Fearless. Or Not.

Monsters. Things that go bump in the night. That chin whisker that grew six inches overnight. AAAAAAH! Pretty scary stuff as far as I am concerned. Mu ha ha ha!!

So you guessed it. This is a post about fear, and what with Halloweeny around the corner, what better time for some stuff about being scared?

Now for some, fear is merely just fun. An adrenaline rush that leaves them as quickly as it comes. They would be the ones who bungee jump and scale tall mountains. And watch movies like The Exorcist, The Omen and the Blair Witch Project. Or my friend Jane’s scary movie.

Then there are others for whom fear can be an incapacitating thing. That saying “scared stiff”, well it was said for a reason. For these people, fear makes them stop in their tracks. And let me tell you from experience, sometimes, even though you are scared, you shouldn’t stop.

Last spring I found out that I was scared of bridges. Unfortunately it was when I was about to drive across one.

On our way home from Gettysburg and Antietam over spring break, I was driving through Maryland and Delaware and I saw the signs for the Delaware River Water Gap and Memorial Bridge. I was going on my merry way, my husband reading beside me and the kids all snug in their seats behind me. But then, when I saw in the distance, the top of the bridge, I started to panic. Like sweating, nausea, that kind of thing. But the shoulder had already narrowed to two lanes and there was nowhere to pull over.

I grabbed the steering wheel as tightly as I could and then blurted out to my husband “I don’t think I can do this” as I proceeded to slow to about 35 miles per hour.

I will always remember his response. “Get us the hell over this bridge!” he yelled as kindly as a husband whose wife was having a panic attack while driving his family over a bridge could. It was a mental slap in the face, a la Cher to Nicholas Cage in Moonstruck.

And believe me, I needed that.

So I did what he said. I put on some mental tunnel vision and only looked forward and tried to beat my fear of this two lane bridge that just seemed to climb higher into the sky as it spanned the Delaware River, the very river I was sure to drive myself and my family into. My shoulders were tense, my hands were cramping over the steering wheel and I could faintly hear my son in the back seat asking if I was okay.

I wasn’t and I couldn’t answer him. My fear had paralyzed nearly every inch of me except for my foot on the gas pedal and a little itty bit of my brain that screamed Snap Out Of It You Ass, You’ll Kill Us All!

Anyway, I obviously didn’t drive off the bridge. I made it to the other side with my family in tact. But my psyche surely was not.

When the hell did that fear spring up?

I remember the things I was afraid of as a kid. Losing my parents topped the list. Ghosts, scary movies and thunderstorms rounded out the rest. That was about it.

Heights didn’t bother me. I went up to the top of the CN Tower in Toronto and thought it was the coolest thing ever. Then the edge of Niagara Falls coming home from Canada was also the coolest thing ever. Bridges certainly didn’t bother me. Crossing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel during the trip we took as a family to Florida was awesome.

But then when I was in my early 20s, I took a quick overnight trip to Seattle for work and since I had time to kill before a return flight home, I decided to check out the Space Needle. And then, as the elevator was going up, I started to sweat. I found that I couldn’t look to the edge once I got to the top. My legs felt like Jell-O and I wanted to crouch in a corner until someone saved me. Holy Crap, I was afraid of heights! Get me down!!! I am not sure I actually yelled that, but I sure thought it.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that a new fear (or hell, call it what it is: phobia) could pop up now that I am getting old.

When I got home from my experience over the spring in Delaware, I googled  “fear of bridges” and found out that there are a lot of people out there just like me. So much so that some bridges even offer a service where someone drives your scaredy cat ass (and car) across the big bad bridge. I wonder if they make fun of you when they’ve deposited you on the other side. That would be scary.

Maybe one day I will use the service. I am not sure how to overcome my fear of driving across a big bridge without actually driving across one. Some smaller bridges I can do. Go figure. But I certainly wouldn’t want to have that panic again, for the sake of other drivers out there. I guess I will stick to being a passenger when it comes to a big, scary, death-defying bridge.

There is not nothing to fear but fear itself. Hell no! There is a huge and scary bridge that spans cold water!

Anyway, that’s my scary story for Halloween. It may not include monsters, things that go bump in the night or even six-inch chin hairs.

But hey, what about you? What are you most afraid of?

3 thoughts on “Fearless. Or Not.

  1. Hi Maria! Thank you for your story. I laughed out loud in the doctor’s waiting room! I can totally relate–I have a fear of heights since forever! Skiing is quite challenging due to the chair lifts. But the worst was when I took Julia to see Disney on Ice in Hartford. I bought the tickets from a friend who didn’t need hers. When we arrived, I couldn’t even get to our seats from the platform. Too high and steep. Will was completely annoyed that we dragged Julia and her friend (ie him) to Hartford, and “why the heck didn’t I check the seats before we left.” But apparently I am not alone because I went to the concierge who let us go down as low as I needed. Of course, I didn’t want to be greedy, so we took seats just beoynd my comfort level. So I kind of crouched behind our row of seats until I could sit in the seats. Julia still mentions that it is important to overcome our fears! Next time we go, we are buying the floor seats! And I won’t even tell you about my experience at the top of the World Trade Centers!

  2. Re – I had a friend call me once to tell me she needed me to meet her and drive her across a big big bridge…I had to literally talk her out of a panic attack and talk her all the way across…
    Next time, I’ll drive you!

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