The Suitcase Lady


November 18, 2014, 8:57 pm

Almost all of us probably harbor some mild phobias…..fear of snakes, spiders, bats, large crowds, enclosed spaces, heights. The renowned biologist, Edward O. Wilson, notes that these phobias are shared by all cultures and can be traced back to times when prehumans lived outside in tribes. Encounters with wild animals and enemy tribes were frequent and “it was safest to learn fast, remember the event long and vividly, and act decisively without involving any rational thought.”

We are still hard wired to do exactly that, even though we no longer spend all our waking hours in the woods hunting and gathering. Consider this ironic example. Dr. Wilson is one of the world’s leading entomologists, the Honorary Curator of Entomology at Harvard, yet this bug guy admits to being “a mild arachnophobe.” He confesses that he will not touch large spiders in their webs.

I am an arachnophile. These creatures amazing ability to create seven different types of silk and weave intricate webs fascinates me. When a spider in our house needs relocating, I willingly volunteer for the task. And handling spiders and snakes when I taught children’s classes at the zoo presented no problems.

But I do have a phobia. Chickens. The zoo once asked me to feature a chicken in one of my classes. I immediately asked to be instructed in chicken wrangling techniques. I was given a fifteen minute lesson which left me pitifully unprepared. Fortunately, my volunteer helper for the class was a no nonsense retired schoolteacher and former farm girl from the U.P. I explained my plight to her. She had no chicken phobias whatsoever and happily volunteered.

The chicken was brought to the classroom from the zoo farm in a cat carrier. My wonderful helper opened the carrier and pulled out one extremely angry bird who started pecking, clawing and flapping simultaneously. With one miraculous maneuver, this expert let that chicken know who was boss.

Someday, I would like to overcome my chicken phobia. But for the moment, I’m content to buy my eggs from the grocery store.


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