Human behavior · Personal memoirs · Psychology · Things I love · Uncategorized

It’s Only a Walkway, or so They’d Have You Believe

I discovered a new phobia yesterday that I don’t think has ever been known before. Naturally it’s my exclusive, weird phobia, as anything of mine usually is the only one in the universe (seems that way at times).

Gephyrophobia is a general fear of bridges. But no, that’s not quite what I’m talking about here. I have no problem with walking or driving over bridges, as long as they’re well built. Although with the potential for earthquakes in Southern California I do get extremely anxious when stuck in a car on a freeway overpass or cloverleaf, way the heck up there, where a good strong quake could send you and the bridge crumbling down. But I’ll still do that (without actually feeling faint or having a panic attack) on the rare occasions when it’s unavoidable in order to get somewhere.

However…

Yesterday I was on a walk with my precious little dog Tyler in Buena Park, CA, after visiting my bank out there, and came to the end of a street which ended at the intersecting 91 freeway. Saw a strange construct there and went to check it out. Turned out to be the entrance to the walkup to a pedestrian bridge that would take us to the neighborhood on the other side of the freeway. Bridge is pictured here, courtesy of Google Maps:

Copyright Google Maps August 2011 (Fair Use)
Copyright Google Maps April 2019 (Fair Use)

“That looks interesting.”

I said to myself and Tyler, let’s do this! I’d never walked a freeway pedestrian bridge before. Had heard stories of deranged people tossing bricks or other heavy items (sometimes themselves as in suicide) off of them, causing car wrecks and injuring or killing people in the days before these bridges were enclosed by chain link fencing, but never thought about walking across one myself. The thought of being up there and watching the cars streak past down below from both directions seemed intriguing, since a favorite walk has always been to the end of beach piers, totally enjoying the crashing waves below (if only the piers were minus the fishermen). Well well, was I wrong about this new experience.

I understand others’ “irrational” phobias now, when I didn’t before.

I have one known phobia that seems pretty rational…I tried to be like a mechanic once and laid down on my back to slide underneath a car to look at something or other down there. After just a few seconds I started panicking, couldn’t sit up, felt trapped, had to get out immediately and realized I’d never do that again. It’s a form of claustrophobia I guess, and I’d never had occasion to experience it before then. Strange, because I don’t fear elevators or other enclosed spaces, when standing anyways.

My mom had claustrophobia due to being locked in closets as punishment as a child, and I’d never understood her intense fear of being shut in somewhere. Thought all she needed was to do it, safely, repeatedly, and realize it wasn’t going to kill her, and just “get over it.” Well, I began to change my mind when I experienced my own phobia(s). Unless you have the chance to do the things that will make you dizzy and weak-kneed with anxiety and panic, you don’t realize you have any phobias.

So I and Tyler happily trekked up the bridge on-ramp…

Little Tyler the boss-man chihuahua usually leads the way (but safely), so I watched to see if he’d be fearful when he reached the actual bridge, as he doesn’t care for high foot bridges or anything unusual like that. He was a little cautious, checking out the noisy traffic down below, a bit nervous, but nothing he was going to refuse to get across. He  felt safe with me. So I said, “great,” and started across myself with brave little Tyler as my guide.

Traffic was pretty heavy and the whooshing noise was intense, the cars hurtling by underneath from both directions. I started gasping a bit and thought, “just relax.” But no, there was no relaxing to be done. I kept going, thinking it was just excitement due to a new experience. But no, aside from the hyperventilating and heart pounding that kicked in, I started trembling, feeling dizzy, like I’d pass out if I didn’t turn around quickly and get the hell off that crazy death trap. We were about a third of the way across. Visions like the one below may have flitted through my head, a ped bridge knocked down by a garbage truck bucket that hadn’t been lowered…

Southfield Bridge, Detroit, 2014 – photo credit Mike Campbell WWJ Newsradio 950

I did quickly turn back and got the hell off that horrific thing.

