I came to terms with my 170 pound medium build years ago. A question I am often asked is if, as a male teacher, I coach. I try to reply with something clever-this helps the question-asker not to feel so dumb for asking a scrawny male English teacher a question that implies some sort of physical ability, while at the same time, suggesting that clever aesthetes like myself do not require physical prowess. At least this is what I tell myself. However, despite my modest stance, I do not have too many phobias. I would hold a snake if it were offered. I see spiders as one of the most disgusting of creatures, but I have no problem approaching them for the kill and have even allowed a tarantula to walk on my arm. And while I think that one day I will board an escalator the will take me to hell without my knowing it, I don't mind riding them if it means I don't have to climb stairs.
I do however have one admitted phobia: plumbing. I can't stand to touch it, be near it, or even look at it in certain situations. Two days ago, I had to face my phobia. You see, our 20 year old house has been having some problems lately. The details of these problems will come later. Suffice it to say that I found myself on my knees in my front yard, intentionally touching "the dreaded apparatus" (from Seinfeld-although not in the same context). My most recent housing woes required that I turn off the water supply to my house at the water meter. For those of you who don't know, the valve on a water meter is very stiff and tough to turn-it generally requires the use of a water meter "key"-a piece of rebar with a T-handle at one end, and a slot at the other. To close the water meter, one must simply place the slot on the valve and turn. My step-father has one of these keys, and he brought it by, at my request. Unfortunately at the time of our planned shutoff, we were experiencing a torrential rain native to Oklahoma. But the job had to be completed. So there I knelt, being protected from the storm by my step-father who held a mini-umbrella that was no longer able to close and which happily boasted of its origin, New York Life, in blue letters which contrasted with the bright, white material that made up the umbrella. Kneeling in the soaked grass, I lifted the cover off of the water meter to discover nothing but dirty rain water. The water meter was full to the top of the stuff. I ran to my garage and grabbed a small plastic bucket which I had intended to bail the water out with. The bucket promptly disintegrated. So, in an act of desperation, I plunged my hand into the brown water, navigated to the valve-topped pipe, and blindly guided the key to my immersed hand. Of course, the key fell off multiple times required the same process each time. But finally, I was able to shut it off.