Some people are afraid of completely mundane things. One of my best friends has minor panic attacks when bananas come anywhere near her or her belongings. Some people are afraid of normal things like snakes, failure, the afterlife, fine lines and wrinkles.
I’m afraid of all of those things, plus escalators (but only with the power turned off).
I realize this basically makes me afraid of stairs, but it’s true. Put me in front of a moving escalator and I’m good to go. This despite the years of
my mother people telling horror stories of little kids getting loose shoe laces caught in the moving parts and being sucked in and scraped and mauled and de-limbed. Kind of like the stories of kids who get stuck in the cleaning filters of pools and hot tubs only to have their intestines suctioned out through their tiny anal cavities. (I watched a lot of 20/20 growing up.)
My family was embarking on another vacation to a happily tropical Asian land via our local Beijing airport. Let me paint a little picture for those of you who have visited China at all in the years since the Olympics. It is not the same as the airport you flew in and out of since its February 2008 opening.
Nay, where today’s airport is aesthetically pleasing, well labeled in myriad languages, and full of eateries at which you could satisfy your pre-flight hunger, the Beijing airport in 1997 looked a little bit more like what you’d expect of a communist country. Everything was green and pre-9/11 security mostly consisted of making sure we weren’t missionaries of democracy and freedom. Bare bones decor, a single Duty Free, and no food beyond what my mother packed. To get on and off the plane you would be driven by bus from the terminal no matter the weather.
(Given that the airport was the first thing I saw when I moved to China in 1997, is it little wonder that eleven-year-old me was not looking forward to it?)
Anyway, we were walking through the airport and headed downstairs to our gate. Like so much basic technology in China (at the time, at least), the escalators were not working. My father led the trek down, followed by my mother and brother and our carry-on items. I, being the angsty pre-teen too cool to be seen with my family or look like I was having fun at any given moment, continued at a slow pace behind.
My father stepped off the escalator and turned left. My brother got off the escalator and followed. My mother got off the escalator and looked at me, silently pleading with me to act like a normally functioning human being. Five paces behind, I was still in the middle of the escalator walking down when the power turned on.
And the stairs started moving up.
I jumped in fear and nearly fell down into the metal spikes (this is when the memories of children getting stuck and dying returned to mind. Thanks, Mom.) and tumbled to the bottom of the escalator. I survived, but my ego and general confidence did not.
What freaks you out?