As soon as we headed down the on-ramp I calmed down almost completely; was totally cool when back on the sidewalk, but vowing never again! Poor little brave Tyler had been looking forward to getting across that strange passageway and seeing (sniffing) more stuff on some new turf on the other side. But if I’d actually managed to get over there (by running like a terrified jackrabbit), getting back over again would have been nearly impossible if not totally so. Would probably have had to call for help, which would have been pretty embarrassing.

So, I now have two phobias that I know of: the under the car (or anything similar) thing, and the pedestrian overpass thing. Bottom line: No more scoffing at other people’s phobias for me. I have seen the light (or rather, the near blacking out).

Catholic Church · Child Abuse · Education · Human behavior · Personal memoirs · Religion · Uncategorized

Hell’s Belle, Sister Angeline

It was late 1962 and time for me to start school for the first time ever. Just my luck, I got put in Sister Angeline’s first-grade class. This Catholic nun was a real terror, a diminutive, plump woman fully robed in black and a bit of white with a sharply winged white cornette that made her appear to be over five feet tall, although her real height was more like 4’6”. The only time she wasn’t angry was when she’d successfully humiliated and/or hurt some six-year-old child for some crime like talking out of turn or peeing in one’s chair for fear of raising one’s hand to be excused to the bathroom. Humiliating and terrorizing children always put a little closed-mouth grin of satisfaction on her face, for a moment anyways.

She was perhaps 60 years old at the time, hard to be certain because we never saw anything but her face and her hands. Her hair color was a mystery, always fully covered by headdresses, usually the severest of cornettes. I imagined her hair was grayish. She strongly resembled the actress Zelda Rubinstein, but was not as fleshy or double-chinned, as Angeline was chubby, not fat. And Angeline’s big eyes were a piercing icy blue, not brown. Rubinstein played the eccentric medium, Tangina Barrons, in the early Poltergeist movies.

Church and school today, with Sister Angeline’s same old classroom obscured by cars in the background.

Sister Angeline was infamous for her clicker, which I believe she called a frog, a hand-held metal object with a springy thumb tab that made a loud clicking noise when she’d furiously press it, rapid fire when needed. It was a sound that struck alarm and fear in the more timid of her flock of little children, and induced more of a snicker of defiance in the bolder among us, who were yet also fearful of the demonic nun once they’d gone too far or got caught committing some sin.

Fear urination and vomiting were a regular part of the day in the holy Sister’s classroom.

QUIET was the rule for Sister Angeline’s class, including in the lunch area. Only speak when called upon to speak, by her, and you’d better have the right answer. At lunchtime, while other classes sat straddling their benches talking a bit or otherwise being insolent (a testament to the contemptible laxity of other teachers), our class was dead silent, eating every speck of our lunches in the proper order, often without tasting anything, chewing thoroughly and swallowing each lump of less than wanted nourishment in fear, looking straight ahead. (Ah, a touch of home though, those lunches, made by our moms, and how we longed to be home!) It was very hard to work up an appetite when one felt nauseous most of the time, from a mixture of fear and loathing of the short woman with the hateful glare. Those light blue eyes felt like daggers when they’d bore into you, so you’d do anything to avoid attracting her attention.

But then, lo and behold, that obedient silence and rigidness would attract her attention! I sat in her classroom once, concentrating on the alphabet or something and suddenly she loomed over me, seething eyes penetrating my soul, and she roared, “You think all you have to do is sit there and look pretty?!!” “No, Sister, I’m paying attention,” I replied, or something similar. She bristled and huffed and walked away, seemingly satisfied with the abject fear on my face and in my trembling voice.

She reduced me and others to feeling like bawling infants who didn’t dare let it out. Image source: sisterwolf.tumblr.com

I had several instances of vomiting and peeing in class and so did several other kids. If one dared to raise one’s hand and ask to go to the restroom, she’d always shout something humiliating like, “You should’ve thought of that before class! You’ll wait till recess, dodo bird!” Needless to say, with the urgent need to urinate combined with the terror, the urine flowed in that classroom. Vomiting usually occurred after lunch, with food struggling to be digested in extremely nervous stomachs, and failing and spewing out onto the floor. The smell of vomit is a prominent memory from those days. At the vomiting she was really furious, embarrassed to be calling on the janitor every day to throw sawdust onto yet another puddle of puke from some “insolent” child. The janitor calmly took it all in stride as if he’d been doing same with this crazy woman and her first-graders for some time.

