Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Most Terrifying Run of My Life

Two blog posts in one day??? Who have I become?

I said in my last post that I was lacking in stories.  Well, now I've got a story.   It involves birds and horror movies and screaming and running and nightmares. 

But before I get there, a little background.  I've got a little bit of a phobia of birds.  I believe that I can, in good faith, pin this phobia on my family.   Here's why:

As a teenager, like most people, I had to get my wisdom teeth out.  I've got a somewhat freakish pain tolerance (this is not the same thing as tolerance to fatigue or whatever, I'm just as susceptible to that as anyone).  This is not necessarily a good thing, but when it comes to things like dental issues, I can handle a lot.  Case in point:  I got a root canal last year.  I fell asleep in the middle of the procedure.  Not because of the drugs -- I got only local anesthetics -- but because, well, I was bored and a little sleep-deprived.  Given this pain tolerance and price differentials and my own perception of myself as Super Woman, I/we opted to have my wisdom tooth extraction done with only local anesthetic, meaning I was completely awake the entire time.

It didn't hurt, but what truly, fully bothered me about being awake for that procedure was the noises.  The drills, the yanking, the cracking of bones (teeth), the saws (were there saws?  I remember saws.)  The noises were HORRIBLE. 

Then I had my recovery time, which involved sitting on the couch, doped up on pain killers (not as much as most people, but still, I got some) with bags of frozen vegetables pressed to my jaws and a stack of movies to work through.

And here's where the phobia started.  My mother and my brother, neither of whom are lacking in a sense of humor, went to the library and picked up a couple of movies for me to watch. 

Movie One (unrelated to the phobia, but showing just how my family thinks):  Marathon Man, a 1976 classic starring Dustin Hoffman.  My mom:  "you'll like it.  You like running.  It's got Marathon in the title.  Hehehe."  My brother:  just laughing.  I should have known.

Great joke, because Marathon Man also has a nice little torture scene that involves the villain drilling into Dustin Hoffman's teeth without anesthetic.  I sat through that scene, less than 6 hours after my own traumatic drilling experience, and would have screamed a little if not for the fact that I couldn't move my mouth.  Great, great joke.
 Scroll to 2:50 or so

Movie Two (more to the point):  The Birds, by Alfred Hitchcock.  Hitchcock movies are terrifying in and of themselves.  Hitchcock movies while on pain killers.....phobia-creating. 

I've had this weird fear of birds ever since that day.  It mostly manifests itself when I'm running.  Those big, honking, hissing Canadian geese that are all over many of my running routes?  Absolutely terrifying.  I run quickly by them, constantly afraid that they will gang up and peck out my eyes.  It's the reason I always run in sunglasses.  Yeah, I'm practically albino and we blondes have more sensitive eyes, something about the rods and cones and all that, but mostly, I'm trying to prevent eye peckage.   It's also the reason that, when I was living in D.C. for a summer, I started running with my ID at all times.  Not because I was afraid of muggers or murderers or any of the big scary city stuff, but because I was afraid of the big ole geese that made their home on the Canal Path I frequented, and had a very vivid image of them attacking and leaving me alone and eye-less by the side of the canal.
This is terrifying
I was out running today on Tamaki Drive, which is right on the water front.  The run was going OK, until two big sea gulls started circling around me.  I noticed they sounded a little more frantic than typical sea gulls.  They weren't doing the typical "caw, caw, caw," thing, they literally sounded like they were screaming.  At me. 

First thought: "huh, Kiwi sea gulls seem a little angrier than American gulls.  Weird."

And then....they started dive-bombing me.  I wish I was kidding.  One swooped down, missing me by inches, and I panicked a little but figured they were just flying over and got a little too close.  Then the partner gull did his dive bomb, coming within inches of my head.  Still screaming. 

Just as I realized I wasn't just in the way of the flight pattern, I was actually under attack, Gull #1 then flew directly into the top of my head, talons exposed, latching onto my hair for a second, screaming again.

So I followed suit, let out my own comparable (actually probably louder) scream, threw my hands over my head while also trying to protect my eyes, and crouched on the ground, "duck and cover"-like, with visions of Hitchcock running through my mind.  It was my worst nightmare.
Oh My!  Danger!
I hung out there in the fetal position until two guys that I'd passed a minute earlier ran by, and I looked at them in terror, pointed, and said, "those birds attacked me!"  Not sure what reaction I was looking for from these dudes, maybe I thought they'd protect me, whip slingshots out of their back pockets and take out the birds, maybe I thought they'd say something reassuring, like "oh, Kiwi gulls, they're just joking around, they'll leave you alone after that first contact," something....

Instead, they just laughed and ran on.  Laughed!  This was no joking matter.  I'll never forgive those guys.

Long story short, I stayed low and shook and tried not to cry, and eventually the birds flew away and I continued on my way, frequently looking back over my shoulder for my nemeses.  I also made a point to run down those unhelpful guys and pass them with authority as punishment for their laughs and non-protection.  And now, I'm home, and I'm scared to go to sleep, because I just know exactly what is going to haunt my dreams.  Someone, please, pass the sleeping pills, I'm going to need help with this one. 

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