Wednesday, January 7, 2009

To hell with love- Valium can build a bridge

I hate bridges. I especially hate the metal bridges, with metal bottoms, that make the "whump whump whump" noise when driven over and have the metal arch over it. I hate bridges that do NOT look sturdy. I hate bridges that are looooong. I hate bridges that have low sides and I can see the water below. I hate bridges that appear to go up hill so tall boats, barges and ships may pass underneath. I hate when all these things are combined together in one bridge crossing experience.

For someone who loves the water as much as I do, I realize it does seem strange to hate bridges. But they scare me. I grew up in a town with a river running smack down the middle of it and I can cross 2 of the three bridges in this town without pause, probably because I've done it all my life, they are short, the fall isn't far, the sides are high and I can't see the water, and they are made of cement and look just like a road- I can fool myself into believing it's just plain old road. even when I travel as a passenger, I shut my eyes and breathe until I'm over the bridges. I just think happy thoughts and don't look. I usually avoid places which have huge, scary bridges that sway, rattle and clank. But...

Which leads me to crossing the bridges on the way home from the Wild West to here in Civilization... Before I left, I knew where I was going to be crossing the Mississippi River, so I googled it. I looked up information and learned about the bridge and I even managed to see pictures. I knew I would be fine because it looked like just a regular, old road, all cement and high sides. I was prepped and I gave myself a pep talk. And after all the snow and wind and the blizzard, it didn't seem like such a big deal. Smooth sailing, I say. It was not a big deal and I just didn't think about it. I just though "road, road, road" and over I went with all the other cars.

However. Because I had to change my plans and divert myself 140 miles out of the way... I had forgotten about the Illinois River. That fucking HUGE river, in some spots..., in a spot where, incidentally I had to cross. And had not prepped for. had not researched.

Who just sticks a river in the way of a person without warning? Like Illinois really needs to boast a river that large? I mean, really? And hasn't that state heard of engineers who could get rid of those metal, antiquated bridges that heave and ho and shudder and groan when 5 million cars are zooming over them at warp speed??????

So, I've just driven in a blizzard for 2 days and I want to come home. I'm stressed and tense enough as it is that I'm finally out of snow and in the flow of rush hour traffic, 6 lanes of flowing traffic mind you, with no exits or no place to stop, pulling a U-Haul, going at Indy 500 speeds when suddenly, in front of me, is a bridge. A huge metal one. That arches up high so BIG boats can go underneath. The kind that shudders and shimmies and shakes and scares me. The kind I avoid at all costs. I would have lived in Iowa before I would have crossed that damn river if I would've known. I would've gone another 140 miles out of my way to not drive over a tall, shaky metal suspension bridge of death had I known. But what could I do?

There was no exit. There was traffic everywhere- 6 lanes. I had to keep going, I couldn't just stop, though I did hit my brakes and slow down and horns sounded all around me. So, I just kept going.

BUT, I shut one eye and I kept saying over and over again, "Don't shut your eyes. Don't shut your eyes. Don't shut your eyes" because the other one wanted to slam shut- all I wanted to do was close my eyes because it was scary. It was like a Pavlovian response- Maggie+ bridges= eyes shut so on top of the bridge fear, I was terrified I was going to close my eyes and drive off the edge and take others with me! I was gripping the steering wheel like a life preserver, hyperventilating, with tears rolling out of my one open eye. Do you *GET* how much I hate bridges? I was sweating and shaking, crying and self blinded because I shut ONE eye, pulling a U-Haul over an ice covered bridge of death, somewhere in fucking Iowa, going 55 mph with the flow of traffic, in a middle lane with no escape route. Can you just get a mental picture? Yeah...

Okay, so I made it across in one piece and I didn't shut my other eye. I didn't die a tragic death in Iowa (OMG that is redundant, if I do say so myself)- and I wasn't even wearing my tiara. If my cold, dead body washed up on the shore, I was sans crown and I was wearing ugly shoes! I knew it wasn't my day to die... I did exit at the first exit I came to, and had to sit for a spell until my heart resumed beating and I could breath again. I wiped the snot from my face and walked around. I went to pee. I felt better. But I seriously think the state of Iowa should do a better job of warning people that there's a huge river and a bridge of death to cross if you want out of the state alive- please Iowa, put this in your tourist literature!

And what made me think of the Bridge of Death in Iowa experience because it sounded like I should have blocked it from my subconscious after rocking in the fetal position, buying new shoes and drinking a calming Starbucks Venti Peppermint Mocha latte? Well... it was my driving test. Yes, friends, the driving test reminded me of this horrifying adventure. I should sue the BMV for PBSD (Post Bridge Stress Disorder).

One of the questions on the test, and she wouldn't give me the test so I can't copy it word for word so I'm paraphrasing here, said something like:

If your car plummets off a bridge and into the murky depths below, what do you do?
a) Use your cell phone and call for help
b) try to escape immediately
c) wait for the car to be completely covered with water, enveloping your car and soul, it will pressurize and then you can pry the window or door open and swim for help if you can take a deep enough breath
d) all of the above

And this is yet another reason I need therapy,


Farrago said...

Wait... "Shit your pants on the way down" wasn't one of the possible answers?

And that's a bogus question. Driver's safety no longer applies AFTER you've plummeted off the bridge. Whether or not you know what to do in a car bobbing in a body of water shouldn't apply to you getting your driver's license. If you find yourself IN that car bobbing in a body of water, perhaps you should never have gotten your driver's license in the first place!

And maybe next time you find yourself on one of those bridges (which "shake and rattle" for a real, good, safe reason, by the way), just look at the other cars and see how effortlessly they're driving. Or focus on the license plate of the car in front of you. It's tunnel vision, and sorta like closing your eyes, if only to everything else around you.

Maggie said...

Farrago- thanks for the advice. And yes, I do know they shake and rattle for a reason.

Anonymous said...

I never minded bridges until recently. It's interstates and driving in the rain that cause me panic attacks. I was going to the beach Monday morning and it was somewhat foggy at my house. When I got to the bridge the fog was sooo thick it was spooky. Now I know what zero visability is. It's a two lane, 1 mile bridge. I was very happy that everyone was going slow.