Ever since I was very young, I have suffered from claustrophobia. Having to ride in an elevator has been nearly impossible. Once, I had to go up 16 floors to get to a meeting with some lawyer. Not a good day because all the time I was there, I knew I had to go back down the same way I had come up. That was years ago, and now I seem to be doing better.
It all started when my washing machine flooded the laundry room. When it was on its last rinse, something broke and allowed the water to continue to run all over the floor. Luckily, I knew to get the 800 number off the underside of the lid and call the repairman. I was told it would be about 10 days before he could get here. At this point, I thought about the old TV commercial of the washer repairman sitting in a bunch of cobwebs hoping and wishing his phone would ring so he could leave and go repair something for somebody. Anybody.
This brings me to when the office called to say the repairman would be here today between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. This will not be easy for me because I am usually out the door by 8:00 for my morning walk. This means it’s possible that I can be confined to my house for 9 hours! Immediately a bit of claustrophobia set in. But they did say he would call when he was on his way. So, the wait began. The 8:00 hour came and went, no call. Same with the 9:00 hour. That’s when I started pacing the floor as though I really was locked in. I certainly couldn’t begin washing all those dirty clothes that were over the tops of the hampers waiting their turn to come clean.
As soon as the chimes stopped ringing for the 10:00 hour, it got way too quiet.
So, I got out the box of Famous Amos cookies that have the pecans as well as the chocolate chips, and started eating them. When the clock struck 11:00, and I was about to eat yet another cookie, the phone rang! I was so excited that I couldn’t understand a word that was said. So, I got myself together, and asked him to kindly repeat what he had just told me. Did I really hear correctly? He would be here by noon? 12:00 noon ?
That meant soon I would be free. Plus, I would hear the verdict as to whether or not my washer could be fixed. Had its 16 years of hard labor come to an end? But first I had to call my husband at the farm and tell him to be home by noon. He can better understand all the jargon that’s used when discussing anything mechanical.
A big white truck pulled in the driveway. The repairman had arrived. He came. He saw. He fixed. No pre-sentence investigation was needed because with one quick look, he knew the certain part that had been the culprit. He and George had a long talk about that certain piece being famous for breaking down in this model of washing machine. Before the repairman left, he complimented me on not abusing the washer by ever putting too many clothes in each load. How did he know that?
Before I knew it, I was free. No more pacing, no more feeling confined. Waiting wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Recently I heard of a reason some people may be claustrophobic while others aren’t. Someone had done a study on the problem and found that if you, as a young person, have been confined in a small space, and you know there is someone outside who could get you out, but will not, you may become claustrophobic. In this case it was the boy’s own mother who would not let him out.
As for my history, I can remember, as a 2nd grader, I was playing with a neighbor girl in her upstairs bedroom. All of a sudden I realized that she had left the room. When I tried to leave the room, too, I couldn’t find the door. I remember being upset that there seemed to be no door in that room. However, the windows that faced the street were open and had screens in them. I went over to look out the window and saw my 10 year old brother walking by the house with a friend, and they were each eating an ice cream cone.
I remember yelling at him to help me, but he just kept on walking right past the house. When the girl came back in, I noticed that the door wasn’t visible because it had been wallpapered over with the very same flowered paper as on the walls in the room. I can still see that flowered wallpaper today.
I have heard a lot of people complain about having to wait on repairmen to come to their house. Those repairmen probably hear a lot of stories about how much it bothered their customer to have to wait on them. Mostly because of their having to miss work. Not much about having claustrophobia. As a note of thanks to all the repairmen who drive from house to house and keep everything running, (washers, dryers, refrigerators, furnaces, air conditioners, televisions, computers, etc.) please know how much your customers appreciate all your expertise.
I know I do because now I am free to walk.
Kay E. Conklin is a retired Delaware County recorder who served four terms. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a degree in sociology and anthropology.