keep calm and carry on

21 Feb

The first time I drove over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, I was on my way to Ocean City, Maryland, to meet up with Scalzo and her cousin, a superb young girl upon whom I would bestow the nickname “Little Dancer.” (Real name: Meredith.) (Don’t ask.) (I can’t explain why I call people the names I do.) (Well, I could, it’s just a long, complicated process how it all comes about.) (And it’s really not interesting unless you’re there for the nickname christening.) (Which, unless you are Scalzo or Little Dancer, you weren’t.) (Okay, I’ll stop with the parentheses now.)

I’m not much of a bridge person and that first trip driving across the 4-mile expanse, suspended high above the Chesapeake Bay, consisted of me staring very intently ahead, gripping the steering wheel, going approximately two miles and hour and muttering “just keep swimming” to myself like goddamned Dory from Finding Nemo while simultaneously trying to remember the exercises my years-ago therapist taught me for staving off panic attacks.

Whatever works.

Subsequent trips across the bridge got better—leaving Ocean City that same weekend I found that if I stuck to the middle lane on the Westbound bridge I could actually breathe somewhat normally while driving over the bay. (The eastbound bridge only had two lanes.) And besides, getting over the bridge was necessary to get to the outlets. (Outlets + coupons = new spring summer wardrobe, my bitches! BRIDGE BE DAMNED!) It was like flying, really: It’s not my favorite, but it’s necessary to get to where I want to go.

My mother—from whom I apparently get my nervousness of bridges, according to my dad, as he claims there are still claw marks on his arm from when they drove over the Coronado bridge years ago—suggested that I just close my eyes when going over the bridge, because that’s what she does.

“Well, yes, that’s a good idea, but I was driving, Mom. That probably wouldn’t have worked out so well,” I replied after I told her about my bridge travails on that first trip to the shore.

“Oh. Well I guess not,” she responded thoughtfully.

The other weekend when we went to Delaware I was, for the first time, a passenger going across the bridge rather than the driver. I’m not sure if this was better or worse, but at least going eastbound across the bridge I had my eye stuck in my camera, focused on trying to make at least one nice picture of the bay, of the bridge, of the whatever, of the oh, hey! look now solid ground, whew.

Returning from Delaware was a different story. I had suggested that staying in the middle lane of the bridge would be best. And I suggested it very nicely, which sounded something like PLEASE OMG STAY IN THE MIDDLE LANE SO I DON’T FREAK OUT HFS PLEASE PLEEEEASSSSSE AIIIEEEEEE! Thankfully my wild-eyed plea suggestion worked, and we happily rolled along over the bridge in the middle lane.

And all was well.

Until about halfway over, just at the start of the high point of the bridge, when I realized that the car was moving over into the right-hand lane. The one right next to the EDGE OF THE BRIDGE ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE BARRIERS NO I’M NOT BEING IRRATIONAL. And my heart started going a little faster.

“There’s just an ambulance behind us, that’s why I’m moving over.”

Gah! GAH! I DON’T CARE IF SOMEONE IS DYING IN THAT AMBULANCE OMG THERE ARE NOT CONCRETE BARRIERS ON THE SIDES LIKE ON THE EASTBOUND BRIDGE  AND I CAN SEE THROUGH THE SLATS DOWN TO THE WATER OMG OMG OMG

No, I don’t have control issues, why do you ask?

Obviously we crossed the bridge safely, and obviously I did not die. I am thankful for both. In retrospect, as the passenger, maybe I should have listened to my mother. Maybe I should have just kept my eyes closed until we were fully over the bridge and on solid ground again.

Or maybe next time I’ll just drive.

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