Seventy-five Days of Phobias Day 69: Kat Mayo Claustrophobia and Things That Clench

TDriving_Final[3] 12.45.14 pmo celebrate the Monday release of my rom com Driving in Neutral —a love story about claustrophobia— I am running the 75 Days of Phobia series.  We’ve been talking phobias for 69 days.

Yes, I heard some of you titter about the 69 bit.

The mere thought of climbing into an elevator scares the hell out of Driving in Neutral’s Emerson Maxwell, which means it is totally fitting that my guest today, BookThingo’s Kat Mayo has a similar reaction, only she finds comfort from her fear with French Fries rather than from a soaking wet stranger…

I spent my childhood in the Philippines. In the olden days, there was no assigned seating in cinemas. If the film was particularly popular – say, for example, Superman IVSupermanpeople would sit along the aisles and stand along the back of the theatre. And so I blame Superman for my fear of confined spaces.

Or being squashed by smelly people.

Or never seeing the light of day again.

Or sitting through terrible movies.

After childbirth, hormones made my brain funny, and suddenly I couldn’t bear going through road tunnels. Once, we got stuck in the Sydney Eastern Distributor due to a traffic incident and the only thing that saved me was a large serving of McDonald’s french fries. Eating salty, deep fried food calmed my brain down somewhat. Never look down on salty chips again, my fearless friends!bigfries

Ironically, I don’t fear elevators. Not even when I’m squashed in, nose to back, and the thing is creaking its way to the twenty-first floor. (I do, however, fear the human-to-human transfer of body odour, and deadly fart gas.)

I once had to get an MRI and the anaesthetist was asking me questions to assess how loopy I’d have to be to tolerate the procedure:

Doctor: ‘Are you scared of getting into a lift?’

Me: ‘Not at all!’ (Pause.) ‘But, um, I can’t go into the Eastern Distributor.’

As it turns out, I can’t go into an MRI scanner either.

Then there was the time my flight was cancelled and I had to endure being in the middle seat on a full plane. I was saved by a romance book – there’s nothing like sexy times to keep your mind off your troubles. Also the distraction of trying to figure out if the corporate type next to me was reading over my shoulder.plane2

Recently, I got on one of those smaller, single-aisle planes. Last row, window seat. Then a bunch of school students boarded, and they were excited and boisterous and totally sucking up all the oxygen in the cabin. I tried reading. I tried deep breathing. I tried rationalising. I thought, Goddammit, I’m going to die because my trousers are too tight and I can’t breathe!

Alas, it was no good: It seems I have an irrational fear of flying with teenagers.

Kat Mayo blogs about books at and tweets as @BookThingo. She has a healthy fear of clenching wombs and throbbing members.


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