independent

Thursday 18 September 2014

Why the big fear of small things?

Published 06/05/2014 | 05:34

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I was awoken by the sound of a shrill shriek the other morning. It came from downstairs and I recognised immediately that the young lad's larynx was the source of the yell.

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The roar was a noise of distress and playacting fused, and I wondered for a minute if his school report had dropped through the letterbox a few weeks early.

With blurred eyes, and thoughts, I staggered my way down step after step until I found him just inside the front door, scurrying about after a number of tiny moving creatures.

'Ants,' he squealed, 'there's an invasion of them and you have to stop any more getting into our house.'

Sure enough, there were about a dozen of the unwanted house guests breakdancing and high-fiving themselves at the threshold.

I told him not to panic, that I would sort it out once I had had my morning shot of whatever it would take to transform me from my dormant state into the vibrant father figure that society expects me to be.

'Why are you so concerned about the ants?' I asked him, the old Pink Panther theme tune suddenly humming in my head.

He told me that he believed they would bite us while we slept, then suck our blood. That was when I realised the poor old ants had become the victim of exaggerated playgound legend.

'That won't happen,' I assured him. 'Besides, look at the size of you and look at the size of one of those little guys. You'll be well able to defend yourself if he comes looking for you.'

He wasn't having it. I dropped him to school before visiting the hardware store to pick up some ant powder. The younger lad helped me eradicate the problem within minutes.

As I watched the powdered mountains pile up I started thinking about human nature and how we often hear about people being terrified by small things that, when thought about logically, there is little to be afraid of. Take the housewife (and rumoured elephants) and the mouse. The good woman would rather see a wolfhound with drool dripping from his fangs eyeing up her freshly baked blueberry muffins through the back window than see a mouse scuttle across the kitchen floor – or a hairy-legged spider shimmy down the turkey baster. The young lad and the younger lad are the same.

Smaller, lesser spotted, insects also induce more fear than any amount of unaccompanied canines or wild cats that roam the neighbourhood of their own free will – creatures with the potential to cause far more bodily harm.

Think about it further, and there is plenty of evidence in society of smaller things sending shivers down the spines of bigger things.

How many professional footballers would openly admit preferring to see the lanky frame of 'six foot seven inches' Peter Crouch coming at them on the football pitch than the 'five foot ten inches' of more likely ankle-cracker, Roy Keane.

Or what about the 'five feet eight inches' of Adolf Hitler that once terrorised an entire planet? Or elbow-high teachers that can rule with iron fists over sixth-form lads?

Microphobia is the term given to the fear of small things; I know many people that present with the symptoms. As for the ants who arrived on the scene far earlier this year, we haven't seen one since the powder went down. Powder can't be used to eradicate all the small things that put the fear of God into us, however. Unfortunately/fortunately there are strict laws against doing that.

Gorey Guardian

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