A year ago my wife finally bought the corn snake for which my son had been praying.
My wife isn’t nearly as ophidiophobic as my mother, who believes that the only good snake is a dead snake. My wife is a teacher who feels that all children should be given the chance to start their own animal kingdom.
The most difficult thing about snakes is that, like my teenage son, they tend to escape from their cage. Okay, we don’t put my son in a cage – he has to go to school – but we do keep him in his room at night.
Unfortunately, our snake usually embarks on his forays on the days in which we are entertaining guests – but short of calling “Crocodile Hunter,” Steve Irwin, our only practical option is to let the snake wander until it comes home for dinner.
Of course, snakes only snack weekly – and a missing snake can get in real trouble in a week. A recent escape attempt on the eve of a visit from my snake-phobic mother forced us to launch an all-out search for the little critter.
Knowing that snakes will search out heat sources, we searched even the most unlikely sources of heat. But it wasn’t until we crossed the pungent odor that wafted across the hall from washroom that we realized we were on right track.
When my wife and I tipped the washing machine, it became obvious that washing machine transmissions aren’t friendly environments for your average carbon-based life form.
Now, I should say if you are blennophobic – afraid of slime – you should really give up on my 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 with calling a biohazard team is that these teams tend to bankrupt small cities. I’d have to do this toxic cleanup myself.
So with cleaners, disinfectants, sponges, paper towels and plastic gloves, I approached our washroom. Opening the door a crack, I took the deodorizer and laid down what we in the military call, “cover fire.”
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.
I know what you’re thinking – “Don’t you work in a hospital?”
Yes, but you have to understand – as a hospital chaplain, my exposure to the gross is fairly antiseptic. I’ve never seen so much as a soiled diaper and I’m not usually present when housekeeping is mopping up “projectile vomiting.”
Bolting from the room, I came to hard stop in front of my wife. She was giving me that look. Men know the look – it’s the same “You’re worthless!” look we get when the keys we’re looking for are in our other hand.
“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 – and an hour later, the machine sat in the open air which diluted the smell enough for me to remove the motor, transmission and some thingamabob I didn’t recognize.
True to her brag, my wife spent the next few hours disengaging the remains of this snake just as the sun began to set on this horribly long 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 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 – so $150 later, a new repairman put the thingamabob back in place.