Wile E. Coyote holding a "HELP" sign

Like many of the folks over at NY Mag (and, I suspect, most New York City residents), I also wildly fear being pushed onto the subway tracks, being murdered in the back of a cab, being doored by a parked car, and finding rats in my cupboards. It has also crossed my mind that I may be smooshed by a falling air conditioner unit, because no one installs those things properly. And, what do you know, that happened:

There were no brackets on the unit that plummeted from the sixth floor of 65 Second Avenue yesterday. It fell from the window of Bruce Fuller’s apartment and, after smashing through the awning of WineBar, landed on the head of 67-year-old Vietnam vet Anthony Franzese. But there is a silver lining to this tale: Franzese did not die, and in fact, was found only to have minor injuries after being taken to Bellevue Hospital. And since he and Fuller, the AC unit’s owner, are friends, Fuller is taking care of Franzese’s Shih Tzu while he is incapacitated.


I was particularly afraid of the AC-on-the-head thing when I lived in the East Village — my apartment was across the street from Wine Bar, actually — and I knew that half the neighborhood was young kids like me who were generally inept at anything involving tools or physical labor, and lived in tenement buildings owned by absentee landlorders and maintained by generally stoned or otherwise not-the-sharpest supers. My own super (who was both regularly stoned and not the sharpest) installed our showerhead upside down and could not for the life of him figure out a Plan B when I pointed out this mishap (I ended up duct taping a hand-held shower head to the upside-down holder, and showered like that for a year before finally just buying and installing a new fixture myself). Anyway, point being, I suspect that most AC units in those old East Village buildings are installed by total yahoos who stick them in the window and hope that they stay put. I know mine sure was. So I always avoided walking too close to the walls of those buildings in the summer time (also because AC units are drippy, and I’m kind of convinced that the drips are pure freon and are going to burn my skin off or at least give me cancer).

It’s pretty terrifying to realize that my fear of getting Wile E. Coyote’ed by an air conditioner came true for someone. And at a bar that I once went to, even though it’s a terrible bar with terrible over-priced wine and douchey clientele (I was being passive-aggressive towards a then-boyfriend who I knew would hate it. I probably deserved to get smashed by a falling AC unit for that!). And yes, I am aware that I am doing the thing where something bad happens somewhere and some annoying person goes, “Oh my God, I was there once!” as if that puts them in Very Close Proximity To Tragedy — see, e.g., “I once went to the World Trade Center!”

Regardless, I will never walk or sit under an air conditioner again.

My other big-city fears: Falling through those metal doors on the street that lead to restaurant basements (which never seem to be securely closed); falling through the sidewalk grates; being killed by an exploding manhole; being killed by scaffolding; being killed by someone who is hiding out within an elaborate maze of scaffolding and blue-painted wood walls; being killed by a falling window-washer or a window-washer’s supplies; being killed by someone who breaks into my apartment; bedbugs; having a rat run over my feet while I’m waiting for the subway; contracting some sort of horrific disease from touching the subway poles; being attacked by pigeons; and contracting some sort of horrific disease from being attacked by pigeons.

I cannot be the only one. What do you irrationally fear about where you live?

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91 comments for “Fears

  1. Jadey
    September 29, 2010 at 11:49 am

    I grew up in suburbs with old, poorly insulated 2.5 and 3-storey houses, so GINORMOUS effing icicles would build up over walkways and doors all the time in the winter. I was (still am, really) terrified of being smacked on the head by one of those.

    Mythbusters tried to bust the falling icicle threat early on in their run, but they only dealt with medium-sized sharp ‘sicles, not the massive glacier-stalactites I’m used to.

    I’m also scared of escalators, but don’t tell me that’s irrational.

  2. September 29, 2010 at 11:50 am

    I’ve been party to the accidental defenestration of two (or possibly three) different air conditioners during my time as a New Yorker. Thankfully, everything fell into unoccupied courtyards at the back of a building rather than onto a pedestrian walkway. After the first one I swore I would never so much as touch an air conditioner again, but the night we moved into our first apartment together, it was 90 degrees out and my boyfriend decided we couldn’t wait two days for the super to install our window unit for us. After about an hour of cajoling I finally consented to help, cautioning him at every step about how careful we had to be. Ten minutes later he’d failed to heed my warnings and was apologetically writing a check to our downstairs neighbors for THEIR air conditioner, which ours took out on the way down.

    Needless to say, our first few weeks as cohabitants were a little tense. But at least we got a chance to meet our new neighbors.

    Apart from my now phobia of future air-conditioner-related accidents (either as the victim or the perpetrator), bedbugs are at the top of my extreme fear list, but I don’t believe this fear is in any way irrational.

  3. September 29, 2010 at 11:51 am

    I constantly touch doors before I open them, as I am prone to static shocks and I fear that if I grab the doorknob outright I’ll somehow be electrocuted.

  4. September 29, 2010 at 11:59 am

    Jess: Apart from my now phobia of future air-conditioner-related accidents (either as the victim or the perpetrator), bedbugs are at the top of my extreme fear list, but I don’t believe this fear is in any way irrational.  

    It’s not. I’ve known people who have dealt with them. They’re a friggin’ nightmare.

  5. Politicalguineapig
    September 29, 2010 at 12:08 pm

    Now I’m a bit worried about the sidewalks in the neighboring city. One actually caved in, due to a spontanous sinkhole. The guy who was walking on the sidewalk at the time of the cave-in was okay, but I’m sure he had a bad case of the willies for a while.
    Also, I’m scared of every guy I pass while I’m out and about. I keep them in view until they pass out of my line of sight, and I try not to sit next to any man on the bus.
    Biggest irrational fear though: microwaves and X-ray machines. I wouldn’t eat stuff out of the microwave for four years as a kid, and my fear of X-rays hasn’t gone away.

  6. Politicalguineapig
    September 29, 2010 at 12:14 pm

    Er, please ignore the repeat. Mods, would you be so kind as to erase the duplicate, please?

  7. Lyndsay
    September 29, 2010 at 12:18 pm

    I was sometimes afraid of being doored by a parked car while biking in Toronto. This was not irrational though as it happened two days before I moved because of a TAXI DRIVER. I had almost no injuries thankfully.
    Now I’m in the UK temporarily and more scared of spiders than I used to be. I swear they are bigger here and there are more of them indoors.

