The New York Times chronicles the frightening encounters of today’s typical urban wussies with THE COUNTRY.
When Evan Gotlib and his fiancÃ©e, Lindsey Pollack, bought a three-bedroom cottage surrounded by pine trees in rural Sharon, Conn., they couldnâ€™t wait to flee their cramped Manhattan studio on weekends to spend their days dozing in a hammock and barbecuing on their brand new 42,000 B.T.U., 60-burger-capacity Weber grill.
But being city people, they did what anyone looking to â€œget away from it allâ€ would do first, before they even spent the night: they paid $3,000 for a home-security system complete with motion detectors, a one-touch intercom that connects to fire and police dispatchers and an emergency hand-held remote-control device they could leave on the bedside table at night. â€œI know it sounds ridiculous now that I talk about it, but I just feel safer sleeping with the remote control,â€ Mr. Gotlib, a 32-year-old corporate sales director for Time Inc. Media Group, confessed, â€œbecause those deer are aggressive.â€
For many urban sophisticates who trade the big cityâ€™s drunken crowds, blaring sirens and claustrophobic living spaces for bucolic second homes on weekends, the very solitude of mountains and forests that drew them in the first place can turn into a nerve-jangling â€” and sometimes costly â€” source of anxiety. As much as they adore their country houses, these harried homebodies quail at the thought of stepping out into the pitch-black night or meeting some wild animal or armed local in the woods.
Often their attempts at assuaging those fears are met with disbelief and ridicule from their more well-adjusted family members and friends.
â€œNew York thinking applied to nature equals paranoia,â€ said Augusten Burroughs, the author of the memoir â€œRunning with Scissors,â€ from his country house on the outskirts of Amherst, Mass., which he and his partner, Dennis Pilsits, built three years ago. Since then, Mr. Burroughs, 42, has poured several book advances into what he calls his â€œprison in the treesâ€ in an effort to defend his rustic outpost â€œfrom nature in all its malicious glory.â€ This includes installing an $8,000 lightning protection system and spending $2,000 on various military-grade â€œtactical illumination devicesâ€ â€” flashlights â€” and even a pair of night-vision goggles, thanks to some terrifying encounters with nocturnal neighbors.
Late one recent night, Mr. Burroughs had gone out to check the mailbox when he saw two green, glittering eyes, triangular ears â€œand the general impression of heightâ€ in the shadows. When the creature began to walk toward him, Mr. Burroughs ran into the garage, fearing for his life. â€œOur skinny, gym-polished urban bodies are no match for anything that scratches its back on a tree,â€ he said. â€œWhatever it was, it was both curious and unafraid â€” two traits one does not admire in wildlife when one is alone in the dark.â€..
That hyper-vigilance is a normal reaction to the fear induced by the darkness and silence of the country, said Dr. Julie Holland, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the New York University School of Medicine, who owns a weekend home in Pawling, N.Y. â€œIn the city, the street lights are on at 3 in the morning, and you have this sense that if you call the police or the front desk of your luxury high-rise someone will help you,â€ she said. â€œThere is something inherently unnatural and vulnerable about humans being in social isolation, because out there no one can hear you scream.â€
It took Dr. Holland and her husband, Jeremy Wolff, a photographer, a while to get over that anxiety. Even so, encounters with armed hunters are always unsettling, even for a seasoned second-home owner. After disturbing a camouflaged fellow in a tree during a family hike last autumn, Mr. Wolf wrote a letter to the hunting club that leases the land beside his, asking members to â€œplease make sure your bullets donâ€™t cross my property lines.â€
And then there was the time he came across a shooting range on his neighborâ€™s land. So does Mr. Wolff, 48, think there is a difference between himself and the people who live in the country full time?
â€œI feel Iâ€™m more of an intellectual artist and theyâ€™re kind of machine people,â€ he said. â€œEveryone has their own backhoe up there, and their kids have A.T.V.â€™s and motorboats. And they all have guns, which scares me.â€
Read the whole thing, and laugh.
Hat tip to Steve Bodio.