Human behavior · Personal memoirs · Psychology · Things I love · Uncategorized

It’s Only a Walkway, or so They’d Have You Believe

I discovered a new phobia yesterday that I don’t think has ever been known before. Naturally it’s my exclusive, weird phobia, as anything of mine usually is the only one in the universe (seems that way at times).

Gephyrophobia is a general fear of bridges. But no, that’s not quite what I’m talking about here. I have no problem with walking or driving over bridges, as long as they’re well built. Although with the potential for earthquakes in Southern California I do get extremely anxious when stuck in a car on a freeway overpass or cloverleaf, way the heck up there, where a good strong quake could send you and the bridge crumbling down. But I’ll still do that (without actually feeling faint or having a panic attack) on the rare occasions when it’s unavoidable in order to get somewhere.


Yesterday I was on a walk with my precious little dog Tyler in Buena Park, CA, after visiting my bank out there, and came to the end of a street which ended at the intersecting 91 freeway. Saw a strange construct there and went to check it out. Turned out to be the entrance to the walkup to a pedestrian bridge that would take us to the neighborhood on the other side of the freeway. Bridge is pictured here, courtesy of Google Maps:

Copyright Google Maps August 2011 (Fair Use)
Copyright Google Maps April 2019 (Fair Use)

“That looks interesting.”

I said to myself and Tyler, let’s do this! I’d never walked a freeway pedestrian bridge before. Had heard stories of deranged people tossing bricks or other heavy items (sometimes themselves as in suicide) off of them, causing car wrecks and injuring or killing people in the days before these bridges were enclosed by chain link fencing, but never thought about walking across one myself. The thought of being up there and watching the cars streak past down below from both directions seemed intriguing, since a favorite walk has always been to the end of beach piers, totally enjoying the crashing waves below (if only the piers were minus the fishermen). Well well, was I wrong about this new experience.

I understand others’ “irrational” phobias now, when I didn’t before.

I have one known phobia that seems pretty rational…I tried to be like a mechanic once and laid down on my back to slide underneath a car to look at something or other down there. After just a few seconds I started panicking, couldn’t sit up, felt trapped, had to get out immediately and realized I’d never do that again. It’s a form of claustrophobia I guess, and I’d never had occasion to experience it before then. Strange, because I don’t fear elevators or other enclosed spaces, when standing anyways.

My mom had claustrophobia due to being locked in closets as punishment as a child, and I’d never understood her intense fear of being shut in somewhere. Thought all she needed was to do it, safely, repeatedly, and realize it wasn’t going to kill her, and just “get over it.” Well, I began to change my mind when I experienced my own phobia(s). Unless you have the chance to do the things that will make you dizzy and weak-kneed with anxiety and panic, you don’t realize you have any phobias.

So I and Tyler happily trekked up the bridge on-ramp…

Little Tyler the boss-man chihuahua usually leads the way (but safely), so I watched to see if he’d be fearful when he reached the actual bridge, as he doesn’t care for high foot bridges or anything unusual like that. He was a little cautious, checking out the noisy traffic down below, a bit nervous, but nothing he was going to refuse to get across. He  felt safe with me. So I said, “great,” and started across myself with brave little Tyler as my guide.

Traffic was pretty heavy and the whooshing noise was intense, the cars hurtling by underneath from both directions. I started gasping a bit and thought, “just relax.” But no, there was no relaxing to be done. I kept going, thinking it was just excitement due to a new experience. But no, aside from the hyperventilating and heart pounding that kicked in, I started trembling, feeling dizzy, like I’d pass out if I didn’t turn around quickly and get the hell off that crazy death trap. We were about a third of the way across. Visions like the one below may have flitted through my head, a ped bridge knocked down by a garbage truck bucket that hadn’t been lowered…

Southfield Bridge, Detroit, 2014 – photo credit Mike Campbell WWJ Newsradio 950

I did quickly turn back and got the hell off that horrific thing.

As soon as we headed down the on-ramp I calmed down almost completely; was totally cool when back on the sidewalk, but vowing never again! Poor little brave Tyler had been looking forward to getting across that strange passageway and seeing (sniffing) more stuff on some new turf on the other side. But if I’d actually managed to get over there (by running like a terrified jackrabbit), getting back over again would have been nearly impossible if not totally so. Would probably have had to call for help, which would have been pretty embarrassing.

So, I now have two phobias that I know of: the under the car (or anything similar) thing, and the pedestrian overpass thing. Bottom line: No more scoffing at other people’s phobias for me. I have seen the light (or rather, the near blacking out).

9 thoughts on “It’s Only a Walkway, or so They’d Have You Believe

  1. And in my home of Clark County Indiana, we have this: But now one can get killed trying to cross that highway. I have a phobia. Yeah, badass me’s afraid of amusement rides. Things little kids clamor to ride on, I’m terrified. Breathe deep, Peter. So I rode one one day a few years ago, the grease lightning, rode it repeatedly. Did nothing to curb my fear. So I can sympathize with your mom.

