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THE IDLE AMERICAN
Wednesday, March 3, 2010 • Posted March 3, 2010

A Surplus of Phobias…

Several decades ago, phobias were few. Today there are many, and the list is ever-growing. Think of phobias as ice cream cones, evolving from vanilla to Baskin-Robbins, with new flavors added daily.

The old joke referenced "phobo-phobia," a phobia held in reserve for people who fear that one day they’ll have phobias.

In our not-so-funny world, anyone who finds nothing to fear must not be listening, reading or watching, perhaps somehow oblivious to life in the new century. Or it may be the spindly guy marooned on a tiny island, eating coconuts and talking to a volleyball, like Tom Hanks did in Cast Away.…

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Thin may be the line between topics that warrant goose-pimpling fear on one end of the scale and barely qualify as a yawning concern on the other.

Deciding what to fear need not be a lock-step judgment. For many phobias, what is sauce for the goose is likewise sauce for the gander, but there is room for—and reason for—strokes to vary among folks.

For example: In the "who-woulda-thunk-it" department, consider the 51-year marriage of John and Mary Madden. The legendary NFL coach and broadcaster has always spoken freely about his fear of flying. (Some of his friends and classmates were killed when the Cal Poly football team’s plane went down in 1960. And, he later had a full-blown panic attack on a commercial flight.) When he signed off on coaching, he traveled to his broadcast assignments in a customized motor coach. His wife, however, is a veteran private pilot with her own plane….

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Today’s world offers "phobias-du-jour." Little wonder that defined phobias number into the many hundreds and are pigeon-holed into several dozen categories.

Recent news about mosquitoes and hot dogs are puzzlements. Assuming that mosquitoes simply are with us always, I’ve waved the white flag, or whatever the brand name of insect repellent is. I’ve always felt similarly about hot dogs, simply assuming that while other foods may come and go, there’ll always be hot dogs.

Not so fast, Bozo, authorities say. Scientists are working on developing wingless female mosquitoes; these are the ones who bite. Taking on too much scientific information can be dangerous, but if the scientists can pull this off, we’ll need repellent only on our feet. Who knows, the wingless females may consider biting calloused feet as being way too much trouble, and thus give up biting altogether. This, of course, could give repellent manufacturers something to worry about….

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Allegations made against the noble hot dog make us think that motherhood and apple pie may be next. Doctors and other authorities concerned with health and safety are on the same page about choking dangers posed by wieners, particularly for children. They want wiener and bun makers to "shape up," or maybe even "shape down," but whichever, to eliminate round wieners whose configuration is perfect for wind-pipe clogging.

"But they’re so fast to prepare, and simply are ‘musts’ at the ballgame and picnics," many may say.

Hardy Reed, a cook in my hometown for several decades, held hot dogs in low regard. "They are mighty weak excuses for the jaws to be moving," he laughed….

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Heavens to Betsy, I don’t know if the world is ready for circular hot dogs—wouldn’t that be equivalent to bologna, or, in our youthful pronunciation, "blow-ney"?

Far be it from me to cast enthusiastic votes on any of these issues.

I’m beginning to think, though, that folks who seem surest about anything, no matter their position or academic prowess, warrant further review….

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Recalled is the story of a leather-tough grandmother who operated a huge sheep ranch in West Texas. Coyotes were taking their toll on the sheep, so the ranchers brought in an expert from Texas A&M University. He had what the lady rancher thought made him highly suspect: "Ph.D." after his name.

It was standing room only at the meeting. She chose to stand, hands on hips, as he spoke of bearing wonderful news for the sheep ranchers. "We’ve developed a potion at College Station," he said. "We simply dip raw meat in it, and throw it out on the prairie. Coyotes eat it, and it makes them sterile."

Her teeth gritting, she’d heard enough. "Send him back to Texas A&M," she fumed. "He don’t understand the problem. We ain’t interested in their love life. We want ‘em graveyard daid…now!"…

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Dr. Newbury is a speaker and author in the Metroplex. Send inquiries/comments to: newbury@speakerdoc.com. Phone: 817-447-3872. Web site: www.speakerdoc.com.

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