  8. preying mantis
    September 29, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    “and I’m kind of convinced that the drips are pure freon and are going to burn my skin off or at least give me cancer”

    It’s just water, it’s not going to hurt you, and the coolant used in home a/c units tends to have a boiling point well below the temperature at which the average person would be running their unit. But it’s cold and kind of gross, so, my sympathies.

    “What do you irrationally fear about where you live?”

    Ants. Part of it is rational (most of ours bite and/or sting, ranging from super-itchy-and-annoying to oh-god-it-burns in badness), but most of it is me being convinced that I’m going to be the person to find out that Florida is now hosting bullet ants or jack-jumpers or velvet ants where the females have re-evolved the ability to fly or some other even-worse-than-fire-ants ant by a) getting horribly bitten and b) having them infest my house like termites and destroy everything.

  9. BeccaTheCyborg
    September 29, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    I have always feared having pigeons attack my toes when I wear sandals.

    This is despite never having had it happen, seen it happen or heard of such happening to anyone. I think it’s the beady little eyes and the milling around people’s feet.

    I’m also terrified of revolving doors (specifically being trapped in them), despite loving small enclosed spaces in any other context. Didn’t know that one until I moved to Toronto. (There were none in my small town.) They’re everywhere!

  10. shah8
    September 29, 2010 at 12:26 pm

    Say, who’s up for a little Dead Like Me?

    Weight room mishaps for me, since I lift them without spotters. Tripping over a moonbeam in the shower as well. Showers needs to be in shower stalls and not over a tub.

  11. gretel
    September 29, 2010 at 12:43 pm

    I was born and raised (mostly) in NYC, and I have always been afraid of getting stabbed or shot by someone randomly. I know it’s irrational, because you’re more likely to be killed by someone you know, etc., etc. But this city and U.S. society in general are SO TERRIBLE when it comes to mental health care that there are a lot of people who desperately need help for schizophrenia and a host of other mental health issues.

    Case and point: My friend was on the subway, and a lady struck up a conversation with her (red flag number one–hate to say it, but it’s true). My friend is a nice person, and engaged in said conversation. It was about sci-fi, and when my friend stated that she couldn’t remember the title of her favorite book, the lady punched her in the face. The other people on the subway had no idea what to do, and my friend just got off at the next stop and tended to her black eye. The woman who punched her is out there somewhere and needs help so that she doesn’t harm herself or someone else. My friend called 311 (didn’t want to call the cops), but they just told her to call 911. Is there a service to report people who need mental health assistance without getting them in trouble with the law?

  12. September 29, 2010 at 12:47 pm

    getting stuck in an elevator for the night because my last class ends late & is on the 9th floor. I’ve thought about taking the stairs, but that’s where the murderers and rapists hang out.

  13. Orlampagal
    September 29, 2010 at 12:59 pm

    Hey Gretel, yes, you call 911 and say that the woman will hurt herself or others, describe her and leave it at that. Also, reporting the assault won’t necessarily get her in trouble with the law… as most states have mental health involved with criminal court.

  14. September 29, 2010 at 1:22 pm

    Wow. After reading this, I actually suddenly feel very safe in my quiet little beach town city.

    Now crossing a street on foot in London–well that’s another story.

  15. raven_feathers
    September 29, 2010 at 1:29 pm

    i live out in the wilderness. i’m afraid of mountain lions and those guys from “deliverance”.

  16. Brennan
    September 29, 2010 at 1:50 pm

    Japanese stink bugs: Maryland’s answer to locust swarms. I’ve never actually smelled one of these things, despite killing hundreds of the suckers over the last year alone. Still, I’m always worried I’ll step on one by mistake and it’ll release some god-awful toxic stink. Plus, I worry about swallowing one while asleep (not all that irrational, as there can be more than a dozen in my bedroom at any given time) and consequently getting septic and dying (okay, maybe a little bit irrational).

  17. littlem
    September 29, 2010 at 1:50 pm

    Yeah, the whole bedbug thing right now is like … yeah.

    I mean, Niketown? Macy’s?


  18. Kate
    September 29, 2010 at 1:53 pm

    The Transbay Tunnel in the SF-Bay Area that houses BART runs along the bottom of the SF Bay. Not underground, but hanging out on the bay floor. I am irrationally terrified that I will be trapped down there during an earthquake and drowned or exploded there in a terrorist attack.
    I am also irrationally terrified of driving across the Bay Bridge and there being an earthquake, which will cause one of the panels to fall off the bridge into the bay and me along with it. (That actually happened to some guy in the Loma Prieta quake)
    I am irrationally afraid that the very high freeway overpass I take to work (and which is built on marshland) will topple over in an earthquake. Or that my 120 year old brick apartment building will crumble in an earthquake.
    Earthquakes, man. California.

  19. shah8
    September 29, 2010 at 1:57 pm

    My family members absolutely refuses to drive over high suspension bridges if they can help it.

  20. gretel
    September 29, 2010 at 2:13 pm

    @Kate: And it’s not just California! Washington State is in big trouble, apparently. And if a big one ever hit NYC, well, I don’t even want to think about that!

    @shah8: After learning about the Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapse in my acoustics class, I completely understand that fear!

  21. Kyra
    September 29, 2010 at 2:14 pm

    I fear falling—sideways—onto the train tracks in front of a train from any distance wherein I could conceivably reach the tracks before the train shows up. I love trains, but for some reason I fear getting hit by them to a level vastly disproportional to the other considerations. Much of my comfort level with the place where I live (the second house away from train tracks) has to do with the fact that the tracks are on an engineered hill so I would have to fall not only sideways, but UP—which, unlike the threat of falling sideways, strikes me as patently ridiculous.

    I no longer fear, but am still uncomfortable with loud bathroom exhaust fans—with one exception: I refuse to use the upstairs shower/bathtub in my house because the exhaust fan is covered with a 60’s-era “decorative” grille with huge holes that could easily accommodate my hand. You can SEE THE BLADES INSIDE. So I won’t get in the shower with it.

