We’re all afraid of something — spiders, heights, confined spaces — these are all common phobias. And while they scare the everloving shit out of me too, I have an additional set of fears which are far weirder and less rational than the rest. Fears I have always had, but which have been made far worse since I became an American expat living in Germany.
Phobia #5: Getting Lint in My Pee-Hole
Few things are more sacred than my urinary meatus. It is the very keyhole behind which my soul is locked, and therefore, never to be sullied. Still, I have an intense fear of getting lint — or any other foreign object — lodged inside it. I cringe at the very thought. In fact, I am cringing super hard right now.
I suspect this fear stems from a moment in my childhood when I was at the playground near my house. Like most playgrounds, this one sat atop a thick layer of bark dust. I recall finding an unusually long piece of bark dust, then proceeding to run around swinging it over my head like a pirate. Soon enough, I needed to climb the play structure in order to better command my swabbies, but I only had one free hand. Thinking I was the smartest pirate ever, I jammed the bark dust into the waistband of my shorts and started climbing. By the time I got to the top, what was once a sword had exploded into a thousand merry splinters, one of which worked its way into my tiny piss hole. “Yarr, Matey! Batten down the hatches and–HOLY FUCK IT STIIIIIIINGS!”
What does this have to do with Germany? Well, I refuse to sleep naked. You see, occasionally, the summer months in Germany are actually hot, and air conditioning is a very rare indulgence in this country. Even though it is obviously the greatest thing ever, Germans tend to see air conditioning as wasteful and, in some cases, even unhealthy. Since my wife and I don’t want to be the only assholes on the block with an A/C unit sticking out the window, we must escape the heat through a pair of oscillating fans and our own nakedness. But therein lies the problem: As I’ve already explained, I am irrationally afraid something will find its way into my glue chute. That I’ll roll over while I’m asleep and crush my boner headfirst into a pile of sock lint, resulting in a massive infection and a trip to the emergency room, where my inflamed bongus starts shooting out whole socks like a malfunctioning clothes dryer.
Phobia #4: Sitting with My Back to the Door
I’m just a nerd who sits at home all day making pretty on the computer. I am not a secret agent. I am not a criminal, nor am I an assassin, so realistically, no one is out to get me. I have absolutely no reason to fear having my back to the door in public places, and yet, it still bugs the holy Christ out of me. Restaurants, classrooms, offices — really anywhere I must remain for longer than a few seconds — are all spaces in which I am compelled to position myself so I can see exactly who is coming through the door at all times. Sure, I can white-knuckle my way through dinner at a sushi restaurant with a steady flow of foot traffic behind me, but I’ll look over my shoulder so many times my wife will eventually throw down her chopsticks and switch seats with me just so we can both relax.
This anxiety is all about control. I have no control over people when I can’t see them, and that makes me feel vulnerable. When I can see them, I feel as if I at least have a chance to protect myself and my wife from danger — even if I don’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell. Like, if some halfwit marches into a cafe and lights the place up with an assault rifle, at the very least I’m going to throw a salt shaker at him. Maybe even a dinner plate or something. Bang, bang, bang… “Fuck youuuuuuuu!” SMASH! …NEWS FLASH… American Expat in Germany Saves Dozens of Lives by Incapacitating Gunman with Fennel Caprese Salad.
What does this have to do with Germany? Well, public transportation in German cities is pretty sweet. My wife and I don’t need a car; we ride our bikes, take the bus or hop on the U-Bahn. You know what sucks about the U-Bahn though? There’s always a door behind you. Unless you want to stand up the entire time at the front of the train with your back pressed against the driver’s booth, staring the other passengers in the eye like some creepy homunculus, people are going to be entering and exiting right behind you. It sucks, and that’s why I always ride the U-Bahn with a tiny canister of pepper spray in my pocket — my thumb hovering nervously over the button — just waiting to ruin someone’s day.
Phobia #3: Drain Cleaner
Chemical drain cleaners are scary as hell. Have you ever used one, like Drano, Liquid-Plumr or Rid-X? God damn, that shit will eat through anything, and it’s not exactly discerning; It’ll burn through the wad of soap scum clogging your shower drain just as easily as it will your wrinkled scrotum. With this in mind, I handle drain cleaner like unstable dynamite; delicately tiptoeing my way through the house, keeping the bottle at arm’s length and my face turned slightly away while wearing an expression of dainty horror. Basically, like the world’s biggest pussy.
I am deathly afraid of getting drain cleaner on my skin, and I am 100% convinced it will somehow, magically, wind up in my eyes and blind me for life. Like, the fear itself is so strong it could blow a fuse in my brain, short out my instinct for self-preservation and replace it with the impulse to pour heinous amounts of acid directly into my eyes and mouth. This, in turn, causes more fear, which makes the impulse seem even more real, resulting in a thought loop from which I cannot escape, and proving — once and for all — I have lost my goddamn mind.
