Last week at a speaking presentation in Perryville a parent came up to me afterwards and had a very interesting question. "Are you afraid of bees?" She asked this because her son is terrified of those stinging insects and will flee any situation where a bee can be seen. I can say that this question stung me to the core.
I have never been stung and am still just as afraid of being stung as I was when I was young. A child is often told "Don't antagonize a bee, don't try and touch a bee, and don't make direct eye contact with a bee because they can sense the fear". Okay, so maybe parents don't tell their kids that bees can sense the fear, but I learned that one myself.
During recess in elementary school in northern Indianapolis I had a bee problem. There must have been a hive of some sort near by because it was a daily occurrence to have a severe fright and flight of a bumblebee (could bee a honey bee, but doesn't bumblebee just sound better?).
I have always disliked the classical tune "Flight of the Bumblebee" for reasons I could not put my finger on, until that stinging question was asked. That song is so apt because it paints a picture of a bee flying, but more importantly I can feel my fright in the song.
I have never been stung, as I said, but the anticipation of the pain that must go along with it is something that, if I dwell upon it, it scares me to the point that I don't even want to be in the same state as a bee.
During recesses I would usually have at least one fright moment and these fright moments kept me in shape. If I saw a bee flying my way I would run. I would run as fast as I could away from the bee. Sadly, I believe bees are attracted to objects that are moving, or maybe it was the increased carbon dioxide coming from my lungs, but those bees knew I was fearful because they would begin the chase.
I did not like these chases one bit because the bees stamina was far greater than my own, but my fear was so great that some recesses would see me run around for the entire 30 minutes being chased by those almost demonic creatures.
I make light of it now, but the fear I experienced back then was to a level that no child should experience during recess, much less any other time. I usually would scream a couple of times while looking back at the bee catching up to me. Another time I screamed because I closed-lined myself on the support for the swing-set.
When I would run from the bees I would always run looking back at the bee to make sure I had a safe distance. This led to some collisions with objects and people and I wonder if the teachers ever thought something was wrong with me from afar because I would just run and run and run without really looking where I was going.
Bees have a guidance system that a jet fighter would be envious of. The bees can turn on a dime and even when I ran through a group of people the bee would remain behind unaffected and not confused over who it's target was. My runs were something haunting enough that Rod Serling would have been proud of the way these events played out. I simply, no matter where I went or moves I made, could not get away. I think these bees may have had a sense of humor because, when I was running, they would always stay the same distance from me. If I slowed down they did too. If I sped up they sped up. Yes, maybe was in a "Twilight Zone" script and didn't know it.
The most stressful time was when the whistle blew and it was time to go in. I would run to the line and once in line I was a prisoner. The rules were that, once in line, one could not talk or walk away. This was horrible for me as many times my pursuer would come up to me and land on me.
The feeling of the bees legs crawling up my arm, or neck, was spine-tingling and was a mass adrenaline producing event. I was waiting... waiting... waiting for the most severe and agonizing pain I knew I would ever experience. The seconds that the bee walked on my skin were much like years and I was trapped and couldn't do anything about it.
I never attacked a bee on me because that would have drawn attention to me from the teacher and the rules were that I needed to stand still so this was a true worst-case situation for me. I knew I could instantly kill those evil creatures with just one slap, but the noise the slap would produce would draw attention to me. Also, if I didn't score an instant kill on the bee, I would be subject to a stinging.
So much anxiety was produced by those squadrons of bees and I was amazed that someone else has done the same things I did. The fear of the unknown is so great that I'm sure my fear is much worse than the actual event of being stung. That may be so, but I don't know the unknown and the anticipation of the event is a fear I can not quell. Much like when I was afraid of thunderstorms in that the fear of the approaching storm was always more traumatic then the storm itself.
When I see a stinging insect today I still tense up and my pulse will increase. I've had enough landings on me to know that I need to just hold still and nothing bad will happen. I'm still afraid of that first sting because I've had twenty-something years to think about how bad it is. Hopefully I can someday say that I've had fifty-something years to think about how bad it is because I don't want to experience it.