  22. anon
    September 29, 2010 at 2:14 pm

    Train crossings. *shudder*

  23. PM
    September 29, 2010 at 2:15 pm

    I’m not sure if this one is irrational, rational, or just overprotectiveness (this is a word because I say so), but my little brother just came out as gay and I’m worried that someone here in Texas will beat him up or kill him because of it. He just started college in Austin which is probably the best part of TX to be gay. Still, he’s never been in a fight in his life and as his older brother (with more experience with violence, sadly) I still sometimes feel this itch to be there by him so I can kick someone’s ass if some homophobe tries to start shit with him.

  24. September 29, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    Since I moved to Seattle, every now and then I have nightmares about Mt. Ranier erupting. Eek!

  25. _gamma_ray_
    September 29, 2010 at 2:33 pm

    I have the same awful fear of falling through those metal doors on sidewalks…in fact, although it was not me, after a night if wining and dining a friend of mine came within millimeters of falling into an open one. The worst is when there is no choice but to step onto the rusty ones…

  26. September 29, 2010 at 2:38 pm

    My apartment building has caught on fire four times in the five years I’ve been living here.

    Once was a serial arsonist. He did minimal damage and was caught soon after.
    Once was a grease fire that gutted and entire apartment on the farthest end of the building.
    Once was a car in the parking lot that completely burned up and blew out the windows of twenty adjacent cars, not technically a building fire but close enought.
    And once my upstairs neighbors caught the three story porch on fire.

    I consider myself lucky to live in a largely cinderblock building and I change the batteries in my smoke detectors every six months.

  27. karak
    September 29, 2010 at 2:47 pm

    I’m terrified of having cockroaches of any kind in any proximity to me. I’m afraid of those metal grates in the sidewalk giving way beneath my feet. I’m afraid of my toes being sucked into escalators. And spiders. We have brown recluses around here and their bites are horrifying. My cousin got bit by one, so it’s a rational fear.

    I live in a rural area, with fields of corn EVERYWHERE. There’s an urban legend of a woman who’s car went off the road and into the field and wasn’t found for over a month. I think about this whenever I pass cornfields on the backroads.

    My last fear is when a car pulls out behind me and follows me for several miles. I’m paranoid that the person in the car is out to get me and is going to run me over when I get out of my vehicle. Luckily, this has never happened, but I have taken crazy “evasive action” to make sure they’re not following me.

  28. JPlum
    September 29, 2010 at 3:06 pm

    Impalement. On wrought iron fences, or those pointy four-poster beds.

    Also, drains.

  29. anon
    September 29, 2010 at 3:06 pm

    Train crossings. I’m always afraid my car will die in the middle of crossing one, or the traffic will suddenly clog up, leaving me stranded on the tracks. *shudder*

  30. herong
    September 29, 2010 at 3:32 pm

    Omg. So, a friend of mine has fallen through a sidewalk access panel, we had a fire in our apartment building last year, my brother’s building in Brooklyn had horrible bedbugs, and I’ve been hit on the head with a (small) icicle.

    Sometimes I think I deliberately do things, like step on sidewalk access panels and walk under ladders and air conditioners, just to keep my fear in check. If I changed my behavior, it would just rule my life. So I inject a little danger into my walk to work! Living on the edge. Right on the f*ing edge.

  31. Jim
    September 29, 2010 at 3:39 pm

    Shoshie, hope this is some comfort – if Rainier (ti Qw’e?be?) blows it will either be a pyroclastic flow down either the Puyallup or Nisqually valleys, so you’ll be well out of it in Seattle, or else it will be ash clouds and that will probably blow eastward at Yakima and further. But that flow will kill about 100k people in Pierce county if it goes down the Puyallup Valley. I think about this too, because I live in Tacoma.

    What should give you the heebie-jeebies is the impending subduction zone quake, which will level Seattle and all the overpasses between the border, Snoqualmie Pass and Olympia, blocking all chance of escape, and the wharves will very likely fall in and preclude water-borne rescue. It will be a day at least before casualty reports start coming out of the city, let alone rescue efforts from the rest of the wrecked western half of the state. Galss fallen from buildings into the streets will pile up to 20-30 feet high in the downtown rendering the streets impassible for weeks. The state Emergency Management people runs exercises on this, so they have a pretty clear picture, just no possible response. The last one of these was in 1700 and we are due for one.

    It’s the trade-off for having year-round views of snow-capped mountains from the downtown and orcas occasionally visible from office windows.

  32. September 29, 2010 at 4:02 pm

    I fear sometimes that some other nation will decide to invade, since Washington, DC, is the capital of the nation, and I will see tanks rolling down city streets.

  33. RD
    September 29, 2010 at 4:12 pm

    LOL, the rats in the NYC apartment is something I have experienced! I don’t have a huge fear of rats but a really big one would prolly not be very pleasant. I have also had to break in cat-burglar style…hundreds of people must have seen me (at least) and no one called the po-po…so someone breaking in to the apartment is prolly not an unrealistic fear!

  34. Allison
    September 29, 2010 at 4:27 pm

    I have bedbugs right now. Living the fear! JK but it’s a pretty heinous pain in the ass.

  35. Ron O
    September 29, 2010 at 4:44 pm

    I’ve lived in Chicago for most of my life and 3 other big cities during the time I wasn’t here. I’m also afraid of falling through sidewalk grates and access doors, that’s probably my biggest city fear. Many years ago my dad had a side job photographing sidewalk accident sites for the city. He used to take me with him sometimes; so I know these things happen.

    I don’t live or work in one of the really dense parts of the city, so I don’t worry about the AC units falling on me. I would if I did though.

    I’ve gone to the ER because some guy opened his car door on me and sent me and the bike I was riding head over pedals. I was damm lucky I flew straight the the bike went left because when I looked over while lying on the pavement wondering what happened I saw my bike get crushed by a truck. I didn’t ride a bike again for about a decade. I still avoid major streets, even if they have a bike lane. Many drivers don’t respect the bike lane.

    I don’t really fear getting mugged or killed. I’ve lived in big cities my whole life and I haven’t had my home or person robbed or assaulted.

  36. Heather
    September 29, 2010 at 4:53 pm

    I’m really scared of someone breaking into my house while I’m in the shower and murdering me, not because I’ll get murdered, but because when the police come I’ll be naked. I also share in the fears of the sidewalk grates and spiders (which is a completely rational fear, since they are trying to kill me).