Filthy sinner child, confess and do penance!

Sister would pick some boys up out of their seats by an ear and drag them across the room to be shut in the closet, or under her desk, or to face the Virgin Mary statue in the corner for an hour or so, for some crime like uttering a word or two without permission, perhaps to ask a question, or for not paying strict attention to her. How dare they! One raised one’s hand and waited patiently for the good Sister to call on one if one had a question or statement. If not, expect possibly to be slapped hard upside your head. Hard enough to hurt badly and shock you, not hard enough to do actual injury, mind you. Even Angeline had rules to follow. The church and school frowned upon lawsuits, naturally.

My mischievous friend Coleen often got in trouble with Sister Angeline, since Coleen was loud and assertive and liked to clown around. Even though her natural ways were severely constricted under Angeline’s rule, Coleen would occasionally laugh out loud at something or commit some other crime, and she was grabbed and led by ear to sit under Angeline’s desk. When teacher sat down at her desk with Coleen under it, Coleen peaked out through the gap at the bottom of the desk to face the class and made the “stinky” symbol by holding her nose and grimacing. Several kids saw that and burst out laughing.

Strictly disallowed!

“Is something so funny?!” the little nun growled. “Someone tell me what’s so funny or you’ll all get ten demerits and stay after school for detention!” No one spoke up; Coleen’s face was no longer visible as even she was scared then, and I believe we all did get the punishment promised, since Angeline wasn’t one to not follow through on her threats.

The old standby, the famous nuns’ ruler smack across a kid’s little knuckles.

Angeline also wielded the wooden ruler and used it with a demented sort of enjoyment I’d never witnessed before. She’d whack kids’ knuckles with a flourish and it was so loud an impact that I’d jump at each lashing, until I became accustomed to it anyways. I don’t remember her ever doing that to girls, just boys, although with Coleen there may have been an exception.

It appeared that the good Sister took the lyrics to the old song, “School Days,” to heart:

Reading and writing and ‘rithmetic

Taught to the tune of the hickory stick

The main thing you’d better have done in Angeline’s classroom was to learn her lessons and learn them well, so the alphabet, basic reading and writing, basic math, and the introductory religious dogma, we were all really good at, due to fear. Only the truly learning impaired kids failed to pick up on and grasp everything this evil little woman taught us. But we’d have all learned just as well with a teacher who wasn’t a tiny monster, who didn’t terrorize us into learning.

Imagine; this was my first school experience. I’d never gone to kindergarten or nursery school and started first grade when I was still five, nearing age six. So I think I may have been even more traumatized by the Angeline experience than the other kids, but I don’t know their stories so cannot be sure. It was an awful experience for a six-year-old girl or any child, and it shouldn’t have even been possible for such a crazy, mean, vicious woman to be put in charge of children of any age. But it was possible, because of the way the religion works and the way Christianity in general casts us all as sinners merely for being born, and having Christ’s crucifixion held over our guilty little heads as the reason we must confess our guilt and do continual penance for being so very rotten. The love for Jesus was paramount, even more than the guilty self-loathing. I assume all that sort of training played a big role in the dementia and cruelty of Sister Angeline. In later years, every teacher I had at that school, whether a nun or not, seemed absolutely angelic in comparison with The One.

Snitching on the holy woman was also terroristically advised against.

Sister Angeline conveyed to us all by some mysterious means that we were not to get her in trouble for her “strictness.” So it seems we were all hesitant to let our parents know exactly what was going on, or at least I was afraid to do so. But when things got bad enough and I would be extremely sick and nauseous before heading off to school and begging to stay home, tales of Angeline terror could be coaxed from me by my mom. She was saddened and horrified, but my dad, mainly at the urging of his devoutly religious Catholic sister-in-law, would convince me to hush up, that it was just the teacher’s being strict, and for me to not be so upset by it. Just laugh it off, he seemed to say. Oh how I tried, but no go. Both my parents did once have a meeting with Sister Angeline and school officials, but were dismissed with pretty much the same advice my dad gave me. Shocking to me then, but not at all now, after all I’ve learned about that church’s policies regarding pedophile priests.

