Bridges-You Know I Hate ‘Em

9247350_sBridges.  Do you like them?  Yes, I know, they stand as architectural marvels, but if it were left to me, I’d rather scull my way from shore to shore.  Or, what about a ferry?  Have you ever heard of a little thing called Gephyrophobia?  No?  What is it you ask? Simple – it’s known as a fear of bridges.  Well, not so simple.  Combine that with Acrophobia (fear of heights), and you’ve got a mix right up there with a ticking time bomb, or a block of C4 waiting for detonation.  Bear with me, while I explain the symptoms – sweaty hands, a pins and needles sensation streaming up and down the legs, stomach on a course between nausea and butterflies, light-headedness, difficulty breathing, and a racing heart.  Although you want to speed across, your foot can’t seem to move the accelerator to a speed past 40 mph.  It’s not the fear of falling, it’s the fact that you’re hundreds of feet in the air, and there is no other way to the opposite side.  When did this begin for me? I think when my parents drove me over one of the scariest bridges ever.  The William Preston Lane, Jr. Memorial Bridge (Bay Bridge), which sits off Route 50/301 in Maryland.  If you wanted to get to Virginia back in the day, you had no other choice.

Usually, we plan our road trips so that when it’s my turn to drive, it’s either way before, or after we’ve crossed that dreaded Delaware Memorial Bridge.  The one where you get on in Delaware, and by the time you get to the other shore, you’re in the state of New Jersey.  When I had to travel back and forth to my mothers before she passed away, I had to make my way across that Varina-Enon Bridge on 295S, which takes you to I95, and usually, on my own.  But, you see, what does it for me is the height.  Now, the James River Bridge, which is 4 1/2 miles long, doesn’t bother me as much, because it’s low to the water.  The causeway that is a part of I64 east doesn’t bother me; again, it’s close to the water.  My husband knows, and if he catches me tensing as we come on any big bridge, he always assures me, “I know, just give me a chance to get around these cars, and I’ll get in the middle.”  Are you laughing yet?  Just remember, everyone has one type of fear or another, don’t they?

I’m certain you already know where this is going, right?  That’s right- all the talk and the goings on over the now, third bridge mishap we’ve had.  If you begin on August 1, 2007, there have been three.  On that date a portion of the Mississippi River Bridge in Minneapolis, Minnesota fell to the ground taking cars and passengers with it.  Now, here we are, six years later, and on May 23rd a tractor-trailer hit the Skagit River Bridge in Washington State, causing it to plummet in to the river.  This left us shaking our heads.  But then, two days later another accident – one that upended yet, one more bridge.  Of course, we know this last incident had nothing to do with any type of disrepair, but it did take vehicles and passengers in those cars down as well.  Over the past few days, I’ve heard cable news anchors discuss the issue, and one, talked about her grandmother who has a fear of bridges.  While yet a second anchor shared that he, without hesitation, would give up crossing certain bridges.  That’s a strong statement since, its public knowledge many of the news people who work in Manhattan live in New Jersey.  When you go in to the city, you go by bridge, or tunnel, there is no other way.  I believe all of these recent events have left people all across the country talking and worrying about America’s infrastructure.

I came in the house one day, and hubbie watched a special on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel.  One of the workers walked on the extreme top of one of those spans as he checked for problems.  Yes, he did have himself securely tethered, but “head for heights,” or not, I’m simply writing about it, and I have that “pins & needles” sensation traveling up my legs.

Did you know there are 66,749 structurally deficient bridges and 84,748 functionally obsolete ones in this country?  That is, according to the Federal Highway Administration.  The total bridge count nationally is estimated at 607,000, which put the count needing repair at around one-quarter.  As a child, I always thought the country could just print more money for whatever it needed.  But, that is a child’s mind.  Not to put a bad spin on anything, or invoke fear, but after listening to the experts who have fine combed the reports and figures, it’s a pretty grime picture.  I believe one could pick a person in any state, and they could tell you of one particular viaduct that needed work, and I’ve known for some time that many in New York are in desperate need of refurbishing.