  37. Haley
    September 29, 2010 at 5:13 pm

    I’ve already been attacked by bedbugs, and I’m not terribly scared of them anymore. Mostly, I’m terrified of the HUGE spiders that make their webs over the sidewalks, waiting for innocent passerbys to walk into their web.

  38. Aine
    September 29, 2010 at 6:19 pm

    oh man! I thought I was gonna be the only one who’s scared of a suspension bridge collapsing as I drive over it. i’m also afraid when driving on freeway overpasses. that the car is going to go over the wall in some accident, somehow. (don’t ask…i don’t know…)

    i’m afraid of my building burning down as I sleep, but i was afraid of that when i lived in a little town in southern va, so it’s not city-specific. but it was pretty freaky to walk outside one night because the one down the street was on fire.
    i’m afraid of my sorta boyfriend getting killed riding his motorcycle, because I’ve seen it happen in my neighborhood.

  39. AJP
    September 29, 2010 at 6:27 pm

    I fear getting bedbugs again, getting doored by a parked car again, and having more mice in my apartment (thankfully no rats). Fortunately I haven’t had an AC unit fall on my head (knock on wood). :)

  40. Politicalguineapig
    September 29, 2010 at 6:31 pm

    For those guys who are afraid of earthquakes- I hate to break it to ya, but 100 years ago, there was a big quake in Missouri. So us Midwesterners have to deal with that too..
    And to be clear, when I was talking about the sidewalk that fell in: the actual cement gave way. I work near there, so I hope the rest of the sidewalks are okay.

  41. ataralas
    September 29, 2010 at 7:02 pm

    Putting trash in trash cans. I had a raccoon jump on my head when putting the trash out when I was 9. *shudder*

  42. stonebiscuit
    September 29, 2010 at 7:05 pm

    My biggest, most irrational fear is that the cicadas will gang up on me some night.

  43. Karen
    September 29, 2010 at 7:17 pm

    Even before I lived alone, I’ve been afraid of falling in the shower & knocking myself unconscious, not to be found for days.

    I’m also afraid of walk in coolers & freezers. I’ll go in them, but the door has to be securely propped open, and even then I’m constantly checking it.

  44. September 29, 2010 at 7:24 pm

    when i visited NYC a few years back we walked A LOT! i remember walking over those grates on the walk ways. huge metal coverings with thousands of tiny holes. i don’t know if they’re vents, square shaped over-sized man holes or what. but i was always terrified that one would give way underneath me and i would go plummeting to my untimely demise.

    another fear i have is of the ceiling caving in on me as i sleep. for years i slept on my stomach, as to prevent seeing the ceiling break loose and kill me instantly. now i sleep in whatever way is most comfortable. not a whole lot i can do if the ceiling actually did ever decide to “get me”!

  45. The Amazing Kim
    September 29, 2010 at 7:28 pm

    In awe of all the irrational fears here. Makes me feel like I’m a really chilled-out person.

    I’m pretty sure I’m going to die by heart disease, somewhere between the ages of 70 and 90. I carry an umbrella in spring to discourage swooping magpies. That’s pretty much it. Though this morning I was making a contingency plan for the survival of my kittens in the event of an asteroid hit (put them in the kitchen cupboard for the duration, open all the bags of cat food, make sure they have access to the outside in event of human extinction and take their collar-bells off.)

  46. Leigh
    September 29, 2010 at 7:33 pm

    I have gone into an irrational panic about literally every thing on your list, especially the one about someone hiding in the maze of scaffolding & blue walls (I HATE those), and the A.C. units. When I was an undergrad, I lived in a dorm where my bed was underneath a really tall window that our A.C. unit was installed in, so I slept directly beneath it–and I did not trust my school’s vigilance. in maintenance-related issues. I had trouble sleeping all year and would constantly do silly things like sleep with my head at the other end of the bed (you know, so that my ankles could be crushed instead of my skull) or put a pillow over my head (because that would help??), until once, the A.C. unit made some really bizarre scary loud noise at around 3 in the morning and, thinking my worst nightmare had come true and it was about to collapse on me, I leapt out of bed in a mad panic and scared the ever-loving shit out of all of my slumbering roommates. Once I calmed down, one of my roomies kindly explained that due to the weight distribution, if it became unlodged, our unit would DEFINITELY fall out the window, NOT on me. Which only replaced my temporary fear of being crushed in my sleep with a permanent one of being crushed on the sidewalk.

    My only other NY-related fear that wasn’t on your list is that the subway entrances will malfunction somehow while I’m going through those tall, revolving door-type entrances and I will be trapped. This fear is particularly keen in empty stations/late at night, etc.

  47. Jackie
    September 29, 2010 at 8:14 pm

    I’m a bit of a Hypochondriac, so I’m fearful of getting some horrific disease. It’s like you can’t see germs, and stuff, so it’s all pretty random. I’m not Agoraphobic or anything because of it, it’s just that you have rather little control over it. I take vitamins and wash my hands a lot, outside of that what can you really do though? Oh, I still have to get my Flu shot..

  48. KW
    September 29, 2010 at 8:45 pm

    Stairs. Stairs stairs stairs. I don’t avoid stairs, but I am very aware of the potential for falling every time I go down them. Same applies to escalators, though it is worse, for obvious reasons. I have to brace myself and time it perfectly before I get on an escalator.

  49. KW
    September 29, 2010 at 8:49 pm

    Oh, I would also like to agree with a couple commentors above. I seriously fear slipping and falling in the shower. I have fallen in the shower a couple times but never been seriously hurt. I live alone so I just worry I will crack my head or break a bone and no one will be there to help me. I also never ever EVER walk over those metal doors or grates in the sidewalk. I used to live in San Francisco, so they were everywhere. I don’t run into them here (Spokane, WA) unless I go downtown, but I still avoid them.

  50. Dianne
    September 29, 2010 at 8:49 pm

    Not at home but at work: elevators. There are 4 elevators in the building where I work. One was out of service for nearly a year and suddenly back in service without anyone ever seeing any repair person working on it. Yep, sure that’s safe. Another is nicknamed “the guillotine” for its rapid closing, unstoppable doors. Don’t stick a body part in there. Another goes up and down at apparent random, without respect to buttons pushed or which way the arrows outside are pointing. The fourth doesn’t have a clear association yet but I’m sure it’s just biding its time before it reaches out and eats us all. New Jersey public buildings are…exciting.

