By Norris Burkes Nov 5 2023

There’s no holiday that expresses our fears like Halloween. So if you’re like me, you’re glad the spooky day has passed.

The celebration sees folks reveling in such phobias as arachnophobia, chiroptophobia, achluophobia and necrophobia. Respectively, the fear of spiders. bats, darkness and dead things.

But if you are ophidiophobic, you may want to pass on this column. Fortunately, the irrational fear of snakes never plagued our family.

That’s why years ago, when my then-teenage son, Michael, asked for a corn snake, his schoolteacher-mother obliged. She was firm in her belief that all children should have the chance to start their own animal kingdom.

But as we would discover, the most difficult thing about snakes is that like my teenage son, they tend to escape from their cage. Okay, we never put Michael in a cage – he had to go to school. But we did keep him in his room at night.

When his snake did escape, it usually returned within the week for food. Its last getaway came on the eve of a visit from my snake-phobic mother and forced us to launch an all-out search for the critter.

Knowing that snakes will seek sheltered heat sources, we searched every heat source we could imagine until we finally noticed the pungent odor wafting from the laundry room.

Still unable to see anything, my wife and I tipped the cumbersome appliance to find that washing machine transmissions aren’t friendly environments for your average carbon-based life form.

Now I warn you that if you are blennophobic – afraid of slime – you should really give up on this column because our corn snake looked more like corn syrup – or maybe creamed corn. Take your pick.

But most especially if you are olfactophobic – afraid of smells – like the washing machine repairman who came to our house with his shirt pulled up over his face, you needn’t read on.

His only suggestion was that we call a biohazard team. The problem is that those teams have been known to bankrupt small cities.

So I determined to do this toxic cleanup myself. Armed with cleaners, disinfectants, sponges, paper towels and plastic gloves, I opened our washroom door and blasted the room in a “cover fire” of deodorizer.

Holding my emetophobia in check – fear of vomiting – I entered the toxic zone and was quickly driven back by my old nemesis – a gag reflex on a hair trigger.

Bolting from the room, I came to a hard stop in front of my wife who was wearing the look most husbands know. It was the same “You’re worthless!” look we get when the keys we’ve lost are in our other pocket.

“I’ll do this,” she said, “but you’ll need to get this machine into the backyard where I can work on it.”

“No problem,” I said.  An hour later, the machine sat in the open air which diluted the smell enough for me to remove the motor, transmission and some other thingamabobs I didn’t recognize.

True to her brag, my wife spent the next few hours disengaging the remains of the snake just as the sun began to set on the horribly long, hot day.

It had been a day of confronting our fears, including the pet owner’s worst fear – that of losing their pet. Nevertheless, each of us somehow found the courage to push aside our fears and accomplish what some had said couldn’t be done.

When I think of all the things that scare me in this world, I’m grateful that our spiritual beliefs can be a great source of courage. The Christian apostle, Paul, wrote that “God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”

As for the washing machine, I was struck with a severe case of mechanophobia – fear of machines. Fortunately, I pressed past my chrometophobia – fear of spending money—and paid a repairman to put those thingamabobs back in place.


Buy my latest book, “Tell It To the Chaplain” on my website, Amazon or by sending me $20. Send comments to Leave recorded comments at (843) 608-9715 or write 10556 Combie Rd Suite 6643 Auburn, CA 95602.