A List of Scary Experiences

And Those Occasional Times I Exhibited Bravery

By Jeff Salter

Topic: What’s the bravest / scariest thing you’ve ever done?

This is another of my suggested topics, for which I can no longer recall what (if anything particular) I had in mind. Sheesh. [Maybe I should write a few notes along with my suggested topics.]

While searching my brain for specific experiences that either scared me or required a degree of “bravery” – whatever that is – I decided to just list a few items and see where it led me. [Note: as I’ve mulled this issue, I’ve concluded that it’s not particularly “brave” to do something when you have no other choice — as when following military orders. What IS “brave” is when you do something you SHOULD do, but you really could have chickened out.]

Caveat: By “bravery” I do NOT mean being a “dare-devil”. Certainly a dare-devil [picture Evel Knieval] exhibits incredibly bold bravery… but performing death-defying stunts for thrill or profit involves many other elements, including (perhaps) a bit of a death wish.

* In 7th grade, I was duty-bound (as class monitor, assigned by the teacher, in her absence) to “report” the misbehavior of a bully who was twice my size (and already shaving)… and I knew he’d get his revenge. [More detail of that incident is linked at the bottom of this blog.]

* My first airplane flight [about 1966], was pretty scary. Glad my big brother was with me and helped calm me and prepare me for what would happen (in terms of the cabin’s air pressure, etc.).

* In my final two years of high school, I was in four plays, including “The Boyfriend”… for which we had exhaustive tryouts. I had to sing two duets (which included solo passages). I was supposed to dance the soft-shoe, but a horse accident / painful injury bought me a waiver.

Several aspects of my Air Force hitch were pretty scary:

* Reporting [summer, 1970] to the massive regional induction center (New Orleans) for my pre-induction physical [picture a large roomful of mostly nekkid guys being “examined” – inside and outside – by a slew of doctors and medics. If you had any modesty, whatsoever, you were out of luck].

* Getting off the military bus (from the San Antonio Airport to Lackland AFB) and meeting my Basic Training Drill Instructor for the first time. [And wondering, “what the heck did I get myself into?”] January 1971

* Reporting [April 1971] for my first duty station (Cannon AFB NM), having no idea where I’d be working or what I’d be doing… other than what my ORDERS indicated, which was assignment to the 27th Tactical Fighter Wing Office of Information. [Turns out I worked on the base newspaper mostly, and later became editor of it.] We left southeast Louisiana in a 1958 Plymouth with almost all our worldly possessions in the trunk and back seat… very little cash, and not a single credit card.

* Boarding the final plane in a series of flights to report for my second duty station (remote Arctic tour at Thule Air Base in Northwest Greenland). [Looking out over the barren expanse of the Arctic, realizing that if things went haywire, there’s no way I could “walk away” from an isolated base surrounded by unforgiving frozen wilderness — and wondering, “what the heck did I get myself into?”]

Other jarring experiences were related to my Library career, including:

* My first day in LSU’s graduate library school (August 1976), after a mostly sleepless night, after throwing up all my supper. [I didn’t know a soul among the faculty or student body, had only recently decided NOT to enter NAVY OCS… and wondered, “what the heck did I get myself into?”]

* My first “group” job interview for the directorship of a small parish (county) library system in Central Louisiana (December 1977). [I faced five Board members and the president of the parish police jury… and I had almost no idea what they’d want to know about me.]

* Several examples of having to deal with problem patrons who were drunk / drugged / hostile / angry / menacing / clinically deranged, etc.

Several frightening experiences were related to family events, including:

* A child born breech, with a tangled cord, who was delivered successfully, but had to remain in the hospital for several days due to jaundice. [She was “treated” with a bilirubin light, whatever that is.]

* My wife’s surgery [1978]; another surgery (2007) in which the doctor called me and informed me that they “couldn’t get her out of anesthesia”; another surgery (2007) in which they prepped her but kept her for several hours “waiting on her blood pressure to come down” before they’d start operating.

[None of those family experiences involved any “bravery” on my part… it was more a matter of worry and prayer.]

