Archives for Electrophobia
Earlier this week, I started sharing the story of how I spent a fair portion of my childhood trying to combat a phobia of power lines. After having daily nightmares about falling electrical lines and facing the task of walking to and from middle school every day, I started researching the what and the how of power lines. I learned which lines carried electricity and which ones carried more innocuous signals, like telephone and cable. After learning a few things about electricity and its transmission, I gained a small sense of control over the otherwise uncontrollable black wires strung above my head. The more I researched, the more my fear transformed into fascination. By high school, I was hiking on what I'd affectionately termed "power line trails" that run up and down the hills near my parents' house. High-voltage lines ran from a substation at the bottom of the hill up to the hilltop, and then down into the next valley over. The rocky gravel beneath the power lines, once used to truck the lines and their supporting pylons up to the top of the hill, made for an ideal walking path. While hiking, I could look up at the lines, count the insulators, and throw out voltage guesses. And at the top of the hill? A gorgeous view of the valley as my reward.
Earlier this week, I told the story of how I developed a power line phobia. Today, I'm sharing the story of how I killed it. I'd be going a little bit overboard if I told you that my life changed after the power line fell. It didn't, really. But my dreams sure changed. Night after night, for days and weeks on end, I had the same nightmare. The scene and the characters usually differed, but the story was always the same: I heard a buzz, I knew a power line was going to fall, and I had to get myself (or friends, or family) the hell out of the way. And you know how dream-physics works, right? Whenever you try to run, you run in slow motion. That said, escaping the wrath of the falling power line every night was both difficult and exhausting. In each nightmare, I'd have to concentrate my absolute hardest on pushing my little feet hard enough into the soft and unreliable dream-ground to kick my running into motion. Sometimes, I would escape. Sometimes, I wouldn't. At age 8, these freakishly realistic dreams of electrocution were troubling. Troubling enough to leave me thinking about power lines for much of the day.
It was November of 1992. I'd just finished my second-grade homework at the kitchen table when a thunderstorm, strange for that time of year, rolled in. I was a short and mousy-looking child whose pigtails whipped around like propellers when I zipped around my parents' house. (I wish I could have bottled up my boundless energy to save some for adulthood.) When the power went out that evening, I excitedly ran to every window on the second floor to catch a rare glimpse of north, east, south, and west sans streetlights. It was neat-o (a word I very likely used at the time), but after two minutes I was bored with the dark. An avid fan of Full House, I made my way downstairs into the TV room so I could prep the VCR to start taping the show at 8 pm. (Yes, I loved the Tanner family and I taped every show until 5th grade. Go ahead; judge me.) And then I re-realized that the power was out and no such VCR-taping could occur. Bored and a bit bummed, I wandered out to the front porch after the rain had stopped. My father was out on the sidewalk, passing the time by chatting with some neighbors who had congregated in front of our house. I joined the sidewalk party and blabbed to all the grown-ups about how sad I'd be if I missed Full House. After a few minutes, I looked up at a nearby telephone pole and saw a blue light sparking. Yay! A streetlight was coming back on! Power was being restored! I could watch the Full House episode where Stephanie and her dance class perform Motown Philly! Right? But then, I realized that the telephone pole I was looking up at didn't have a streetlight attached. Wait...if there's no streetlight, then what's glowing?