“I’m Not the Kind of Girl Who Gives Up Just Like That”

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.

14 thoughts on ““I’m Not the Kind of Girl Who Gives Up Just Like That”

  1. Yes, the Empire State Building. I’d suggest you try taking the stairs all the way to the observation level–and that way you’ll be too near death to care about the view.

  2. I have a terrible fear of escalators and falling or getting sucked into one. If you have ever been to Universal Studios, you will see my problem.

    I even talked about this in my blog, because I have not conquered my fear yet.

  3. I was on that bridge once. I was there with a girlfriend and she was having no part of the trestle. Some other guy was there with his wife and she wasn’t having any of it either. He looked at me, I looked at him, and I said, “if you go, I’ll go.” So we went. And about two thirds of the way to the center of the bridge, a train came around the bend. I FREAKED. I never thought I would run on that bridge. I did. He and I made it to the embankment and slid down the gravel just in time. I had put a penny on the rail so I have a flat copper memento of the event somewhere. As it turns out, there’s plenty of room for a train and people on the bridge, but when you see that Conrail Diesel comming at you, it sure doesn’t look like there is.

  4. I’m okay with escalators, but there is another regular watat.com reader who shares this fear — and for good reason. She was witness to a Bad Incident. Anyway, maybe she’ll fess up when she reads this…. ;)

    If I was on that bridge and a train went over it, I surely would have had a heart attack. There would have been no fun songs playing in my head, that’s for certain.

  5. Okay, next time I visit upstae, someone needs to take me to this nefarious bridge. I don’t remember it. Does anyone have any pictures?

  6. Actually you went to Letchworth when you were much younger.I also have a fear of heights and I’m terrified just walking around there.You know 2 folks who witnessed accidents there.Myself and my companions watched a guy fall down that like 300 foot waterfall.What was he thinking?As I get older that fear has gotten less too.As an interesting aside,many studies show that if you meet someone during a scarey activity you will more likely (ahem)have warm feelings toward them.Romances actually form.I read about Cathy’s fear of escalators.I have that too.But as I get older I just don’t care anymore.I think of Doris Day singing,”…Que sara-sara…whatever will be,will be.The future’s not ours to see..”I was terrified you’d fall down one of those wide cracks in the ground.Sheer torture!Glad to hear you aren’t letting fears rule you,but that doesn’t mean doing wild and crazy things:]

  7. I’d like to point out that it is not really fear of heights in a situation like that so much as survival instincts. I don’t really have a fear of heights but the high ropes course I went on 50 feet up in the trees was nerve wracking when I had to hop across a 15 inch gap all I could think was peole are not suppose to be doing this. Then the quiet, shy little sports nut ran past me and hopped, I figured if a 13 year old could do it I could.

    Also that bridge is in the background of my favorite photo of you and Brian.I’ll see if I can email it to Jeffrey.

  8. When Jeffrey comes back to Wegmanistan, we’re all going to the Portage bridge. Remember our adventure near there in the stream bed trudging through those weeds that looked like tube worms, Jeffrey?

  9. Thanks for posting the link to the pic. Yes, Chuck, I do remember that day in the woods. I think that was the day we both discovered our love of that kind of random adventure and that we had a friend who loved it too. Time is coming we need another one. The next time I’m up way of Kodakia, we’ll figure it out.

    BTW: If that picture of Brian becomes available, I’d love a copy too.

  10. Ok, first let me say that Chuck just told me to check out your site and I’m LOVING IT!!

    I realize I’m opening up a whole can of worms here, but what’s the deal with all you Wegmans- haters?

  11. JJ, I can see you’re wise by the way you’re reading, liking, AND commenting on my blog. :)

    Personally, I love Wegmans and shop there several times a week. Sometimes several times a day. Jeffrey has some issues with Wegmans, though, and makes some good points about it. But, again, we’ll note the way I still shop there. Maybe Jeffrey will jump in. He’s actually *supposed* to be writing a guest entry about it. Now I’m going to have to remind him….

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