Fighting Covid

The most frightened I’ve been (for my own well-being) was during two nights and parts of three days I was held in the Emergency Room because the local hospital had no available spaces in their covid ward. They had contacted 43 regional hospitals looking for a covid room, and I was terrified they were going to ship me away to a distant city. As it was, I was frightened / unsettled enough because they wouldn’t allow my wife to even see me… plus they didn’t feed me. Fortunately the second half of my stay (two more nights and parts of three days) I WAS in a covid room in that same hospital. There, they fed me.

When I Had to Face an Angry Nun

As I’ve listed these various life experiences, one which kept surfacing as a combination of fear AND bravery was the only one (of these examples) that I could have backed out of. In other words, it was actually a bit of bravery that I faced up to something I could have side-stepped.

It’s a complicated back story. Suffice it to know that I had written a humor column in the Grad School newsletter and this column poked “gentle” fun at each of the faculty, including the dean and assistant dean. The assistant dean was also a Dominican nun and I think I was a little bit afraid of her (anyway)… mainly because I’d had several Catholic friends who, growing up in parochial schools, had fallen victim to the dreaded “ruler smack on the knuckles” for various transgressions.

Anyway, my little “joke” about that particular faculty member was taken right out of the headlines. At that time, there was a bit of buzz about considerate boy scouts escorting “elderly” ladies (including nuns) across busy intersections in some large city. [I’ve forgotten the city or the reason it came to anyone’ attention.] Nevertheless, for the entry aimed at Sister Cairns – in this humor column – I stated something about the Sister escorting some scouts across a busy intersection. I thought it was funny — you know, like an unexpected role-reversal. But I definitely did NOT imagine it was offensive. I was wrong. The Sister was insulted and infuriated. And she blamed that entry (and the whole column) on a colleague / friend of mine. [I never quite understood how my colleague got blamed, but, anyway… the Sister was positive it was Lisa’s doings.]

When I learned that my friend was blamed for my ill-fated “joke” in the column, I knew I had to straighten the record with the Sister. To do so, I’d have to face her, inform her I had written the comment, and apologize profusely. Folks, if I had just been able to hold out my hands and take the ruler rap on my knuckles, I would have considered it an inexpensive penalty.

Anyway, I caught up with the Sister after one of her classes, and asked if I could speak with her privately. She agreed. I told her the column was not Lisa’s doings… that I had written it. I hurriedly explained that I’d meant no offense, but just considered it a bit of harmless humor. She quickly stopped me with wording that could have come from the Queen of England right before pronouncing a death sentence on a Court spy: “I was NOT amused in the slightest!”

I went on to apologize profusely and asked for her forgiveness. She provided not the slightest indication that she’d ever forgive me… and certainly NOT ever forget what I’d done — but I could already tell she was surprised and somewhat impressed that I’d faced the music and cleared my friend.

Interestingly, after that exchange, the Sister and I got along just fine. Obviously, I never made any further attempts at humor (concerning her) – though I continued the column and it was generally well received – and we never discussed that incident again.

One footnote, my friend Lisa was quite impressed that I’d cleared her by admitting my guilt to the Sister. In fact, Lisa commented something about how I’d exhibited “grace under pressure.” I was never sure what that actually meant – and I certainly did not feel the least bit “graceful” during my stressful apology to the Sister – but at least I stepped up and took my medicine. And I consider that to be an example of bravery.

My ”David & Goliath” encounter with the bully:

[JLS # 612]


About Jeff Salter

Currently writing romantic comedy, screwball comedy, and romantic suspense. Fourteen completed novels and four completed novellas. Working with three royalty publishers: Clean Reads, Dingbat Publishing, & TouchPoint Press/Romance. "Cowboy Out of Time" -- Apr. 2019 /// "Double Down Trouble" -- June 2018 /// "Not Easy Being Android" -- Feb. 2018 /// "Size Matters" -- Oct. 2016 /// "The Duchess of Earl" -- Jul. 2016 /// "Stuck on Cloud Eight" -- Nov. 2015 /// "Pleased to Meet Me" (novella) -- Oct. 2015 /// "One Simple Favor" (novella) -- May 2015 /// "The Ghostess & MISTER Muir" -- Oct. 2014 /// "Scratching the Seven-Month Itch" -- Sept. 2014 /// "Hid Wounded Reb" -- Aug. 2014 /// "Don't Bet On It" (novella) -- April 2014 /// "Curing the Uncommon Man-Cold -- Dec. 2013 /// "Echo Taps" (novella) -- June 2013 /// "Called To Arms Again" -- (a tribute to the greatest generation) -- May 2013 /// "Rescued By That New Guy in Town" -- Oct. 2012 /// "The Overnighter's Secrets" -- May 2012 /// Co-authored two non-fiction books about librarianship (with a royalty publisher), a chapter in another book, and an article in a specialty encyclopedia. Plus several library-related articles and reviews. Also published some 120 poems, about 150 bylined newspaper articles, and some 100 bylined photos. Worked about 30 years in librarianship. Formerly newspaper editor and photo-journalist. Decorated veteran of U.S. Air Force (including a remote ‘tour’ of duty in the Arctic … at Thule AB in N.W. Greenland). Married; father of two; grandfather of six.
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9 Responses to A List of Scary Experiences

