When I was a kid, the house we lived in had 2 distinct sides to the basement, split by the staircase. One side was the Finished Basement, which was brightly-lit, carpeted, and had a fireplace, was neatly wainscoted and wallpapered, and contained all of the many toys. On the other side was the Unfinished Basement, with cracked cement floors, exposed ceiling, and exposed light bulbs. My dad's tools were there, and the washing machine, and all sorts of scary things.
Somehow, someone told me about lockjaw, and someone told me that I would definitely get it if I stepped on a rusty nail. This was absolutely terrifying to little me. I was quite sure, every time I ventured over to the lawless Unfinished Basement, that a rusty nail would puncture my foot--the Unfinished Basement was like a minefield of rusty nails, in my mind--and my jaw would immediately clamp tightly shut. My parents would ask me what was wrong--why wasn't I talking or eating or drinking?--but I would be unable to tell them! I would slowly starve to death as my bewildered parents stood by wondering what was wrong with me!
Clearly, little me wasn't thinking about alternative methods of communication, like writing notes on paper with a pencil, or playing charades. Nope, lockjaw was a one-way ticket to a slow, painful death. I would have to say that, since then, even in spite of learning that tetanus is caused by bacteria, I have always taken a wider-than-necessary path around objects of a sharp, metal, and rusty nature.
(Come to think of it, this may also have contributed to my brief fear of being buried alive. "Well, it's very sad he's dead," they'd say, "but we'd better bury him." My muscles locked, I would be unable to protest!)
Not that tetanus is a trivial matter, but a story about my nephew also reminded me of my out-of-proportion fears. Apparently he was out hiking with my dad, and my dad spotted some poison ivy up ahead. "Be careful to stay in the middle of the trail," my dad said, "so that you don't touch the poison ivy."
Lennox apparently halted immediately before he proceeded extremely slowly and cautiously. In fact, my dad noticed, his eyes were wide and his teeth were chattering. "What's wrong, Lennox, are you cold?" my dad asked him.
Finally, he asked, "Grandpa, will the poison ivy kill me?"
It's probably a good thing that 6-year-olds think that poison means instant death, but it can have unintended consequences.