Everybody’s afraid of something. However, we don’t always know what we’re afraid of until we find ourselves facing that fear.
For example, once I was on a date at the park. We were doing a picnic by a pond when ducks started approaching us. At first, it was just a couple ducks and I thought it was pretty cool that they were getting so close to us. But then it was five, then a dozen, then at least twenty ducks swarming around my date and me. To be clear, SHE was fine. But the closer and closer the ducks got to me, their beady little eyes staring at me, their nasty beaks pecking and quacking for food, the smaller and smaller I involuntarily curled into a ball. I was curled into a ball of fear surrounded by ducks while a girl (who actually did go on more dates with me) laughed.
So that’s when I found out I was afraid of ducks.
Tonight, I had a similar experience.
Some people in our group have been wanting to do that Asian thing where you have fish eat the dead skin off your feet (or whatever) and, while we were out tonight, we saw a tattoo/body-piercing/massage/spa place with a tank of those fish outside on the street. There were families (parents and children) just sitting knee-deep in the tank, swarms of little fish gathered around their feet.
While getting my feet manicured by fish wasn’t on my Taiwan bucket list, I didn’t have anything better to do and I was tired of walking, so I handed over 100 dollars ($3-ish USD) and got ready to put my feet in the tank of water.
My expectations were: tiny fish will come and eat the dead skin and junk off my feet.
One fear I KNOW I have is SHARKS. Hate them. This summer has been the worst because there have been lots of super-publicized shark attacks. There were a couple in North Carolina last month and there was another one at a televised surf competition last week. Holy crap don’t go in Ocean.
Anyway, so I took off my sandals and rinsed off my feet before putting them in the water. You have to walk to the tank of fish in a specially-provided clean pair of flip-flops after you rinse off to keep your feet clean to prevent the tank from getting contaminated. After walking to the tank, you sit on a bench on the edge of the tank and slowly lower your feet into the water. It’s important to do it slowly and not move your feet once in the tank otherwise you’ll scare away the fish and ruin their appetite (an Asian told me).
So I lowered my legs into the tank up to my calves and the fish started surrounding them. They were little fish, about the size of small goldfish but brownish-colored.
The fish quickly swam up and started eating the dead skin and junk off my body. And then I started freaking out.
THERE WERE LITERALLY DOZENS OF FISH EATING MY BODY. I WAS ESSENTIALLY BEING ATTACKED BY A SHARK IN THE FORM OF HUNDREDS (AT LEAST A HUNDRED) LITTLE FISH LATCHING THEIR MOUTHS ONTO MY SKIN AND EATING ME. I HAD ENTERED THE FISH’S HOUSE AND I WAS GONNA GET ATE.
It didn’t hurt, but it didn’t feel good. It felt like they were biting me, but their mouths were so small that it didn’t hurt, but KNOWING they were BITING me drove me bananas. (And no, it didn’t feel ticklish, I just felt TERROR.)
Not only was it terrifying that they were latching onto and eating me, but I saw that when people took their feet out of the water, sometimes a couple fish would stay stuck on and they’d have to wipe them off. The idea of having to do that scared me so bad.
Even though I was being attacked by a million little sharks (essentially), the “treatment” was supposed to be 20 minutes, so I figured I’d just grin and bear it.
Except my form of grinning and bearing it was a mixture of heavy breathing, sporadic squeals, burying my face in my hands, yelling things like “OH MY GOSH” and “WHO INVENTED THIS?”, and stroking the beard of the man sitting next to me. In the middle of a public street in Taiwan.
I guess my reaction wasn’t typical (there was a little girl sitting three feet away with her feet in the tank — she mainly just looked embarrassed for me and tried to avoid eye contact) because a big crowd of Asians gathered around. They just laughed and laughed, I imagine the same way white people watch Japanese game shows. I think they really enjoyed it cuz a lot of them took pictures of videos of me.
In the end, I hadn’t stayed very still, but I’d kept my feet in the shark tank for the whole 20 minutes. I had done it. And no fishes stayed attached THANK LITERAL HEAVEN.
Of course, I had a little headache, my throat was sore, and my eyes were bloodshot. Even though no tears came from my eyes, I had essentially cried in public in Taiwan and the Asians filmed it.
The dude who ran the shop seemed a bit annoyed because I’d made so much noise, but there was a 40-minute wait after I came, so I think it’s safe to say I attracted attention to that tattoo/body-piercing/massage/spa shop.
And I discovered that I’m afraid of ducks, sharks, AND small fish.