  51. Julie
    September 29, 2010 at 8:58 pm

    I have lots of ridiculous fears, but I am deathly afraid of snakes and I live in the country. I look before every step I take. It’s pretty bad. Other fears? Driving over an icy bridge/overpass, walking after dark in my yard, people following me too closely with their high beams on, and having the logs fall off one of those trucks that transport gigantic logs, come through the window of my car and kill me. Along the same line, having a deer come through the window and kick me to death with it’s hooves (I have actually heard of this one).

  52. Janna
    September 29, 2010 at 9:14 pm

    I’m so glad I’m not the only one with an irrational fear of suspension bridges and those damn sidewalk grates and doors. I’ have to say that watching tape of “Galloping Gertie” in motion scared the ever loving shit out of me and I can’t enjoy watching the water as I go over it in the car. I’ve actually gotten upset with my very patient boyfriend for walking on the safe part of the sidewalk, which would make me walk on the grates if I wanted to walk beside him. I did apologize, but those things just give me the oogie boogies. *shudder*

  53. September 29, 2010 at 9:19 pm

    When I lived in the exurbs I was very concerned that if the doors weren’t locked, someone would walk in and kill us all. Part of this was from In Cold Blood, but it was also a series of unconnected murders a few years ago where people died because the killers went to each door until one was unlocked. This got a little worse when I read about a serial rapist in DC this summer… which leads to.. I’m paranoid that when I take out the trash at night that in the few seconds I walk to the curb and return someone will have slipped inside. Really.

    I’m also convinced that I’ll fall through the grates in the sidewalk and that I’ll fall on the tracks (all on my own, I’m clumsy).

    Somehow the fears I should have–getting followed, being pushed, being in the subway car during a violent act, getting mugged–only occasionally comes up. Usually I just think, “I wish this subway bar was cleaner.”

  54. Chelsey Worth
    September 29, 2010 at 10:14 pm

    I’m usually scared of bugs, particularly bees, flying into my mouth and going down my throat. Not because I think it might kill me, but just because. Also slipping in the shower. It happened to my girlfriend once, and she got a NASTY infection from the cut she sustained. As for my city? I feel safe most of the time as long I’m not in a ravine; they’re notorious hiding spots for sexual predators (first hand experience). I do sometimes get the feeling that someone will grab me from behind and haul me away, though. But whenever I go to Toronto I worry that someone will push me into the subway’s path, or that I’ll fall through a sidewalk grate.

  55. Kristen J.
    September 29, 2010 at 10:59 pm

    Biggest Irrational fears:

    (1) Balconies collapsing
    (2) Crashing into the back of dump trucks
    (3) Snakes in toilets
    (4) Tripping down an escalator
    (5) Sidewalk grates

  56. PrettyAmiable
    September 29, 2010 at 11:17 pm

    Kristen J.: (3) Snakes in toilets

    I saw a clearly photoshopped picture that makes me check under both seats. I feel you.

  57. INotI4
    September 29, 2010 at 11:26 pm

    I’m pretty sure the instruction manual for my air conditioner said just to put it in the window and use the sliding window to hold it in place.

  58. Opheelia
    September 29, 2010 at 11:39 pm

    I share the fear of sidewalk grates when I’m cities that have them. I’m afraid of water that drips down off of buildings; it totes grosses me out and if I’m forced to walk under it I have to brace myself.

    I’m terrified of careening off a bridge into a river or lake in a vehicle, which isn’t totally irrational until I add that I am often convinced that a strong wind will actually blow the vehicle over the guard rail.

  59. September 30, 2010 at 12:21 am

    OK, so, you know those stairways that were really popular “architectural details” in buildings from the about the late 50s through the 70s, the kind that are just slabs attached to beams that go up diagonally and you can see right through the riser part? Hate. Those. Am irrationally afraid that something is going to grab my ankles as I walk up them. :(

    Also afraid of bridges, etc., that have a gap between the guard rail and the deck/sidewalk. Because, again, something could grab me or I could somehow slide right through there. (Not really feasible as I may be short, but I am not slender by any means.)

    Sidewalk grates, etc. — yup, you betcha! Also any structure of any height where I can see through the floor, be it grates or those stupid, stupid glass blocks they sometimes use. Mall of America, I’m lookin’ at YOU!

    Not really a city one: Strangely enough, since I’ve been using outhouses my whole life (we did a lot of hiking when I was a kid, and we camp now in state parks with better access to outhouses than flush toilets), I’ve managed to completely freak myself out about some*thing* down in the vault that’s going to reach up and pull me in. Usually at night. Yeah. *sigh*

    Cockroaches. My husband has them where he works, and the very thought of it just gives me the *willies*. Please do not discuss palmetto bugs with me. Please!

    Massive EMP that ends much of the way that we currently live ’cause all the electronics are fried. (“Darkangel”, anyone? At least the first season.) I joke about wanting to get my treadle sewing machine up and running in case the EM pulse hits. That way I can at least still make a living. ;D But I’m not really joking….

  60. Miss S
    September 30, 2010 at 1:05 am

    I feel so much less alone in my irrational fears :) Thank you for this thread. (Trigger warning-maybe)
    I fear someone coming breaking in at night and murdering me and no one hearing me scream.
    I fear someone hiding in my backseat or hiding in the parking lot when I come home, or following me.

    I’m in Maryland, and some people are really friendly and talk to strangers like old friends. This doesn’t always bother me unless I’m alone, in a parking lot, and it’s a man. Once I was at a red light and looked over and a guy was smiling at me. I had just left my university so I figured it was someone that I had seen around. I drove about 10 miles to the liquor store across from my apartment, picked up a bottle of wine, paid, and walked to my car when I heard someone behind me say “hey.” It was the guy from the road. I hadn’t noticed him following me up the road, into the store, and out.

    So now I try not to smile.
    I fear my mom and stepdad getting into accidents on their motorcycles.
    I fear my sisters being kidnapped and me having a nervous breakdown as a result.

