Ever since watching, in my high school physics class, the video of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge undulating at what was then believed to be its natural frequency (aka, the resonance theory) before collapsing into the waters below, I’ve had an irrational fear of driving over bridges. It’s not so much a fear that I won’t drive over a bridge, but I’ve got distract myself a little or otherwise drive speedily over to the other side. It’s when I’m stuck in traffic on a bridge that I start getting a little panicky. This usually happens on a Hudson River crossing — good thing I don’t do that regularly.
A few months ago, during a slow day at work, I came up with a 4-part extraction plan* in the event I’m on a collapsing bridge and survive the initial plunge into the waters. Paranoid, right? Well, truthfully, I don’t frequently think about this fear. It’s ironic because I am not inherently afraid of heights, and I’m a decent swimmer. Thanks to some winning crews I’ve coxed in college, I’ve been tossed into water that still had icebergs. Thanks to a diabolical crew coach, I can even tread water for 30 minutes while wearing over-sized sweatpants and a sweatshirt. But the idea of being trapped in a sinking vehicle makes my heart race in a bad way.
Learning of tonight’s collapse of the I-35W bridge over the Mississippi River and connecting Minneapolis and St. Paul makes me edgy. For me, it is a reminder that perhaps my fear isn’t as irrational as it appears at first glance.
*The 4-part extraction plan consists of: (1) releasing seat belt; (2) moving to the back of the car; (3) painstakingly wait for the car to fill up with water and then opening door or window (and taking a wicked huge breath); (4) swim like Michael Phelps towards the surface.