Cleithrophobia: Fear of Being Locked/Shut In

This was, perhaps, my only justified phobia. That doesn’t make it any less stupid.

Little kids are adventurers, confined to the boundaries that adults or other children (tentatively titled “teenagers,” when “hormonal little pricks” is probably more accurate). We cram ourselves into cupboards or dog kennels, we play hide-n-seek and have such good spots that we get bored waiting to be found (or worse, abandoned), we climb trees and hide under laundry baskets. Kids basically like to try and hide in, climb on, or explore any place they can. And sometimes, adults or “teenagers” (also known as “dickwads”) take advantage of that.

When my brothers were seven and five and I was three, my parents went on a date, as parents are wont to do sometimes. Our regular, awesome babysitter Gina was otherwise occupied. Her older sister Elise, whom we didn’t like nearly as much for whatever reason, was also unavailable. So, since we lived in the quintessential Denver suburbs where everyone knows everyone and front doors are unlocked, my parents found another babysitter almost instantaneously. I can’t remember her name, but it was probably along the lines of Shitty McShouldn’tWatchKids.

Ms. Shitty McShouldn’tWatchKids was your typical I-am-sixteen-going-on-seventeen bag of illogical hormones. She had mousy brown hair, probably past her shoulders, accompanied with red eyes, crooked yellow teeth, and a wart (or a mole) the size of my fist on the tip of her nose.  I could be exaggerating a little bit.

The Ring Two
She probably looked just like this, actually. That would explain so much.

Either way, it was a hot summer day when Shitty came to substitute for our parents. She seemed excited to see us, and got us all ramped up to play pirates in the basement in the playroom. Then she did what every sane, responsible 16 year-old babysitter does: she locked us in the basement so her boyfriend could come over. She took advantage of our need to adventure, and sent us on one that would change me forever (cue dramatic music).

My brothers and I sat on the top stair leading from the basement banging on the door, begging and screaming to be released. Of course, Miss McShouldn’tWatchKids didn’t let us out. I can only hope that our cries made the bow-chicka-bow-wow time with her boyfriend slightly uncomfortable:

(Shitty McShouldn’tWatchKids and Dipshit HornyMcBoyfriend are making out on the couch. There is a loud thumping on the basement door, accompanied by muffled sobs. HornyMcBoyfriend stops.)
Dipshit: What’s that noise?
Shitty: Oh, it’s only the three small children I’m supposed to be taking care of. They’re locked in the basement with no air conditioning on a hot summer day. Don’t worry about it.
Kids: LET US OUT!!!
(pause, a millisecond)
Horny McBoyfriend: Oh. Cool (Goes back to sloppily groping and kissing McShouldn’tWatchKids)

As the day wore on, I grew increasingly upset. My brothers were pretty good at distracting themselves, but I knew I was going to die a horrible death on that top stair. My parents would find me, bloated from the heat, spider webs entangled with my hair, eyes still red and swollen from crying. For a three year old, I was pretty inventive with my deaths. I was also a bit of an idiot. My idiocy (that day) manifested itself in the Winnie The Pooh sweatshirt I insisted upon wearing in the 80+ degree weather. It was pretty warm in the basement, and combined with my agitation at  being locked in a goddamned basement, I started having a panic attack. And because I was three years old and idiotic, I had no idea how to take my sweatshirt off, which is when I began to scream.

As my cries grew increasingly hysterical, my brother Justin came to my rescue. Always the hero, Justin knew exactly what to do. He got me to stop snotting and wailing just long enough to wrench the sweatshirt over my head. Relieved from the warmth, I calmed down to a quiet whimpering. Justin brought me a glass of water from the downstairs guest bathroom and patted my back nonchalantly.

Then with a determined, grim look on his little face, Justin got up and said, “Don’t worry, Whitney”–Ha–“I’ll get us out of here.” I watched his little meatball head with the little curly mullet descend the stairs and head towards the playroom. Andrew and I watched him leave, full of admiration.

Koofteh Tabrizi, an iranian (from azerbaijan p...
Make one of these a little bigger, a little browner, add some curlicues at the bottom, put it on the neck of a 7 year-old boy, and you have what my brother looked like from behind.

What did Justin do? He opened the basement window, climbed out, went into the house, and promptly let us out of the basement.

I don’t know how long we were down there, nor where the babysitter and HornyMcBoyfriend went. I just know that I ascended the last step out of the basement a completely changed little tyke.

Wherever Shitty McShouldn’tWatchKids is, I hope her children have locked her in the basement.

The Babysitter (novel)
This book was based on the events of that day. Except make the babysitter the bad guy, and put a less ugly sweater on her (she was waiting for her boyfriend, after all).

2 thoughts on “Cleithrophobia: Fear of Being Locked/Shut In

  1. You got me thinking about phobias, which i didn’t realize I had any until reading your blog.
    I knew I had this one, but I am not sure what it is called: fear of putting on shoes, because of what might be lurking down in there where you can’t quite see up and in there. This was an adult-acquired phobia that I picked up from late night TV. I don’t watch TV anymore for numerous reasons, and this is just a tiny one. The actress that played the Mom, (not the grandma) on Gilmore Girls (forgot her name at the moment which serves her right for being so boring that that’s all she could come up to talk about given the chance of a national audience) was on a late night talk show and she relayed this phobia which of course then proved to be contagious because of the state of zombification I was in (prefering to watch late night talk shows to sleep no matter how lame the conversation gets).

    If you know the name of that phobia, let me know. It’s most strong when putting on clog-type shoes (when not wearing socks) or slippers (when barefoot and in the dark) so whatever is in there will make direct, painful and deadly contact with my flesh. I’ve just been extremely lucky so far.

    I happened to have run across these 2 products and thought of your blog:
    1. “Phobias” Knowledge Cards :

    2. “Shrink Rap, Psychological Terms and Phrases” Knowledge Cards

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