    I fear getting a disease. Please don’t laugh. One day I thought I was having a stroke, or it was a sign of ms because my hand was shaking. Now I realize it’s probably a result of my anxiety, along with the heart pounding (which I thought was a heart attack).

    Also, I have a fear that when I’m passing an oncoming car around a curve, we will collide head on. Not like the other guy loses control of his car. He just collides headfirst into me.

  61. Politicalguineapig
    September 30, 2010 at 1:06 am

    Laurie: As a fellow local, I feel ya. I never saw the point of those stairs with gaps, except to scare the ever-lovin sh*t out of the pedestrians.
    Suburbs scare me. I keep feeling like I wandered into Stepford county and can’t get out. And some of them don’t have sidewalks, or curbs. Apparently Suburbia is not built for pedestrians. And every time I cross the street in the city, I feel like the cars, particularly the Suburban Assualt Vehicles, are out to get me.

  62. rebekah
    September 30, 2010 at 1:37 am

    Ants. Part of it is rational (most of ours bite and/or sting, ranging from super-itchy-and-annoying to oh-god-it-burns in badness), but most of it is me being convinced that I’m going to be the person to find out that Florida is now hosting bullet ants or jack-jumpers or velvet ants where the females have re-evolved the ability to fly or some other even-worse-than-fire-ants ant by a) getting horribly bitten and b) having them infest my house mb like termites and destroy everything.
    I live in an area with red flying ants that climb through window units and attack everything that is either warm or bright. One bit me and I had to go to the hospital because my entire arm swelled up like a balloon. It was NOT fun

  63. September 30, 2010 at 2:56 am

    Most of my fears aren’t irrational at all (fear of my husband dying and leaving me with no way to take care of myself, fear of the bdsm club I go to being raided by police while I am there). I am not afraid of some things that are an actual possibility (I live in Oklahoma and there are a lot of tornados here but I don’t live in dread of it, I am not afraid of snakes or spiders even though we live in a very snake-y and spider-y area, and I will actually PET bees — but not wasps).

    Irrational fears. Hmm.

    I am completely grossed out by earthworms. They make my flesh crawl. This despite that they are totally freaking harmless. I think it’s the unpredictable way they thrash and wiggle and flail against your skin when you pick them up, and feeling the big ones’ bodies pulse. We get REALLY big earthworms here. Thicker than a pencil, longer than a ruler. I saw one that was really skinny but must have been eighteen inches long, and I literally screamed and went back inside and refused to leave the house until the following day. It’s not fear, it’s a kind of bone-deep revulsion that it is really hard to describe.

    I am terrified, absolutely terrified, of getting bedbugs. And there’s nothing I can do to prevent it. There’s two people who come to my house regularly that, from where they work and live, it seems very likely to me that they will wind up with them if they get bad in this area, and if that happens, I’m afraid I will get them, and I just don’t know what I would do. I can’t use pesticides in the house; I have snakes as pets and they can not be moved out of the house (not feasible — huge cages and there’s a LOT of them), but snakes are very sensitive to pesticides if it gets into their systems. We also have carpets and the husband won’t let me get RID of them.

    Our state and my city in particular has horrible bridge problems, and most bridges I drive over have been rated as either “deficient” or “functionally obsolete.” That’s not reassuring at all, especially since several of these are over water, and I (quite rationally) fear drowning (I can’t swim).

  64. September 30, 2010 at 3:05 am

    On the Moscow metro, trains sometimes stop between stations, especially during rush hour, if there is a hold-up ahead. So you’re just standing there in a tightly packed train, in a dark tunnel. I am terrified of the train breaking down and us being stuck there FOREVER.

  65. kayloulee
    September 30, 2010 at 6:00 am

    Stairs that I can see through in any way, especially if they’re high up. Escalators (not irrational: my grandma fell down one at a department store when I was four, leaving me at the top, all alone). People following me home from the bus stop.

    The smoke alarms in my flat are installed really stupidly, and we’ve had to disconnect one of them because it’s right in the kitchen and super sensitive besides. It was going off with the steam from doing the dishes! But now I’m worried about fires, especially because my flatmate accidentally left the stove on and burnt the bottom of our wok out and didn’t notice, and the hallway smoke alarm didn’t go off at all.

  66. preying mantis
    September 30, 2010 at 6:20 am

    Oh–in addition to ants, I am also irrationally afraid of totaling my car and/or dying on account of hitting a feral pig. Not a deer or another car or anything else that’s either more likely or more likely to result in a fatality; my fear of those is pretty much in keeping with the risk of it actually happening. Feral pigs, though, spawn unshakable paranoid fantasies of ninja-pigs, lurking in the underbrush of high-speed rural roads, just waiting for a chance to dart out in front of my car and cause a Hollywood-style explosion of car parts and fire, killing everything within a hundred yards of the impact site.

  67. Mandy
    September 30, 2010 at 7:36 am

    I had my foot caught in an escalator as a child, so I am very afraid of them. Plus afraid of touching the rails on them because I saw some 20-20 type special (again as a child) that tested them and found all sort of feces on them. Feces!
    Also, afraid of drains in the curb because of the movie IT where the clown appears in them.
    Afraid of elevators – falling to my death, being trapped in one in a flood (happened here in Houston).
    Afraid a cockaroach will crawl in my vagina while I sleep. I know it’s disturbing but I’m revolted by them.

  68. Athenia
    September 30, 2010 at 9:43 am

    Oh honey, I don’t fear ACs when they’re *in* the window, I fear them when people are trying to take them *out* of the window! And more specifically, I fear that I will drop it myself! Those things are heavy!

    Unless ACs are required to have some sort of bracing system, I’m not sure how they can be completely safe.

  69. Allison
    September 30, 2010 at 10:31 am

    I went to a party on the lower east side once where the fire escape railing gave way and a girl fell six stories down (she’s fine now). So I’m wary now. Worst party ever.

  70. PrettyAmiable
    September 30, 2010 at 11:01 am

    Getting trapped in my apartment where I live alone and dying because I don’t have anyone who would really worry if they didn’t see me for several days. There’s a dude in CT who got trapped under his furnace for a few days, could smell his arm dying, then went all Saw on his arm to get out. He lost consciousness when he was almost through his arm, but his neighbors realized they hadn’t seen him in a few days so they called police he found him and saved his life. I’m terrified that call would never happen. (He survived, his arm did not – but it wouldn’t have even if he hadn’t tried to saw it off).