How does this relate to Germany? Well, renting houses and apartments — rather than owning them — is much more common in this country. Lots of Germans rent their homes their entire lives, but the universal problem with renters from any country is they rarely care about the place they’re renting. They don’t own it, so fuck it, right? On top of that, cheapskate apartment managers never fix things when they break. You’ve got to handle problems yourself, and that’s where drain cleaner comes into play. See, if your wife has long, sexy German hair like mine does, your shower drain will clog with hairballs at regular intervals throughout the year. This will force you to either buy a plumber’s snake (yeah right, that’s gross) or resort to the use of chemicals. And since my wife has deemed all things pertaining to clogged pipes as “icky” and “a man’s job,” I must regularly face my fear of drain cleaner — or as I have come to call it, “Cowering in Fear of the Devil’s Hot Acid Ejaculate.”
Phobia #2: Dogs
I used to love dogs, man. When I was younger, I had no fear of them whatsoever. But that all changed back in Portland, Oregon, in the mid-2000s, when I made the ingenious decision to try and break up a pit bull fight in my underwear.
You see, I was renting a room in a house owned by a woman with a pit bull. There was another renter living there too, and he also owned a pit bull, but neither of these two idiots had the slightest clue how to raise dogs like these. So, I woke up one Saturday morning to the unmistakable sound of dogs fighting over food in the kitchen, but it wasn’t just the usual snarling and barking; what I heard was two pit bulls trying to kill each other.
Not my problem, I thought to myself, rolling over and pulling the pillow down over my ears. But the bloody murder just got louder and louder, until it was clear one of the dogs was about to die. I jumped out of bed — out of anger and annoyance, not heroism — grabbed the canister of bear mace I kept (and still keep) next to my bed, and walked into the kitchen wearing nothing but a pair of thin, blue boxer shorts.
There was dog food, blood and hair all over the kitchen floor, and the woman who owned the house — whom we shall refer to as Muffinbrain McTouchedinthehead — was trying to bodily heft one of the pit pulls up and out the back door. She wasn’t strong enough to pull this off though, especially since the other pit bull had locked its jaws on the dog’s hind leg. I got Muffinbrain’s attention and offered to use the can of mace in my hand, but she insisted I try and pull the second dog away and separate them instead. I don’t know why, but I went ahead and grabbed the dog’s collar and yanked it back. It worked, but stupid goddamn Muffinbrain let her dog get away, and it charged across the kitchen and sank it’s teeth into the second dog’s neck. Of course my fingers were in the way, and to this very day I have the scars to prove it.
Anyway, it was at that moment when I absolutely lost my shit: I was basically naked — my exposed flesh vulnerable from all angles — bleeding and pissed off, so I pulled the safety guard off the canister and bear-maced the holy shit out of pit bull #1. Not yet satisfied, I firehosed pit bull #2 for good measure, then gave them both a few departing shots as I walked back to my room. I got dressed and left the house, but not before seeing Muffinbrain still in the kitchen, coughing and gagging on the atomized pepper spray in the air, and the two pit bulls standing there with vacant looks in their eyes — like nothing happened. In retrospect, I think the mace had temporarily blinded them, but they handled it calmly and professionally, like the purebred assassins they are.
How does this relate to Germany? Well, Germans like to bring their dogs with them everywhere. Restaurants, cafes, department stores… even the U-Bahn. You can’t get away from the filthy little beasts, especially here in Hannover. And every time one gets close to me — even if it’s just a little Pomeranian puffball — I am convinced it will bite me and I must resist the urge to punt that little fucker like a football.
Phobia #1: Young Men
I ask you, is there anything more dangerous than a group of bored young men between the ages of 16 and 25? Having been one myself, I can confirm, yes, they are, in fact, the most dangerous species on the planet. (And they stink too, secreting a perpetual musk of assholes and armpits.)
Young men are selfish, loud, rude and oblivious to the people around them. Of course there are exceptions; I’ve met many kind and considerate young men. But the vast majority have brains which are not yet fully developed — like half baked lumps of monkey shit — so they literally cannot imagine how their actions today might result in negative reactions tomorrow. This is why they get obnoxiously drunk, drive too fast, get into fistfights and think of little else beyond finding girls willing to smooch their he-chicken.
What does this have to do with Germany? Well, I must admit, I do feel a bit safer around young German man than I do American ones. This is probably because Germans are far less likely to own guns, but also because they just don’t seem quite so… aggressive. But then you have young, German, frothing-at-the-mouth soccer fans, and being trapped in an U-Bahn car with these drunken idiots after the big game makes me feel about as safe as a fat-tailed gerbil in a sack full of cats. “So, uh, has everyone already eaten today? How about them flea collars, eh? Itch like a real bastard, I bet! Heh heh… oh my God please don’t kill me.”
I have to say, given the morbidly obsessive and wildly irrational specificity of my phobias — especially as they have been exacerbated by life in Germany — I must award them with a solid 4 out of 5 Merkel Diamonds:
However, this is not a perfect score: If you think you can top any single one of my fears in terms of overall weirdness or potential to incapacitate you as a human being, the comment section is wiiiiiide open…
P.S. Would you like to read the sequel to this post? Check it out: 5 More Weirdly Specific, Totally Irrational Fears and Phobias of an American Expat Living in Germany