In his inaugural address Franklin D. Roosevelt is credited to have said: “Let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
This, obviously, is nonsense. Frankie knew nothing of fear – I do. Let me tell you my sorry story.
Some people are terrified of spiders, snakes, ghosts, various creepy-crawlies, heights, water, the tokoloshe, crowds, and open spaces. Even those who do not fear specific *goggas, or have specific phobias (phobii?), can be made to jump when given an unexpected fright.
Yours truly, on the other hand, never catches a **skrik. Maybe my reactions are too slow; or it could be that I’m just too thick to recognise imminent danger. (OK, I’ll admit – there was that ONE time when I ran slap bang into a fat, naked old lady in the ablution block at a holiday resort, after taking the wrong entrance. The tiled floor was wet, and I was slipping and sliding all over the place in an effort to get away – while she was screaming at the top of her voice over the top of her overabundant mammary glands. Now THAT was scary!)
I’ve done some pretty scary things in my misspent youth: skydiving, bungee jumping, river rafting, abseiling, spelunking, coming home to the wife at three in the morning, scuba diving, listened to Steve Hofmeyr, seen Eugene Terreblanche in person, drank beer in a Soweto ***shebeen in 1982, went to bed with a rooster, kissed my mother-in-law (PBUH), poached wild game and collected poisonous snakes in Botswana and Namibia, etc, etc.
Nothing, I tell you. It was nothing. I was not scared in the least.
So what is my sorry story? What fills me with nameless, unadulterated, unreasoning, unjustified terror – which paralyzes the needed efforts to convert retreat into advance? What turns my innards into jelly, and tests my body’s urine retaining mechanism to breaking point?
THE DENTIST! That’s who!
Just thinking of the sound of the dentist’s drill, or the scraping of his tool (the stainless steel one) against me teeth, is enough to make me break out in cold sweat and turn my hands into a clammy, shaking mass of worthless digits.
I have an apprehension about dentists that borders on the insane. The night before a visit to the dentist is one long nightmare. I find myself thinking up the weirdest excuses not to go. If I drop off to sleep, it is only to wake up, covered it sweat, shaking like a leaf.
I once read a story about a dentist who found out that his wife was having an affair with his neighbour. When the neighbour (who was unaware that the dentist knew of his unadulterated affair) came to have a tooth extracted (Eish! I hate that word!), the dentist injected him, and duly amputated his tongue!
Since then, as soon as I feel my mouth becoming numb from the dentist’s injection, I tend to move my tongue as far away from that side of my mouth as possible – sometimes nearly succeeding in pushing it through my cheek. (Not that I’ve had any adulterous affairs with Mrs Dentist, you understand, but just to be on the safe side.)
In the novella Heart of Darkness, written by Joseph Conrad – as Kurtz dies he whispers: “The horror! The horror!”
That sums up my feelings about this coming Monday: My appointment with the DENTIST!
*goggas – from the Bonga-Bonga meaning: a bug’s grandmother (see also: gogo)
**skrik – pee in the pants from fright
***shebeen – upper-class club