    1. Woah, looks like my instincts were, again, much smarter than me…those things really are as dangerous as it seemed. There was no one on that bridge there in Clark Co., so “only” the truck driver got killed. How truly bizarre it is that people, in “this day and age,” have anything so obvious as a too low bridge as yet one more hazard in life. Yeah, “greased lightning” seems just the ticket for someone terrified of park rides…NOT! You should maybe try something a bit more carousel like, or a carousel itself. Badass grown man riding the pretty carousel horsey? Never mind. I always loved amusement rides; Space Mountain at Disneyland was a favorite…hurtling throughout a dark “mountain’s” insides (the universe) on a roller coaster. I appreciate your fear of the rides though; a phobia’s just a really BAD foreboding. Sometimes they may save lives.

  2. Packard pedestrian bridge collapses in Detroit | Canoe

    Charlotte pedestrian walkway collapses – Motorsport
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    Six dead in pedestrian bridge collapse at Florida …
    A pedestrian bridge suddenly collapsed onto the road below near Florida International University, crushing cars and killing at least six people Thursday.

    6 injured in Frederick Co. pedestrian bridge collapse | WTOP
    Six people were injured Saturday when a pedestrian bridge over Catoctin Creek collapsed in Frederick County, Maryland. It happened around 3:45 p.m. in the 3000 block of Poffenberger Road in Jefferson.

    Route 208 Northbound Opened to One Lane Following Bridge …
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    1996 Walnut Street Bridge Collapse Harrisburg: Today …

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    TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) – The bridge carrying Maumee Avenue over the Norfolk Southern railroad tracks collapsed Wednesday afternoon. The incident halted train traffic. Crews were working there on a…

    I just got started, but that’s enough. Then there are the criminal offenders who wait on such bridges for potential victims to arrive.

    1. Yikes, the fear is justified! The only parts of this bridge that were secluded were where you first enter at the bottom, and I was nervous about people possibly lurking there. Considering all those posts you shared, that’s even more surely one little “adventure” I will not be attempting again. Thanks, Sue.

  3. Oh yes phobias I have quite a few now that you mention it. Fear of flying is one although I still have to do it occasionally. It’s the one thing that prevents me from traveling overseas. The the fear of fire makes it hard to stay in a hotel and I removed the security screens from all the windows in my house. Fear of swimming pools and lakes and dams. Don’t know why because I can swim. And a fear of Pitbull type dogs. The dog thing is due to having one of my dogs attacked by one and after many close calls in the past that pushed me over the edge. It took two years before I could take my dogs out by myself and even now I’m hyper vigilant and sometimes can’t go very far. It’s changed my life because I’m scared to walk anywhere. Before this I would venture far and wide. I have to constantly try to control my thoughts. We have so many Pitbulls and staffy type dogs here now and they are often unleashed and aggression towards other dogs is pretty common.

    1. Wow, you do have quite a few of them! Often, that fear of aggression from pit bulls is unmerited and they have no intention of attacking anyone…but there’s that exception and the severe and lethal potentials that bring that fear alive. I’m sorry about what happened to your dog. Even pit bull lovers (which include me) are wary and very cautious with a pit bull type dog running loose; so responsible people know that and don’t promote those fears. It’s the fools who cause the problems, and fools generally are not qualified to keep dogs, needless to say; sounds like you have quite a few of them there. I carry pepper spray when walking and hopefully will be downwind of it if I ever have to spray anyone, and that includes people. When I walk with someone else I like for them to carry a bat; that and the pepper spray should keep us all safe, fingers crossed. Thankfully I’ve never had to use anything, and here’s hoping that stays. Keep safe!

    2. I’d forgotten you’re in Australia! (Or at least I’m pretty sure.) I hope you’re in no danger from those godawful brush fires; I read that about a billion animals have been killed so far, and that the fires were almost certainly started by…as would be expected…people (arsonists and/or careless dopes). Here’s an update article with site map: Hope you’re good and far away, in the center of the country; but importantly, I pray for a freak rainstorm all over all of those fires. What an awful thing; all those precious lives…gone, after suffering so horribly. May the innocents all be safe in heaven now.

      1. Yes the loss of animal lives is horrendous and they have suffered terribly in fires.. They are called stock and all sympathy is directed to the farmers and the loss of livelihood. Fires have been burning since September. Wildlife is devastated and some attention is given to the kangaroos and koalas though millions of kangaroos are slaughtered every year and koalas are culled. But that seems to be ok. Thanks for your kind wishes.

        1. Mourning seems to be the overriding reaction to this world. Here’s hoping that once our life sentences are at last over, that all of the basically decent souls can only look back here (if we choose to) to shake our heads in relief at having finally escaped.

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