Bridges, Backhoes & Other Irrational Fears

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Phobia, Shmobia.”

“Fears evolve over time. What is one fear you’ve conquered?”

I do not enjoy this photo.


Try to contain your laughter, but I have a confession to make.  A confession that many friends are aware of  and have talked me through since the beginning of college:  I’m a little terrified of construction equipment, specifically cranes and backhoes.  Yes, it’s odd, and yes, deep down I know they’re not going chase us down with their scary metal talons, but still, I cringe if I have to pass one on the street.

Over the years, I’ve realized that my fear truly stems from a larger category of items: massive metal things.  Just to clarify:

Large metal things that freak me out: Cranes, plows, backhoes, other large construction vehicles, garbage trucks, roller coasters, bridges (this one has gotten better), and creepy carnival rides.

Large metal things I’m cool with: lawnmowers, cars, old-timey computers, file cabinets, fences, copy machines.

Luckily, as a writer that enjoys picking apart my own psyche, I can provide a bit of an explanation.  When I was very young, I used to have horrific night terrors.  I would wake up screaming and yelling, usually after spending the night sleepwalking/running around the house.  My parents once found me closed in our basement’s coal room (it was an old house) in the middle of the night.  So yeah, strange kid.  To say the least, I was not a calm sleeper.  The only memories I have while sleepwalking are a very dim image of the part of the house I’m walking through and whatever dream is still running through my head.  When I was tiny, I remember it had a lot to do with falling bridges, or something like that.  These dreams were never linear or detailed, all I knew is that there were a lot of things falling and I was under them.  As I got older, I started calling them my “claustrophobia” dreams, since these invoked a similar feeling to when I was a wake and feeling claustrophobic.

Later, these dreams, mixed with a healthy dose of that terrible TNT movie Trucks (which, if you’re not familiar with the story, is about a group of evil possessed trucks attack some tourists trapped at a rest stop), developed into something more specific.  I needed an outlet for my anxiety.  And apparently, I chose the spider-like metal creatures that cause traffic jams.

After I met my husband, he got wind of my backhoe anxiety, and was very comforting.  “They are our friends!  They fix things!”  He is right, I do rationally know this.  But I suppose this is why they call it an irrational fear.  I also realized that his outlook on large trucks may come from a history of gender-specific toys.  Boys are taught that trucks are your buddies and not out to get you.  Girls are taught to prepare plastic hamburgers and coach their Polly Pocket cat through a trip to the vet.

Touch a Truck!

This past weekend, I took a walk into downtown Montclair, and came across an adorable swarm of children climbing all over firetrucks, backhoes, and truck beds.  My gut reaction, clearly, was, “These children are in danger!”  Luckily, I realized that it wasn’t actually a toddler summer camp gone rogue, but actually a planned event where adorable toddlers could climb all over their favorite machines.  I envied their courage!  It was a nice reminder that my fear is pretty ridiculous, and stems from something much larger than the slight (or zero) chance that backhoes may come to life and take over the world.

If anything, may hatred for these creepy creatures has become a tool to help me through more debilitating and practical fears, like swimming too far out into the ocean, spontaneously falling off things, or you know, never succeeding artistically (Wheeee!).

Your fears are someone else’s adventure.  For those little kids, jumping all over these sneaky robots is the height of their week.  And since I have 25 years on most of them, it’s probably time I make peace with both my night terrors and construction sites.  I have made progress, great progress!  I passed a backhoe in front of my school the other day without sneering at the driver!  But I admit that I have a ways to go.  Perhaps, one day, I will participate in Touch a Truck as well.

5 responses to “Bridges, Backhoes & Other Irrational Fears”

  1. I have to admit, I had a little smirk on my face reading this. Reason being, I live near and have worked on mine sites, with some of the biggest construction machines and trucks on the planet. Also been caught behind road trains carrying these enormous diggers and tip trays (big enough that they cover both sides of the highway). I hate to think how you would react in an outback mining town.


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