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Lessons in spider-phobia and other junk


This ’n’ That by Nicky De Lange

It dawned on me recently that reality television shows can be quite educational. Not all of them; for instance, I never got hooked on watching Fear Factor.
That’s one the goes back a few years. Fortunately for me, before I could make the mistake of watching even one episode, I caught an ad promoting it. Before I could close my eyes or turn off the television set, I saw people putting live spiders in their mouths and eating them. That moment is still indelibly etched in my brain.
I’m totally arachnophobic. There is no such thing, to my mind, as a small spider. And the only good spider is a dead one. Very, very dead. Most folks who want to get rid of one of these eight-legged horrors would spray it with a bug killer or smash it with a shoe. I favor a nice grenade. I just feel better knowing that spider is really gone for good.
Needless to say, I won’t ever watch Fear Factor.
Some of the other reality programs have a very different effect on me. Take Hoarders or Hoarding: Buried Alive. These shows feature people who live in homes stuffed floor to ceiling with junk. We’re talking junk piled to the ceiling in every room, closet, cellar and yard. This is reality and it’s overwhelming.
So of course I watch these programs regularly. I tell myself it’s to make sure I never wind up living that way – it’s a preventative effort. For those of you who’ve never had the experience of viewing one of these horrifying shows, try to imagine a dwelling literally full of totally useless junk. Like empty two-liter bottles, pizza boxes, unwashed dishes and sinks clogged by backed-up drains.
Did I forget to mention the tons of roaches and other bugs? The rats? These are not cute little mice, either. They are seriously large rodents and there are lots of them.
And then there is the dreaded refrigerator. This appliance is about the scariest thing I’ve seen in any TV program. It’s traumatizing to see one of the “cleaning experts” swing open the door. I’ve actually caught myself mumbling “No – please don’t open that!”, usually followed by me covering my face. Talk about “slime in the ice machine”!
The inside of the average refrigerator in a hoarded home is filled with gross, unidentifiable items. Many of them are ancient. The show’s experienced cleaning crew winds up wearing hazmat suits and wielding long-handled shovels. I wouldn’t have their job no matter how much money I was offered.
Each hoarding program features a psychologist with a background in counseling hoarders. That must take the patience of a saint as well as nerves of steel.
By the end of the show, even these professionals look traumatized. The hardier ones just look frustrated beyond belief. The people they’re trying to help are usually way off the wall mentally.
True hoarders can’t part with anything, no matter how useless or filthy it is. In a book about the subject, I read that these poor people feel as if every item in their hoard is a part of them. Chucking it out would be like throwing part of themselves away.
That’s when I had my big epiphany. I was never meant to be a psychologist or any other kind of mental-health professional. Somewhere during the second or perhaps third day of trying to persuade a hoarder to part with just one little piece of junk, I’d lose it completely and wind up in a mental institution myself.
Happy TV viewing, all y’all!

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