I admit I’m afraid of most everything, snakes, spiders, ticks and Costco. I think about the stacked up merchandise falling down on my head during an earthquake. Besides earthquakes, heights and deep water rank at the top of my fright list. Since bridges are often high and have water flowing underneath them, I’m not fond of driving over them. Perhaps jumping rope in childhood scarred my psyche. Remember the insidious jump roping ditty, “London Bridge is falling down?”
Some psychologists claim the way to overcome your fears is to repeatedly do the thing you’re most afraid of. My experiences with crossing bridges have only increased my paranoia.
For example, my car’s engine blew up in the middle of Portland, Oregon’s highest bridge. I had forgotten my cell phone, but anyway, I hear they emit dangerous rays. I was forced to walk on a teensy-weensy sidewalk with only a flimsy railing between me and the Willamette River. The bridge shook as cars and trucks whizzed past me. My heart beat a crazy rhumba beat and my body did the chicken dance. I focused on the end of the bridge. “You can make it,” I told myself in between praying and doing deep breathing Lamaze exercises.
Did this event prepare me for my next hair-raising bridge confrontation? Hardly. I found out even lower bridges can be hazardous. For starters, I was driving an unfamiliar company truck with a stick shift. For fortification, I’d picked up a Starbuck’s espresso. The health jury was touting the benefits of coffee that week. As I drove over the Glen Jackson Bridge, the coffee made a return trip into my throat coupled with stomach acid.
I stayed in the slow lane and had almost made it without incident to the Oregon side. Bam! A ladder jumped off the truck in front of me and slid toward the front of my car. “No,” I yelled. I slammed on my brakes and jerked the wheel toward the shoulder and onto the side of the bridge. In a split second, I pictured the truck driving up over the side, hanging for a heart stopping moment on top, tipping over the edge and soaring down to plunge into the depths of the Columbia River. Thankfully, my nightmarish vision didn’t happen, since I’m still here to write this account.
However, shortly thereafter, a woman’s car was forcibly hit from behind on this bridge and catapulted over the side into the deep water. Unlike me, she knew how to swim and she was fished out safely. As a result, the concrete barriers were raised to prevent a recurrence. Do I feel more secure knowing about this improvement? Not really.
Terror even intrudes on our supposedly relaxing vacations. Many tourist spots entail crossing high bridges from here to eternity, like The San-Diego Coronado Bridge, the Straits of Mackinac Bridge or the Astoria Bridge.
My bridge encounter of a third kind ruined one of these vacations. We reached the multi-lane San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge during rush hour. We crept along in the outside lane. Somewhere behind us, an impatient driver crashed into the car ahead of him causing a domino effect through the line of cars. The truck in back of us smashed into the back of our car, rendering it undrivable. All of us had injuries. My husband, children and I were cut, bruised and sore. For me, that wasn’t the worst part. We stood on this long, high bridge waiting in a cold, brisk wind for the police to arrive. I comforted my children as best I could. Two officers finally showed up.
First thing, one of the officers said, “Good thing you didn’t go over the edge, the water’s freezing cold and there’s sharks down there.”
We spent close to an hour on that bridge. We were patched up in ER before we were hauled to a nearby hotel where everyone slept poorly. Our car was totaled, so the remainder of our vacation was spent calling insurance companies, getting a different vehicle and being seen by doctors.
Many bridges are uniquely designed and beautiful to behold, but as far as I’m concerned they are mostly, “A Bridge Too Far.”