Grace to Gephyrophobiacs

Kate Dolan stops at the gift shop on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel to take pictures

The view from the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel

Did you know that God lowered a bridge for me? And not just any bridge, either. It was a 17 mile expanse across the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. A bridge so long it has its own restaurant right in the middle in case people with bridge phobia (like me!) need to take a break. That I made it that far the first time without driving off the side in complete hysteria is still a minor miracle to me over ten years later.

Gephyrophobia is the scientific name for “bridge phobia.” In my case, it’s only a real problem if I’m driving over a high bridge. For some people, gephyrophobia is linked to claustrophobia and fears of being trapped. Not in my case, though. I just seem to have this sense that I’m going to swerve and drive right off the side of a bridge if it gets too high or goes on for too long. Why this doesn’t bother me on a regular road or low bridge I have no idea, because frankly, if I were to swerve and drive off the edge of a low bridge, the consequences would be just about as bad. But the height of a bridge seems to be the problem, even though I don’t have an issue with heights in general.

I haven’t let the fear stop me from going places, but there was one time I wished I had. Desperately. I was driving with my young kids from Baltimore to Virginia Beach to visit some friends. In a moment of foolhardiness, I decided it would be much more fun to head east and drive down the Delmarva peninsula rather than to take the standard route down I-95. I like to explore new places, so this would turn a drive that would otherwise be a chore into an adventure. And there were a few tolls, but it would be worth it.

It wasn’t until I started to drive over the first bridge that my mind really began to comprehend that “toll” meant “huge bridge over lots of water.”

I’ve driven over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge probably about once a year for most of my adult life, but it never gets any easier. It’s over four miles long and about eight miles high, or at least high enough that boats in the water below look like featureless dots. By the time I’m halfway through, I have usually exhausted all the deep breathing techniques I learned in Lamaze class and then I start to panic and curse and wonder why I needed to go over the bridge in the first place and really how much force it would take to shatter the flimsy-looking guard rail next to me.

By the time we reach the other side, I am not in a happy state. Especially this time because I realized that I barely made it across a four-mile expanse and now we were headed down to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel which is over 17 miles long. We’re doomed I told myself. We’ll never make it.

My kids napped most of the drive through Maryland’s eastern shore and into Virginia. I felt like I was driving a ticking time bomb. How would I ever make it across such an enormous bridge? Why did I think it would “fun”? What kind of an idiot was I? What was I going to do? Besides panic, that is.

Well I prayed. A lot. Since my kids were asleep and there was no one to talk to, I just prayed that since God got me safely across the scary four mile bridge, he would get me across one that was four times longer.

The prayers were interrupted with repetition of the “what kind of idiot” speech.

Then I’d go back to praying again.

Finally, after one last desperate stop at a restroom, we were there. At the CBBT. The dreaded span that was so scary, even its name was too long and had to be abbreviated.

But then it suddenly wasn’t so scary. Because, had I bothered to do any research, I would have learned that the long Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel in Virginia is not anything like the Chesapeake Bay Bridge in Maryland. Same bay, completely different crossings.

The CBBT is a series of low trestles, man-made islands, and causeways with two not-very-scary major sections of not-very high bridge and two one mile tunnels. Not scary at all. Right above the water – in fact, it reminded me of driving at the beach. It was a vacation.

God lowered that bridge for me.

Now I know intellectually that the bridge was built before I was born, so of course God didn’t miraculously lower it at the moment I uttered my prayers. But it doesn’t matter. He lowered it when it needed to be lowered (at the time of construction) and I learned about it when I needed to — when I had to drive across it.

restaurant at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel

The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

 

I was so overjoyed about that bridge that of course when we saw the sign for a restaurant and gift shop in the middle of it, I had to stop. It felt like we were at the edge of the world — or the end of the universe. Though it’s not called Milliways, I always tend to think of it now as the Restaurant at the End of the Universe (thank you, Douglas Adams for that and so many other concepts)

That first trip was about ten years ago but the memories all came flooding back when I recently crossed the bridge with my daughter and her friend on the way home from a rainy weekend in Virginia Beach. God still kept that bridge low for me. And not only that, but this trip he even moved some rain clouds aside so that by the time we reached Ocean City, we had sunshine for a last afternoon of fun.

Another reminder that God is good, even to those with Gephyrophobia.

 

 

Tags: , , ,

2 Responses to “Grace to Gephyrophobiacs”

  1. Jenny says:

    I feel completely the same way about bridges and tunnels…although I could not have put in into such eloquent words as you have!! There is something about being so ‘high’ above the water that is more scary even though the water is just as deep. I always imagined the worst part would be the fall down…so I totally relate to your story and I LOVE the way you got through it!! Very great way to look at things and I believe it works every time!!!

    • Kate says:

      I didn’t even think about which would be the worst part – didn’t get that far! Thanks for your kind words, Jenny. Here’s hoping there are a limited number of high bridges in our futures!