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Sam Stryker | Monday, November 1, 2010

Over Fall Break I was lucky enough to participate in one the Center for Social Concerns Appalachia Seminar’s in New River Gorge National River, West Virginia. After the daily work my Appalachia family and I would tuck in to a homemade dinner, a crackling fire and maybe some s’mores. One night we decided to have a sleepover in the dining hall of the folk center we were staying at, laying our mattresses out side by side. Before we went to bed we decided to go around the room, telling everyone our greatest fears. For the most part, none were out of the ordinary — one girl was afraid of snakes, a boy was afraid of spiders, and another terrified of enclosed spaces. My fear, however, is a little more out of the ordinary — I am terrified of birds, specifically seagulls and pigeons.

Seagulls and pigeons frighten me for several reasons. First of all, they have no fear. Both will come as close to you as they want, and will only flutter away if you make loud noises and wave your arms and come straight at them like a berserk banshee. Second, both are so dumb you have no idea what they might do. Third, they fly. Rats and mice are just as dirty as pigeons and seagulls, and are as willing to scurry around human populations. However, you never run the risk of a rat or a mouse flying into your hair or landing on your shoulder and poking out your eye. The combination of the three traits is simply horrifying. Whenever I am at the beach or walking through the streets of a city, I always make sure to steer clear of seagulls and pigeons. Unfortunately, my mom usually has other plans, as she tends to run at either avian terror so that they fly away from her in my direction, causing me to cower in fear.

However, all hope is not lost for my strange phobias. A long time ago, I was absolutely petrified of dogs. The fact they seem to love to run at humans, barking and jumping all over you stopped me in my tracks. No matter the size of the dog, it got to the point where I would have my mom call my friends parents before a play date to make sure the dog was put away. Whenever I heard a friend or family member was getting a dog, a sinking feeling would set in my stomach. However, over the course of my life I have slowly gained control of my fear. I’m not exactly sure how, but I think I came to grips with the fact that dogs aren’t going to hurt me. While I will never be a dog person, I am not afraid to hang around my friends’ dogs or even pet them (quite the accomplishment for a male, 19-year-old college student). Hopefully over the course of my life I will somehow come to grips with my fear for pigeons and seagulls. Maybe it will take standing in Saint Mark’s Square in Venice, feeding the dirty birds, but I’m willing to do it.

There are a lot of ways to show progress in your life — I’ve grown to be six feet tall, I have facial hair (OK, peach fuzz), and I attend an amazing university. Equally as impressive to me is the fact that I no longer have to make the phone call, requesting my friend’s pooch be locked up. I look forward to the day where I am the one sprinting at pigeons and seagulls in jest so they fly in my mom’s direction.


The views expressed in the Inside Column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

Contact Sam Stryker at [email protected]