This week’s Writing Adventure Group topic was fear: “WAG #11: Scaredy-Cat” Another people-watching exercise! Choose a stranger and observe him/her for a little while. Now give them a phobia. A full-on, jump on the chair, scream like a little girl, unreasonable fear. (Or however you imagine them to respond.) Try to choose something that fits the person you’re watching, and let us know what it is about them that clued you in to their secret fear. The object is not just to describe the fear, but to make us understand why it fits with this particular person.
When out over the weekend, I saw a guy who stuck in my head. He was 40ish with slate grey around the temples, and wearing a kilt. Although that’s not that unusual here, it told me he was on his way to or from someplace. It’s not an accidental clothing choice. If I were a guy, I’d wear one all the time, but that’s another story.
Anyway, my guy was happy. He was walking with a woman who wore a flippy white dress beneath a raincoat. He wasn’t wearing any sort of outerwear himself, but let’s face it, he had on 8 yards of wool.
So this guy is stuck in my head, and I’m sitting at home later wondering what he might be afraid of. At the time I couldn’t think of anything. He just seemed so happy. But fear is like that, isn’t it. I have three brothers, all of which have a different phobia: sharks, spiders, and werewolves. No, I’m not kidding about the last one. We all sorta laughed about it when he was younger, but once you’ve seen someone paralysed by fear, it isn’t as funny. He copes. He also buys silver bullets at gun shows. I kid you not.
Anyway, my kilt guy… I found a list of phobias and was mulling, trying to understand what might fit the man I saw walking so confidently through the street. He wouldn’t be subject to the stranger ones: the fear of knees or the fear of gravity or the obscure ones like the fear of ferns or the fear of the colour purple.
But I liked my guy. I don’t want to saddle him with an ordinary fear of flying or a fear of marriage.
Then I came to cyberphobia: the fear of computers. That one stumped me. I don’t trust people that don’t trust technology, but I can also understand it. He was strong, handsome, and yet in his kilt there was something olde-worlde about him. And as much as I didn’t like to admit it, I could see it. He worked outside, I could guess that with his tanned skin that highlighted the lines around his eyes, filling their creases with white.
He passes it off as quiet disdain, but in truth, it scares him. His hands were beefy and strong. I’d noticed that. If anything will fill my guy with dread, it would be the clacking of a keyboard, the insidiousness of the voice of the (anonymous) people, the strange impermanence of it and not quite understanding where exactly is the internet?
He’d prefer a pint with his friends. He maybe doesn’t even have a cell phone. When he’s out of the house, he doesn’t want to be chained to anything. For fun he doesn’t click at the bleeps, he goes fishing.
So what’s he going to do when he can’t avoid it any more? Does he baulk at ATMs? Can he pay at the pump? Would he only do maths in his head? Does the voice of a SatNav disturb rather than comfort?
He seems so happy, and yet, suddenly, it’s complicated.