  71. September 30, 2010 at 11:33 am

    I’ve never been afraid of getting crushed by an AC so much as letting one drop while installing or removing one.

    Which then happened to me last year. It was one of those “it happened in slow motion” moments. I had moved slightly to try to loose a stuck window when it popped open and the AC slipped right out. I was just frozen watching it happen. The unit got crunched but my fear of it plummeting through our front deck didn’t come to pass at least.

  72. September 30, 2010 at 11:52 am

    I don’t fear much about my current living situation, but I lived in the upper level of a duplex with 4 roommates in college, and we only had one entrance/exit into and out of the house because the house had been converted from a one-family house to a duplex, and the back door leading to the downstairs kitchen was locked, and obstructed with the neighbors’ kitchen stuff. I constantly feared being trapped in a fire.

  73. libdevil
    September 30, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    Being arrested. I have this terrible fear that the cops or the FBI or something is going to show up one day and drag me off in handcuffs for killing somebody I’ve never even heard of, or robbing a bank in a city I’ve never even visited, or something like that.

  74. eedlebeedle
    September 30, 2010 at 1:21 pm

    As a bike commuter in SF:
    Getting “doored”
    Getting my wheels stuck in Muni tracks and being sent flying
    Getting mugged in relatively safe neighborhoods when waiting for the light to change

    (some more irrational than others; all of these probably happen but the odds are slim)

  75. CQ
    September 30, 2010 at 1:43 pm

    Fear of being squished between two cars on a hill while crossing the street. I live in Seattle. Earlier this year, I was crossing the street downtown as a pedestrian, weaving between some cars. It was a steep hill, and one of the cars rolled backwards when the light turned green and made contact with my body. (To be clear, I was fine – but it startled me.) Since then, I have had a terrible fear that a car will have brake failure, or just roll backwards, and squish me between another vehicle while crossing the street.

    @Jim: Crap. Your description of the earthquake scenario just made my blood pressure go up, seriously. I’ll add that to my list of fears now…

  76. Niki
    September 30, 2010 at 1:50 pm

    Jadey’s story made me think of this. I moved into my brother’s room at my parents’ place after he moved out, and I put my bed right under the window, which was not where his had been so he wouldn’t have known to warn me about this. It was winter, and I woke up one morning with my hair completely soaked and shivering badly. Turned out that the window wasn’t properly insulated and we had had a heavy snowfall that night, so it was snowing on my head for hours as I slept!

    So now I’m afraid to sleep in beds under windows. :S

  77. Politicalguineapig
    September 30, 2010 at 2:22 pm

    Does anyone else get creeped out by over manicured lawns?

  78. chocolatepie
    September 30, 2010 at 4:45 pm

    I think The Culture of Fear by Barry Glassner is a propos here.

    Also A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson, which basically taught me: you could die at any time due to an infinite number of freak accidents, but you probably won’t, so it’s not worth losing sleep over.

  79. Elisabeth
    September 30, 2010 at 6:41 pm

    I have a huge irrational fear of getting pushed on the tracks as well. I never stand anywhere close to the edge of the platform, and feel uncomfortable if I have to walk within two feet of the edge. I know it’s so unlikely, but I really prefer to avoid subways/commuter trains because of that.
    I also have a fear of a rat in the toilet. I know the likelihood of a rat coming out while I am on the toilet is extremely slim, but I get really nervous if the toilet ever makes a strange noise. I also try to close the lid just in case a rat comes out when I’m not there, although rats are probably strong enough to get out from a toilet seat lid. (When I was younger and more paranoid, I would put something heavy on the toilet seat just in case).

  80. Jadey
    September 30, 2010 at 7:39 pm

    Politicalguineapig: Does anyone else get creeped out by over manicured lawns?  

    YES. They are the only things in the world to which I think the phrase “perversion of nature” actually applies.

  81. September 30, 2010 at 11:53 pm

    KW: Stairs. Stairs stairs stairs. I don’t avoid stairs, but I am very aware of the potential for falling every time I go down them. Same applies to escalators, though it is worse, for obvious reasons. I have to brace myself and time it perfectly before I get on an escalator.  

    I used to fear that, and then I fell headfirst down some stairs in college. Not drunk; I had on boots that were retaining slush.

    It’s been over 20 years, and my shoulder still gives me problems, but otherwise, I’m fine. And I haven’t fallen like that since. Though I do keep faceplanting on the sidewalk, or stepping on my own pant legs.

    I just moved out of NYC, so I need to let go of my old set of irrational fears and acquire some new ones.

  82. Bitter Scribe
    October 1, 2010 at 12:34 pm

    In Chicago, we have to worry about chunks of ice falling off tall buildings in winter. A woman was killed that way a few years ago while she was walking downtown hand-in-hand with her toddler daughter. If there’s a more horrible trauma for a child, I don’t want to know about it.

  83. October 1, 2010 at 11:20 pm

    Heh, there are a few things. I’ve been terrified of elevators ever since I was really young and had a nightmare about the elevator at a department store downtown in my city. It just kept going up, and up, and up, and it wouldn’t stop. Ick.

    At the same time, I’m not a big fan of heights, and I’m of stairs that have no backings on them… I don’t know the proper name for that, but where the vertical part of the staircase would be, it’s just a hole in between the actual steps. My knees get all wobbly and it’s just not a pretty sight (LOL).

    Bugs in general never used to bother me, other than a fear of spiders, but now I’ve got this thing about ants… stems from when I moved to Ottawa and was staying with my partner at his parents’ house. They were having a bit of a problem with ants, which was gross, but I didn’t really think much about it because they were just ants, right? That is, until I woke up in the middle of the night feeling a sharp pain in my chest just underneath my collar bone, where a very large ant had somehow partially burrowed itself under my skin. Absolutely freakin’ disgusting, and did it ever sting!

    I have always been terrified of spiders and people love to tell me that this is irrational, but my mom is quite allergic to spider bites and it’s rather unpleasant. Plus, the things are just hideous!!!!!

