November 23, 2019

Phobias – you know, irrational fears like fear of flying, the dark, heights, etc. I have had a fear of escalators since childhood.

Occasionally, if the escalator wasn’t too steep or didn’t seem to be moving too fast, I could do it. Unfortunately, that wasn’t usually the case. When my mother and I were in front of an escalator, I would protest that I just couldn’t do it. Then we would march off to the out of the way elevator. My mother was a saint. Anyone else would have probably wanted to wring my neck.

The problem gradually became less severe. I could step on an escalator with only a little hesitation by the time I reached my teens. Then escalators began to be manufactured with glass sides and it was back to the elevators.

An escalator at IKEA became a big problem one day. The store had what I thought was a short escalator with glass sides. It was not intimidating at all so I stepped on. As it turned out, we had only reached a landing from which we could not exit. Now we were facing a much bigger, steeper escalator with glass sides. It was my phobia nightmare come true. I considered going back down the escalator but too many people were going up and I could not walk down fast enough anyway. I even thought of notifying security but on second thought that seemed like a crazy idea.

My daughter said, “Oh, Mom. Just get on.” Simple enough if you don’t have a phobia. Escalators feel to me like I am standing on moving stairs with nothing holding me in. I heard once that this kind of anxiety can be caused by an experience from a past life. Maybe I once fell off a flight of stairs? I am not sure about the past life theory. I was certain that I was in a mess in this life, however. After looking up and down for a while (and disappearing wasn’t working), I knew I had to do it. So I “just stepped on.” With one hand on the rail and the other on my daughter’s arm. I closed my eyes tight and told her to let me know when it was time to step off. We made it to the top, of course, but the ride up felt awful. I vowed never to do anything like that again.

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To those of you who do not have a phobia, this must all sound like so much silliness. For those of you who do have a phobia, I know you understand.


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