The day we moved into our new house, I opened the door to the downstairs bathroom and a cricket jumped from the toilet straight at me. I screamed and slammed the door, vowing never to use that bathroom again. I was 11 at the time, and when I left home at 18 I had only used that bathroom a few times, on the direst of occasions. My fear of crickets was so ingrained that as an adult, I chose to put my baby in the car and drive to a store to buy bug spray rather than stay in my house with the cricket that had taken up residence on the sofa.
Crickets are nasty things. They're black and shiny and have way too many legs for their bodies. When I picture a cricket in my mind, my stomach starts churning and my shoulders get tight - even a hypothetical cricket triggers my fight-or-flight response. If you want to see a grown woman act like a crazy person, watch what happens when my kids bring one of those jumping cockroaches into the house. I'm climbing over the furniture, screeching like a woman possessed. It is not an exaggeration to say I loathe crickets.
I am not afraid of crickets merely because of their bugginess. I'm not a fan of bugs in general, but the reason that crickets have beaten spiders, earwigs, and beetles to the top of my "Bugs I Hate" list is because they jump. Even a poisonous spider is less scary to me because I can spot it on the wall and watch it make its way over to where I'm waiting with a shoe behind my back. A cricket, on the other hand, is completely unpredictable. One minute it's biding its time on the sidewalk, the next minute it's making a beeline for my head.
Examining my fear of crickets reveals something about my nature - I like control, and I am most afraid when I lack control. I can't control where the cricket goes when it jumps and it scares me. I am terrified of roller coasters for the same reason - I have no control over the speed, direction, or safety of the ride. Sure, there's a set, predictable track, but I'm not the one driving. Things that are unpredictable, unexpected, or surprising are generally negative in my mind. I’d much rather have things that are planned, anticipated, and understood.
Probably my biggest fear is death; not my death but the death of those I love. It is the ultimate unknown. I know that everyone dies, but the timing is uncertain. It’s like being told to wait at home for the cable guy, who has promised to be there sometime between 2 p.m. and 30 years from now. Death, when it comes, can be sudden; it springs at you with the middle of the night phone call or the knock on the door. I thought I could get a handle on death if I pre-planned my responses. If this person died, first I would buy plane tickets, then I would make these phone calls, then I would make those arrangements. But when it came time to think about the really scary deaths, the only response I could think of was first, lay down on the couch, second, never get up again. Not much of a plan there, but I think it’s a fair illustration that death, and my reactions to it, cannot be controlled.
Perhaps this is why Eastern religions appeal to me - if I just meditated more, or found a serene center of calm, then I could handle whatever was thrown my way. I cannot picture a yellow-robed monk freaking out when a cricket jumped in his path. Or squishing it, for that matter. My own Western religion would tell me to have faith, relying on God’s strength rather than my own to deal with crises. Rational, scientific thought would say to avoid crickets and roller coasters, although they’d kind of leave me hanging on the death thing. The only real answer is a combination of all three: don’t panic, believe in a higher power, and avoid scary things whenever possible. So if Lagoon opens a new thrill ride called “The Cricket: Roller Coaster of Death,” well, you know where you won’t find me. Ugh. My stomach hurts even thinking about it.
P.S. In case you were wondering, I DO have a list of "Bugs I Like" although there's only one on the list: fireflies. I also have a "Bugs I Don't Mind" list, which includes regular flies, ants, ladybugs, and worms if they aren't touching me. Pretty much every other bug is on the "Bugs I Hate" list.