My daughter posted on Tik Tok the other day about her lack of belief in people who react strongly when surprised. She said any jumpiness she has is because of me, her mother, and MY jumpiness. She says people can look me in the eye and say “Boo” and I will jump. This, of course, is not quite accurate, but I was startled enough by her post to decide to address it.
While it’s true that I am a little jumpy, I take issue with the fact that someone who looks me in the eye and says “Boo” can make me jump. This is not true. They do not have to go through the effort to look me in the eye. Just say “Boo” from anywhere in a 20-foot radius and I will hit the sky.
I know that I’ve always been like this and I also know that people tend to use someone else’s jumpiness to entertain themselves. My husband and I had not been married very long when he discovered that I was a very jumpy individual. He exploited this in a way that he somehow instinctively knew he could get away with then. He was a new bridegroom. I was too much in love to kill him so early on.
So, he would come into the bathroom during my peaceful showers and throw a cup of water on me. He soon discovered that it didn’t have to be cold (although he preferred that), just any cup of water would cause me to jump a foot off the shower floor and shriek.
He also found that hiding around corners and barking like a dog (we didn’t have a dog then) would cause the desired jumpy reaction. He continued that until one day, he tried to bark at me and discovered that it was his mother coming around the corner. My mother-in-law is a very mild woman and that is the only time I heard her give him the “I brought you into this world and I can take you out” speech. It ended the barking.
Over the years he has learned that only a new bridegroom gets away with scaring his wife and things for us have settled down. Not so with others.
I once whacked my boss in the face for appearing in a doorway where I was not expecting him. He wasn’t terribly pleased, but it seems his wife was also a jumpy person, so he understood. My children liked to wait for me in unusual places: in the bushes, in large containers, in cupboards and then, when I actually registered that they were there, they would say “Hi” or something and I would throw whatever I was holding into the air, emitting the requisite scream.
Being jumpy for a teacher can be even worse. Students will leap into the room or bang on the side of the door, or sneak up behind me and they get the hoped-for response. Some have been hit or lambasted with books or papers, but that does not seem to slow them down. I recently had a new administrator tap me on the shoulder from behind and he received a fist to his shoulder for his trouble.
My jumpiness when people are around is nothing compared to my reactions when I am working late in the school building. It’s dark through most of the building and even my desperate singing to the radio does not alleviate all of my jumpiness.
The worst reaction ever was when I was ready to turn off the lights in my room and head for home. As soon as I doused the lights, I became aware that someone was crouching on the floor; I could feel their presence on my leg. I reacted instantly: I screamed and kicked that person soundly, even following them as they tried to get away. Then, I hit the wall light switch and discovered that I had very ably drop-kicked my large trash can across the room. Serves it right. Never rub up against a jumpy woman in the dark. That trash can has learned its lesson and now does its best to stand over in the corner, making itself small whenever I walk by! Sometimes it pays to be jumpy!