I’ve always had a thing with bridges. As a kid, my father crossed into Canada over the Rainbow Bridge, and I held my breath and prayed.
Now each time I drive over a bridge, the kind where you can’t see the other side, I am certain the end is near. I make elaborate plans and cry.
Not too long ago, I went to Florida. I didn’t realize that in order to get to Sarasota from the Tampa airport was I was going to have to cross the Sunshine Skyway.
Doesn’t that sound lovely?
The Sunshine Skyway.
Doesn’t it sound like you will be traveling on a path to the sun? Wouldn’t you expect puffy white clouds and a unicorn escort? And rainbows? And G-d?
I anticipated the wind in my curls. And angels.
It didn’t go down like that.
The Sunshine Skyway is 4.1 miles of steel and concrete hell. And crossing that bitch transformed me into a one woman freak show.
From a distance, it looked pretty.
Like two white sailboats decided to drop anchor and hover in the sky. Forever.
As I approached the tollbooth and handed the attendant my $1.25, I looked for a place to pull over and mentally prepare myself for the crossing over.
Except there was no place to stop.
I just had to go.
I wanted to hold my breath, but I figured passing out at the wheel while suspended 431 feet in the air would lead to swerving, probably an accident, which would probably not be appreciated by other drivers.
If you tipped a football field on its side, I was still suspended 71 feet higher!
But GPS Jill cooed and promised me Paradise was only 47 minutes away.
I just had to get over that freaking bridge.
I stayed on my side of the dotted white line, profoundly aware that I was surrounded by nothing but sky.
I gripped the steering wheel of my rental car white-knuckled and started making emergency escape plans.
I felt around and found the button to open my window.
I unbuckled my seatbelt.
I figured if I drove over the side of the Skyway, I would not be stupid, caught inside a sinking car that would slowly fill with water. No, I have watched too much Lifetime Television for Women to make that mistake. I was not going to drown. Assuming I survived impact, I would simply glide out my open window.
I wiggled out of my sweater. I knew it would weigh me down, and I needed to be ready to swim. Obviously. Without my sweater, the air conditioning was too cold, but I dared not fuss with it.
I think it was a gorgeous day, but I can’t say for certain. The sun was bright in my eyes, and it was too late to find my sunglasses stashed in their case at the bottom of my bag.
Refusing to blink, I stared straight ahead and kept my eyes on the road. As tears poured down my cheeks, I wondered what was wrong with me.
I drove slower.
Like old lady slow.
From out of my peripheral vision, I realized that the structures I had thought looked like pretty white sailboats were not white at all. They were, in fact, a complex series of yellow-orange cables. Cables. The whole dang bridge is suspended by skinny cables.
I knew that bridge was going down.
A man in a black pick-up truck passed me and flipped me the bird. His arm was very tan.
The moment I could see The Other Side, Roger Daltry came on the radio and started to sing “I’m free.” I swear this happened. You cannot make this stuff up.
So there I was, singing along with him and laughing like a dork because I was fine.
But I need to have a serious chat with GPS Jill. Because while I proved I can make it over the bridge – clearly, I need to find an alternate route.
Anyone else out there afraid of bridges? If bridges don’t freak you out, what does?