If you ask me, it all sounds like a bad science fiction novel where all the viaducts fall, and each area that is cut off has to become its own state, or division.  Or, we’d simply have to revert to a time when everything and everyone had to come and go via boat.  And, like I said that would be fine with me. My bridge phobia is way less than my fear of heights.  I know this, because I have driven, and made it across; slowly, but I made it.  But now, that irrational fear has become more of a reality.  When you mix those two – knowing a structure can actually come crashing down – where does that put someone with a severe case?  Please, tell me what you think.

Image courtesy of 123rf.com

Information courtesy of NBC News.com, Travel & Leisure.com, Philly Roads.com & Roads To The Future.com

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The Not So Friendly Skies

On Friday of last week, I watched an episode of 20/20, entitled Just Plane Crazy.  I’m certain we’re all aware the one time friendly skies on any occasion nowadays, can  become the sinister, other worldly skies.  Way back in the day, and as ABC television has portrayed with their new show Pan Am, becoming a Stewardess (what they were called at the time), almost held the same recognition as a rock or movie star.  And, the Captain certainly possessed an ethereal mystique.  I myself remember once in my life having a desire to become one of these airline jewels.  Why didn’t I? Who could wait five years to even get an appointment.  As I watched 20/20, my husband and I sat amazed at how the rules have definitely, and so harshly changed – only being paid for on hours and even then, a minimal amount? Yes, the industry is certainly different.

Who remembers Steven Slater, the male flight attendant back in 2010 having a meltdown, and his antics being posted on You Tube?  He advises, in this age they can make as little as $9,700.00 a year.  What! Added to the stress of today’s pace, the agitated and unpredictable passenger; the one who has been poked and prodded one too many times at the gate, mixed with that extra Bloody Mary has all made the attendant question his/her desire to maintain that job.  I mean only a few weeks ago, we all watched in amazement as a Captain, yes CAPTAIN, lost his cool and found himself in a Hannibal Lecter type chair, being removed from his flight.  Then, some time before that a plane had to make an unscheduled stop to have two sisters on their way to a fashion show in Asia wrangled off.  This incident also tied itself to having more alcohol than needed.  It is a very good thing that the punishment for such outrageous behavior has now been elevated to the Federal level.

One attendant interviewed confessed, she could spot a trouble maker right away; they are usually the ones  highly agitated and flinging complaints as they come through the airplane door.  I myself am a horrible flyer.  The inter-island service in Hawaii runs back and forth like the M6 bus in Manhattan – no assigned seating – it operates on a first come basis.  I remember an extremely confusing and tense flight from Oahu to Maui, because  my husband decided to plop us down in seats at the Emergency exit.  The entire experience sent me into a mini-tirade; this is what my fear does.  So, let’s say I’m dealing with this, and then out of nowhere he has to assist in subduing some out of control person threatening everyone’s safety.  And, as if all of this were not enough, what is up with the Transportation Security Administration searching babies, the disabled, and grandmothers.  They make us all want to write the Fourth Amendment message on our chests in protest.  Aah, for the old days, huh?

Way back when, the friendly skies really were hospitable; a loved one could walk you to the gate or stand outside as the airplane taxied and took off.  In fact, in my mind, I remember only yesterday when that same loved one could hang out there and watch that flight until the contrails were the only visible thing left.  What has happened to that America?  If you’re old enough to recall that time, then like myself, you miss it as well.  As you sat on board, you only had arriving at your destination on your mind; maybe getting to your business meeting or beginning that vacation.  Not to point this out, but shoe bombers, captains and attendants having meltdowns, absolutely never entered anyone’s mind.  I have so many places left on my Bucket List, and I simply refuse to develop my mother’s philosophy – if I can’t drive there or take a bus and train – then, I refuse to go.  Who is with me on this?

Photo courtesy of iStockPhoto