Anyhow, that’s one standout life experience that formed who I became and who I am today, for whatever that’s worth. I never wanted to be anything even remotely similar to that little terror of a nun. Although I never could figure out exactly what she was. Except for evil, and extremely, devoutly Catholic.

Human behavior · Narcissism · Personal memoirs · Uncategorized · Violence · Wildlife Dangers

Predators at Night – Escape from Horror

The other night as I and my brother and three of our dogs were hiking at night in a hilly neighborhood of Monterey Park, California, suddenly there was a distinctive yapping sound from the dark hills high overhead to our left. The yapping rose to howls and all sorts of unmistakable sounds from a pack of coyotes. They were frenzied, as if they were hunting and signaling to each other about where the prey had gone—or had seen us and were excited to have spotted our three dogs to kill and eat.

Photo credit: Google Maps image capture Dec. 2017 – Actual hills in the daytime; all we could see was blackness up there; the coyotes sounded ever closer. They had a great view of us in the streetlights.

We had planned on going in that direction to wend our way back to my car, but knowing we’d only be getting closer to the coyotes, we went the other direction as soon as possible. I kept hearing them as they seemed to be getting closer and closer and may have been looking for a way to get to the street from the hills; but soon it all quieted down and I assumed they’d caught an animal and were eating him/her. See this VIDEO or THIS ONE to hear what they sounded like.

Later on, as we drove to measure the hiking distance, as we passed that area the odor of skunk permeated the air. We surmised that the coyotes had killed and eaten a skunk, or more than one skunk. Apparently, when coyotes are hungry enough, the excruciating odor of skunk spray is not enough to deter them.

So we and our dogs had gotten back to the car safely, but having learned a lesson: Don’t traipse around anywhere near “wilderness” areas at night, especially not with dogs. Or at least carry an effective weapon like a walking stick, and a scary noisemaker like an airhorn or starter pistol.

For some odd reason, that incident made me recall something from long ago…

I was about 12 or 13 and had newly discovered that hugging and kissing with boys was very nice. I and my friend Jan were pretty boy crazy ever since the Beatles and Paul McCartney had been all the rage a few years earlier. We were obsessed with Paul and with Davy Jones of the Monkees, and any boy that reminded us of them was an instant object of our obsessive school-girl crushes.

Not us, but similar

Two such cute boys I’d known of since I was 11, they were D and O and lived near me. But they had well-deserved reputations as bad, sexually active boys who got girls “in trouble,” but at that time we didn’t know much, if anything, about sex and didn’t know boys near our own age could actually be dangerous. Maybe to some “slutty” girl they could be dangerous, but not to us, or so we thought.

They’d heard from somewhere that Jan and I liked them, so they started coming around and talking to us. We were very flattered, since they were “so cute” and they were known to only like the cutest girls.

But as we later found out, there was nothing friendly about their attention toward us…

They’d come around and O would smooch with Jan and D with me, and we thought it was just great and that kissing was as far as anyone our age ever went. But then the feeling up and their trying to get under our clothes would start and we’d have to exit the situation somehow and hope they weren’t mad at us.

On another occasion, my little ego was extremely stoked when some other popular boy told a group of others in my presence that I was D’s “friend” and that seemed to impress them, a lot. Little did I know.

D and his friends now make me think of coyotes, on the hunt for prey; the way coyotes lure hapless pet dogs into their clutches by being frisky—“hey come play with us, it’s all good!”—having sized them up and figured out the best way to get that easy meal. D and O were preying on Jan and me like a pair of coyotes, and we’d thought we had cute, popular, sports hero boyfriends. They even had an entourage, a pack of sorts, who showed up one night as we met D and O in a secluded area of the golf course nearby. This was where it got really frightening and could have ended horribly.

