clearly a pecking order (no pun intended) as the biggest and proudest led the way.  A rustling in the distance caused him to puff and unfurl his feathers, a circular display of plumage that had him nearly double in size.

I decided that I needed a picture of this posturing, grabbed my camera and headed gingerly off the porch.

They were on the move, and I naively followed, like the ingénue in those campy teen horror movies, who ignores the dramatic music and with wide-eyed wonder heads into the dark basement.  He puffed once, twice, and stood stoically still, daring me to come closer.  I didn’t. They moved on, and I followed, getting within 5 feet before he turned, stared coldly at me with those beady eyes on that skeletal-like head and displayed every feather…right before he charged.  It was the duck all over again. I screamed and dashed back to the porch.  The only thing louder than my heavy erratic breathing was Jason’s laughter as the bird disappeared into the woods, entourage in tow.
I can hear them in the mornings when I’m out walking Ajax, that frenetic gobbling taunting me from the depths of the wooded glen that surrounds our complex.  A quick tug on the leash, and we pick up the pace. I’ve learned my lesson. I’ll stay out of his, and harm’s way, but he should be warned - had this been another day and time, and well, century, that bird would have been blinded by the sun bouncing off the shiny brass buckles of Jason’s ancestors’ shoes, staring down the barrel of a wheel lock gun, not the lens of my Canon XTi.  And then he’d be dinner.

Will my fear of things with wings ever subside? When pigs fly.

But that will probably result in an entirely new phobia.