  1. You are a very brave man!
    As for Sister Cairns, that was funny, although control-freaks never seem to have any humor.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jeff Salter says:

      She is the only nun that I’ve had any direct dealings with — as best I can recall — so I don’t have any other experiences to compare.
      But the Sister was a good administrator. I’m told she was also a good professor, though I never had a class with her since she specialized in school libraries and I was focused on PUBLIC libraries curriculum.


      • Nuns come in every type of person that you find in the general public, the good, the great, the bad, and the ugly, and generally a mix of more than one. Few are walking saints, few are demons. They are very human, with the good and the bad of being so.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. All of these moments that you mentioned were moments of bravery of one form or another. Those moments where you had no choice you could have faced them differently but you decided to face them head on (even when facing those situations with worry and pray) which requires some bravery. I understand the worry that comes when a loved one is having surgery and things go a little wrong. Every time Wyatt has had surgery he’s had problems but the last set of scopes he had done he ended up on oxygen, every time they removed the mask his levels would drop and they’d quickly put the oxygen back.
    Did they at least tell you that they hadn’t taken your wife down to surgery and were waiting or did they make you wait that entire time thinking she was in surgery?
    I like the story about the nun. Taking responsibility for that joke was brave.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jeff Salter says:

      As far as that delayed surgery: my memory is foggy now, but I think we got an update (that they hadn’t begun yet, because of her B.P.). But I think we spent most of those long hours just waiting and not knowing if they’d started or not.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Not being able to do anything when a loved one is sick or in surgery takes a lot of bravery. It’s then that our faith and trust in God is really put to the test.

    As far as the scariest thing I’ve ever had happen or gone through, Hurricane Ivan, while living alone in an old house in Pensacola, is it for me.

    Through the entire night, I was alone with only two dogs and a cat, hunkered down in a hallway with all the doors shut around us while the winds howled. All I could hear was crashes, banging, and the wind. Through most of the night, when I wasn’t catching a few minutes of sleep (very few), I was praying.

    Then looking out at the devastation when the daylight came and winds died down, and wondering if my daughter, granddaughters, and their pets a few miles away were okay was another fear.

    Another scary moment was driving through what reminded me of a mouse maze to get to my daughter’s house because the phones, electricity, and everything else were out. (She was, btw) I dodged downed power cables and debris in the road (and still flying across the road, as the winds were still blowing), and carefully went through areas with water across the road and intersections.

    Thank God He watches over us. Mine was one of two houses in our subdivision without roof damage. The only thing damaged was my carport. Part of it was gone and part rested on top of my car. The car was fine except for one dent.

    When I mentioned losing my carport, my elderly neighbor (Mr. Dabbs) said, “You didn’t lose it. It was just spread all over the neighborhood. LOL He was quite the character. He and his wife had the other house with no roof damage.

    It will be fine with me if I never go through that again. For us, Hurricane Harvey, here in Houston, was nothing to compare to Ivan, although I’m sure others here would disagree. We live on high ground and had no flooding, although the water did come half way up our driveway and the street looked like a river.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jeff Salter says:

      Going through a hurricane’s direct impact is surely among the highest on the scale of terrifying experiences. Praise the Lord that y’all came out without more serious damage.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Elaine Cantrell says:

    I think the bravest thing you did was confess to the Sister. You did so even though you had no idea what revenge she might take. As far as scary goes, I think the surgeries would have been super scary.

    Liked by 1 person

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