My Grate Fear

I’ve always had a fear of grates.


This odd phobia of mine was not often one I told others about. It’s an easy one to let slide under the radar. Slipping to the side of the sidewalk or playfully hopping over sewers or subway grates has become my tested and proven remedy and, for the most part, would not cause any suspicion from onlookers. However, I have found that as my love for the city life has grown and as my travels have taken me to places like New York, Washington DC, and Atlanta, my ability to conceal  my sidewalk ninja skills has been difficult. So, I mentioned it laughingly to a few of my friends and they shrugged it off.

That goofball, Sid. Always scared of something.

I know that’s what most of them are thinking. A fear of grates. It’s “cute” or “quirky,” but, for me, it’s real. When I try to strut confidently across a grimy, unsuspecting sidewalk grate, my imagination sets in. Anyone who knows me will tell you that the following scenarios that flash before my eyes are utterly ridiculous, but also, utterly Sid:


Scenario 1: I fall in. All my sci-fi movie watching has prepared me for this moment as my body splashes into sewer water. I lift my head and peer into the darkness. I stand, covered in smelly sewer water. I look up through the now opened sewer grate and before I can say “Somebody help me!”  I feel something brush against me. Gulp. My rational mind jumps ship and I immediately jump to the conclusion that there are alligators, giant mutant rats, or water-bound zombies (created by an evil scientist who lives among them, planning to once released them on the world) accompanying me in this mess. Could be one, but hey… I’m probably in a state of fear that tells me all three are lurking in the darkness with me.

Or, God forbid, I fall in and a subway takes me out in one fell sweep. Splat.

Either way, I’m obviously screwed.

Scenario 2: I get stuck. Okay, I know, not so scary, but still. Have you ever seen a romantic comedy (pauses to note how I watch way too many movies for one person… oh well) where a lovely damsel gets her heel caught in a grate, her skirt billowing up slightly and her face a mixture of distress and beauty. Well this scene… is BS. If my heel gets caught in a grate, I’m going to bend full over and try to yank it out, possibly exposing my mindlessly picked granny-panties for the day. I don’t want to stay there! If I’ve braved the possibility of scenario 1 then I am surely doing all I can to get to the other side and thank the Lord for neatly paved sidewalks. But, no. I am stuck and now must face my impending doom. Dooms including: possible breakage of the shoe and limping away in shame, having to do the unspeakable (interact with a stranger *shudders*), or abandoning the shoe for good in loss of all hope.

Tragic, I know.

Scenario 3: I am fine. Obviously this scenario is motivating the act of bravery on my part, but really, it is just as scary as the others. What if I walk across, gingerly, lips pressed tightly together, eyes closed, knuckles white, only to find that I’ve made it across unscathed? Am I crazy? Well I know I’m crazy, but am I so irrational that I can’t stomach something completely trustworthy? Does this mean that my future holds even more irrational fears that will hold me back from success? Will I live in crippling fear of something, no matter how many phobias I conquer?


All of these questions, possibilities, and death-causing or social-interaction-prone events grip me with fear and as I crack one eye open to finally look down, it seems something miraculous has happened. I’m on the other side. If the sidewalk weren’t littered with cigarette butts and gum, I would kiss it! But then my thoughts from scenario 3 creep in and I must abort the mission and decide that this phobia is here to stay.

Full of regrets, I take another few steps, only to notice another grate. I cringe apologetically at my best friend and shimmy past it, exhausted from the previous event.

So, friends, here is a small glimpse into my… ya know… crazy brain. Not always as fun as it sounds. Whoa is me. All of that.


I like to think that fear is what propels me towards my dreams. You can’t always be chasing something if you aren’t ever being chased. I don’t know where sidewalk grates will get me in life, but tomorrow I will probably try to brave them again, and that’s something.




Posted in Sid

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