  84. jay
    October 2, 2010 at 11:18 am

    in montreal, over the winter giant icicles build up on overhangs. So if you’re walking down the mainstreet AT ANY MOMENT a huge (like three foot) icicle can drop down and kill you! also, because the way they remove snow on the sidewalk causes there to be a huge snowbank on the side of the walk closet to the street, you have nowhere to run. once a giant one fell just where i had been. also, i fear being run over by the sidewalk streetcars that operate at night. the people who drive are usually drunk (it’s a job for 18-20something men) and have run over their fair share of bikes.

  85. Emily
    October 2, 2010 at 2:53 pm

    Let’s see…

    I’m mildly afraid of a big earthquake, cause I live in a rather old building in LA.

    Since the traffic lights in LA seem to operate on a “red means stop, green means go, yellow also means go” system, and you don’t always get a lot of time to cross the street, I’m also pretty afraid that I’ll get hit by a car. This is probably compounded by the fact that I used to live in a college town with lots of people who either didn’t know or completely ignored local traffic laws, so I’ve gotten hit before but not seriously injured (I was actually mostly upset that the mud on the car bumper stained my favorite jeans).

    I’m usually pretty scared that those doors in the sidewalk by the metro stations (the ones that are emergency exits and say not to walk over them) will open while I inevitably have to ride my bike/walk over them because someone’s being slow on the sidewalk.

    In my college town, I refused to walk through a certain area at the local mall, because it was the “landing zone” for the local suicide hotspot. I was always scared that if I walked there, someone might land on me (turns out, it happened to other people a couple times, and there was at least one close call with a whole group of little kids) and break my back or neck and paralyze me. Probably not that irrational, all things considered.

    After I heard that the HPV virus can live on skin, especially around the abdomen and thighs, I was afraid that I would get HPV from shaking hands with someone who was infected and didn’t wash their hands after using the restroom. Again while it’s improbable it’s not totally impossible.

    Whenever I’m in NYC, I’m mildly worried about the possibility of a chemical or biological attack on the subway system, cause the motion of the trains would be very effective at dispersing something like a virus.

    And I’m also scared that someone, who is either mentally ill or a male who’s bad at handling rejection, will physically assault me on a bus or something. I’ve already nearly had my skirt pulled off because it had an elastic waist and “accidentally” got caught between some leering creep’s knee and a pole on the bus – good thing I was wearing my dance shorts under it that day!

  86. Lisa
    October 2, 2010 at 4:12 pm

    Balconies collapsing,
    Falling/being pushed onto the El tracks,
    Being hit by a car again,
    Break-ins… my apartment only has one exit so that’s scary,
    Being kidnapped/held up by a taxi driver (this is particularly ridiculous but I don’t like being in strangers’ cars),
    Car accident while in a taxi,
    Break my neck on icy sidewalks.

  87. October 2, 2010 at 6:12 pm

    Sheesh! I think everyone’s covered all mine, cockroaches, bedbugs, I’ve watched giant icicles fall of buidlings – spooky, I used to live in Seattle and feared the earthquake + title wave + Mt. Rainier erupting disaster with no way out, break-ins…

    I’ve always got a fear of catching some virus after swimming in a lake or river.

    The only other one I can think of (which doesn’t seem to irrational) is driving in the fast lane (at a reasonable speed) next to a congested off-ramp where all the other lanes are clogged, and someone cutting out in front of my car and me rear-ending them. I get spooked every time I drive by a congested off-ramp.

    Oh yeah, rogue waves are spooky, totally irrational for me though since I live nowhere near the ocean.

  88. Joan
    October 3, 2010 at 12:08 pm

    It must be because I am so much older than all of you….but I don’t have any fears about things like fire ants, hurricanes( I live in Florida) or any of the other things you all mention…what I do worry about , fear is too strong a word, is where this country is going…if we keep on letting our legislature become bogged down by irrational members who only can say no and know nothing about actually governing we will slowly sink into chaos or maybe not so slowly!

  89. October 3, 2010 at 3:54 pm

    JPlum: Impalement. On wrought iron fences, or those pointy four-poster beds.  

    Ack! That happened to a woman in Santa Barbara while I lived there. She fell off a balcony and was impaled through both thighs on a wrought-iron fence. She was conscious the whole time. The news showed horrific footage of her screaming, iron spikes coming out her legs, as people tried to hold her up so she wouldn’t slide any further down the rods while waiting for the ambulance to arrive. It gave me nightmares for ages.

  90. Daisy-Boo
    October 4, 2010 at 6:33 am

    I have so many fears! I find it oddly comforting that I share many of these fears with others. here are a few of mine.

    1) Falling down the stairs. (Not an irrational fear since this has happened to me at least six times in my life. Also, I twice fell while walking up the stairs.)

    2) Getting stuck in a lift.

    3) Getting stuck in the “teeth” of an escalator’s steps.

    4) Waking up to find a lion in my flat. (Really, this has featured many times in my nightmares. When I wake up I first check if my cat is ok.)

    5) Getting my clothes caught in the door of the minibus taxi I’m disembarking from. (This happened to me once. My skirt got caught in the sliding door. I screamed blue murder as the taxi pulled away. I wasn’t hurt but my skirt was nearly ripped in half.)

    6) Spiders appearing from nowhere to bite my bum while I’m on the toilet. (This stems from childhood when we had Daddylonglegs spiders in our bathroom. They never bothered us though.)

    7) A hand appearing from inside the toilet to grab me as I sit down. (I blame Stephen King for this toilet-related fear though I can’t remember specifically reading of it in one of his stories.)

  91. ACG
    October 6, 2010 at 8:40 pm

    At the university where I work, the steaming manholes* are legendary. Water mains for Alabama Power run all through campus, and steam pours out of them on even the hottest days. A woman was actually killed at a traffic light when the manhole cover under her car blew, and I’ve always been nervous around them.

    I’m also terribly afraid of my dog being stolen. There was actually a rash of missing dogs that turned out to be the victims of a dog-fighting ring, and ever since that happened, I’m completely paranoid about leaving Dave outside when I’m not home. I can’t imagine anything more horrible for an animal.

    *Steaming Manholes would be a good name for a band.

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