It seems that Sunday was Big Chicken Day at Letchworth Park.
The thing is I’m afraid of heights. A few of you can back me up on this – for instance, Jen, who had to hold my hand so I could step on the glass floor in the CN Tower when we were in Toronto a few years ago. I’ve been working on this fear, so it’s not as bad as it used to be. On my trip to NYC in June, I walked across the Brooklyn Bridge like it was no big deal at all, which would have been pretty unthinkable for me a few years ago.
Those of you who have visited Letchworth Park will know where I’m going with this, and that is the Portage Bridge. In my past visits to Letchworth, I’ve had a difficult time even looking at the bridge from the ground, especially if there were people on it because all I could think was something like, “OH MY GOD THOSE PEOPLE ARE GOING TO FALL TO A WATERY DEATH!” This is not an ordinary bridge. It is high: really, really high, and there are big gaps between the railroad ties. If you are afraid of heights, this is a nightmare one step away from bungee jumping.
So I went to the park thinking that I was going to conquer my fear and walk across that damn bridge. When I got there, I parked by the bridge thinking that I’d just go up there, cross it, and be done with it. I got out of the car. I walked up. I looked at the bridge. Then I walked back down, got in my car, and drove down and parked with the sane people at the lower falls. Then I had a beautiful, relaxing walk along the Genesee. I tried to forget about the bridge, even when it came into sight – and, yes, there were people up there flirting with a watery death. I couldn’t ignore the bridge when I was finally standing under it. One of my big rules of widowhood is that I am not going to let my fears control me, so I climbed up and walked out. Well, I walked as best I could considering I was clinging to the railing on the side. For some reason that made me feel better. Thankfully people got out of my way so I didn’t have to have any debates about whether it was more mortifying to ask people to move or to actually let go and walk around them. I got out to the middle of the bridge and thought, “Hey! This isn’t so bad! It’s pretty out here!” I took my hands off the railing, I took a step away from the side, and then I did what you aren’t supposed to do. I looked down. Did I mention that this bridge is really, really high? I could see straight down to the water. Someone’s red bicycle was down there: a victim, I could only imagine, of this evil, horrible, terrible bridge. My ears starting ringing and I felt like I was going to throw up, but I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and just stood there for a bit. When I opened my eyes, I was fine. I even went over to look at the view from the other side. I walked down to the far end. Then, feeling giddy on my way back, I walked down the middle where there are only ties and no metal grate. In my head, I was singing a song. It went like this:
I crossed the bridge!
La, la, la!
I didn’t throw up!
La, la, la!
When I got back to the other side, there was a man a few steps onto the bridge, clinging to the railing as I had been not so long before. He said, “I could never do that.” I told him I couldn’t either, but it wasn’t as bad as it looked. Several more people asked me how it was and expressed their fear of the bridge on my walk back down, including a really cute guy (not Jon Stewart cute, but still), which made me feel better about the whole thing.