Take Me to The River (but don’t drop me in the water)

A very good friend of mine, who lives on Coronado Island, asked recently if I would like to have lunch with her there. If you’ve never been to Coronado, it is a lovely place; home to the famous Hotel Del, unique shops and some very good restaurants. Despite all of that, I declined my friend’s invitation. You see, I just couldn’t force myself to go to Coronado. Yes, force myself.  The reason I won’t visit my friend?

(*whispered*) It’s the bridge. I don’t like the Coronado Bridge. To be fair, I don’t like any bridges–but the thought of this one in particular makes me break out in a cold sweat.

As is often the case with irrational fears, this one dates back to childhood. When I was a pre-teen, my family often spent weekends in the summer sailing on Virginia’s Rappahannock River. Most of the time, I enjoyed these excursions. But, there was one part of the trip (two if you count the fact that I had to encounter it coming and going) that made the barely there hair on my arms stand at attention:

 Rappahannock River Bridge. (source)

I absolutely dreaded, hated, despised–and was terrified of–the Rappahannock River Bridge. Why, you may wonder would a little girl have a bridge phobia? I am not 100 percent certain, but I think it has something to do with overhearing a conversation (an adult conversation) about a nurse who had driven off the side of the bridge during a storm. A story like that, I am sure we all can agree, will freak a child out.

I didn’t have a choice back then about bridge crossing, so I made a deal with myself: if I could hold my breath the entire drive over the bridge, nothing bad would happen. Problem solved.

According to Wikipedia, the Rappahannock River Bridge is 9,985 feet long, which equals 1.89109 miles. I find it very hard to believe that even as a child I could hold my breath that long, but we always made it across safely– so I must have (wink, wink).

For most of my adult life I have lived in landlocked areas, so avoiding bridges has been fairly easy. That was until we moved to San Diego and I started hanging out with my Coronado-based friend. And had to face this:

Coronado Bridge (source)

The first trip I made over the Coronado Bridge was with my husband. I was driving (natch) and made sure our car hugged the inside lane.  That excursion went pretty well. I kept my eyes focused on what was directly in front of me, not daring to take even a peek to my left or right. And I think I might have held my breath… just a little.

A few months later, I starting hearing about “delays” and “incidents” that were occurring on the bridge. These weren’t ordinary, run-of-the-mill, traffic-related happenings, noooooo… these delays were due to jumpers. The idea is incomprehensible and very sad, but there are actually people (many of them) who want to end it all by leaping from the bridge.

My Coronado buddy, (not knowing at this point about my phobia), told me that on multiple occasions she had been stuck on the bridge while negotiators tried to coax people down. I find the fact that someone would be so desperate or despondent that they’d even consider suicide, awful.  But… the thought that I could be trapped on the bridge while they receive help? Uh… no.

I finally confided to my friend that I didn’t really enjoy being on the bridge. I told her about the nurse, and about holding my breath, and about my sweaty palms–I confessed it all. And how did she respond? She told me a story about a truck driver who drove over the side of the Coronado Bridge! Yes. She. Did.

Even knowing all that, I still managed to eek out three or four more visits. And then, some time passed, and I realized that my friend didn’t seem to mind if we got together in La Jolla, or Hillcrest, or somewhere between.  And just like that I decided I wasn’t going to cross the bridge again unless I absolutely had to. I told my friend that if there were an emergency, (or a really great party), I’d be there, but otherwise, I wasn’t visiting Coronado, at least not via that damn bridge.

I always encourage my children to not only look fear in the face, but to sneer at it. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve done (and do) that myself. Yet, I have decided that at this stage of my life I am allowed to have a couple of untreated phobias–and I am putting unnecessary bridge crossing near the top of the list.

How about you? Anything you fear/dread/hate so much you would classify it as being a phobia?