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This Day in My History

2000:  Some Amazing Dames
2001:  Prison vs. Freedom
2002:  I Never Saw Another Butterfly
2003:  10 Shy of 100
2004Nuts and Chocolate

2005:  What Happens when it's All Gone?

"Smokey Joe's Cafe"

Books Read in 2006
(Updated 8/20)



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1 September 2006

I don't know what it's like to have a real panic attack, but if I ever do have a full-out panic attack, it will be while riding on the freeway.

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(You all remember that I'm going to die when a big rig rolls over on top of me, right?  Mark my words.  Someday it will happen.)

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One of the advantages of being a large person is that people are very considerate and gently suggest "why don't you sit in front, Bev" (leaving unsaid "you'll fit better than in the back seat"). I never complain because riding in the back seat, depending on the size of a car, can be excruciating for someone whose knee often bends only under protest.

So I didn't mind being in the front seat of the ride when I went on a trip with some friends recently.  By the time we returned, I was in a state that was the closest to a panic attack I've been.  I was drenched with sweat, could hardly breathe, and though the group chattered all the way back to Davis, I never heard a thing because I was mentally repeating "pleaseletthisbeover, pleaseletthisbeover" over and over in my head.  Ifelt like a coil wound as tightly as possible and I munched a Tums to calm the rising heartburn.

When my father taught me to drive, all those years ago, he taught me the "car length" rule, where you try to keep a car length for every 10 miles you are moving between you and the car in front of you.  Now, I realize that on a busy highway, that's not always possible, but I feel that if you are traveling 65-75 mph down a highway and you see tail lights come on on the car in front of you, you should at least slow down right away.  Right?  Doesn't that seem logical?

But the driver didn't slow down until we were almost on top of the car ahead of us, and then hit the breaks suddenly. 

It was an old car, a very big car (without air bags, which I always look for first thing) and it rocked back and forth like a boat.   The driver also seemed to have difficulty staying within the lane lines and he would drift to one side or the other and then jerk the wheel to overcorrect, sometimes nearly sending us into the lane on the other side of us.

It was daytime when we started out, so I just closed my eyes, grabbed onto whatever I could grab onto and prayed for the best.

But by the time we were returning, it was nighttime.   The freeway was filled with semis, all of whom seemed to be signaling for moves into our lane, and the driver wouldn't let them in.  Instead he drove up along side and just stayed there.  Walt understands my panic enough by now that he knows to either speed up and pass a truck, or hold back behind it.  But not this driver.  Not only was he driving too close to the car ahead, but he was also driving right next to the semi, and weaving from side to side in the lane. 

My heart began to pound, sweat began pouring off of me, and I couldn't concentrate on the conversation that was going on in the car.  I was never so relieved to see anything in my life as I was to see the freeway offramp when we pulled off into downtown Davis.

I don't know if my mounting fears are silly or reasonable.  I had offered to drive on this trip, expecting something like this might happen, but others were adamant.  One of the others would drive so I wouldn't "have" to.  And, being the wimp that I am, I didn't dare gasp or ask the driver to hold back or even mention that I was on the verge of a heart attack about the way he was driving.

But I'll tell ya, it makes me less eager to go anywhere with anybody else who is going to be driving.  Walt's driving makes me nervous, sometimes, but he is used to me suddenly gasping and jerking to grab hold of something.   I also don't have to be sociable with him during the daytime and can get engrossed in a book, so I forget that there are big killing machines whizzing by us at 75 mph.

And it's not that I prefer to drive.  Most of the time I don't enjoy being on the freeway at all, and go out of the way to avoid it. I'm also starting to have difficulty with the lights of oncoming traffic after dark (another fun thing that sometimes happens as we get older), so I'm not too excited about driving at night. But at least when I'm behind the wheel, I feel like I have some control (though lately I find that my mind imagines sights of cars coming through the guard rail or cars in front of me having a blow out....or those ubiquitous motorcyclists who zip in and out through cars at 100 mph and scare the bejeeezus out of me).

I wish I could get over this freeway phobia.   I  usually just "handle" it, but when I get into situations like this latest one, I realize that there are times when I can't handle it very well at all.

But then maybe the driver just really was a rotten driver in the first place!


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Now those were the days. 
Top speed 20 mph or something like that.

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