Sandie Maxa

You'll notice that there is not an image accompanying this article. Because my fear of snakes is so bad, I can't even look at a picture of a leg-less reptile without hyperventilating. A few years ago, I cavalierly opened The Big Pop-Up Book of Phobias at a bookstore and when the inevitable snake popped up (as promised in the title) I dropped the book and ran screaming for the door, much to the embarrassment of my companion.

Ophidiophobia started when I was a child but the condition has been aggravated throughout my life by "News of the Weird" type stories in the media. You know... Like the man who rented a car only to find a snake slithering out from under his seat while driving 55 miles an hour. Or the man who let 5 deadly snakes loose in a bank in an effort to regain his repossessed car. OK. I know I only provided a link for the first instance, but they are both true!

My husband has invented a game called "Presidential Initiative" which calls on a player to name one country-wide public policy initiative he or she would push through Congress if elected president. Based on news stories detailing the exploits of escaped snakes, mine would be to BAN ALL PET SNAKES. I mean really... pet snakes seem more likely than not to escape from their tanks. And when they are discovered, they succeed in terrorizing the public.

This proposed ban would also eliminate the appearance of pet snakes in public places -- a relief being that the most traumatic moments I've experienced as a resident of New York City have involved snakes. Riding home from the Bronx at 2am after a late Yankees game. No problem... Finding my way down a dark staircase during the 2003 blackout. No problem... My most terrifying moment in New York was at Lucky Cheng's, a happenin' little bar in the East Village.

Three of us walked into (Un) Lucky Cheng's after dinner for a celebratory drink. We had just helped a friend move into a new apartment and we were feeling tired but happy. After getting drinks at the bar we decided to check out the DJ in the adjacent room. But something didn't feel right. Behind the turntables was a very large python hanging around the neck of the DJ. I felt my friend's fingers slowly digging into my palm and then a strong arm came around my shoulder and started slowly turning me back toward the entrance. I took a few steps, but the hallway between the two rooms was narrow. I was pressed against the wall while other patrons passed between the bar area and the dance floor. I closed my eyes but opened them just in time to see Crazy DJ with Super Scary Snake pass inches from my face on his way to the bar.

Short of breath and too paralyzed to move, I was being told in a slow, calm voice that we were leaving. And none too soon.