Jan and I had her two younger brothers tag along that evening, thinking things couldn’t get out of hand with them there. We planned to just enjoy some more kissing with our two hearts’ desires, but something strange was going on; suddenly about six or more other boys showed up and were lurking nearby, silently, watching. D was kissing and trying to grope me but I kept fending him off. I don’t know what Jan and O were doing, was too caught up with my situation. It seemed D was putting on a show for his nearby pack. I wondered how on Earth we were going to escape this situation. Jan’s one brother had taken off, who knew where?

Back Story

About six months earlier there had been a gang rape of a girl in an alleyway near D and O’s junior high school, in the daytime. I and some other of my friends had passed nearby and seen something very odd and frightening going on; a pack of boys surrounding and blocking the view of something obviously terrible that was happening. Later we heard that a girl had been gang raped by that pack of boys and that D and O were the ringleaders. I at 12 had no idea what “gang rape” was but knew it was something horrible. Jan and I refused to believe it was D and O; thought it had to be something else that had happened or that it was other boys. D and O were popular and great athletes; they couldn’t be lowlife rapists, could they?

Back to That Night

D was apparently wanting to get his show going and was getting angry at me for continually pushing his hands away. There was a sense in the air that things were going to get really bad and ugly, quickly. I started to walk away to get Jan and head home but D pulled me back, saying nothing. His black, soulless eyes scared the hell out of me. Then, something I’ll always thank my lucky stars for and be eternally grateful for…

Jan’s brother who’d left the scene had gone home and told his dad that we were in big trouble. Suddenly, like a gift from the angels, there came Jan’s dad’s old white Dodge Dart to an abrupt halt on the road nearby, with a honk of the horn. Jan and I broke away from our captors and sprinted to the car and hopped in, in no time flat. We breathed huge sighs of relief and apologized to her dad for being so stupid as to meet those two in a place like that. We’d really dodged a serious bullet there, having been moments away from a gang rape by eight or more boys.

After that, D never spoke to me or Jan again and was openly hostile, and Jan and I never spoke to O again either. We’d finally seen what they were and learned a huge lesson. I always wondered who that poor girl in the alley was, and how many others they’d done the same to. I thank all that is good for having escaped that awful situation due to Jan’s brother and her good old dad and his little rickety car. I don’t remember if I told either of my separated parents what had happened or if Jan’s parents told them… I would have preferred to spare them from that.

D had always been trouble…

He’d first cockily ambled his way into my sixth grade class in 1968, as a new student at the school, carrying the Jimi Hendrix album “Are You Experienced” under his arm. He was an instant smash with the girls, instantly the most popular boy in the school; a bad boy, edgy and enigmatic. He was Mexican, from a financially successful family and extremely good looking, although he was short, never got taller than about 5’5”. And he never smiled, only smirked or sneered; he was quiet, never raised his voice (one way he differed from real coyotes). But when he talked, everybody listened.

Several of the girls in that class were crazy about him and he quickly gave a number of them some serious “experience.” One had to be mysteriously absent from school for a few months. I later figured out she’d had a baby and had given it up for adoption. These were 11-year-olds here! Dennis had quickly hooked up with O in that class and the two of them went on to cause all sorts of such wreckage in people’s lives. Due to their antics, our sixth grade was known as the “grab room.” I always suspected that young D had to have been molested by women for him to have turned out so perverted, mean, and obsessed with girls and sex, especially at age 12.

I heard on the news much later on that O was killed (at age 21) in a car accident on the freeway. As far as I know, D is still alive and kicking and never got in much (if any) trouble for his crimes in life. He had to have been a narcissist and sociopath, a predator. A human coyote. But at least coyotes are only doing what they do so they don’t starve to death. With D, it was purely personal, and evil. I doubt that he ever changed and was sorry for the things he did; although, for everyone’s sake, I hope he did. “He” means all of such people. No one should ever experience their awful deeds.

[Article images, except for coyote hills neighborhood, are from pixabay.com.]