As a kid, I spent a lot of time in the library. I must have been about 8 and in between reading John Christopher’s Tripods series (I really, really dug Sci Fi before I said well, hello Mr Rochester!) when I discovered the library had a film collection. It could have been because The Tripods series were post apocalyptic, or because of a trip we took to Ypres, a town in Belgium that was practically obliterated in WWI, but something spurred me on to view historical film footage of devastation, any devastation.
Nowadays, the stuff I watched would have been off limits to kids. It was graphic and confronting, but I went through film reel after film reel of WWI and WWII footage, of exploding atomic bombs, sinking ships, flood damage, The Great American Dust Bowl, The Holocaust, train wrecks. You name the horrifying disaster, and if there was film footage, I watched it. There was one piece of footage that really caught my attention. I was, rather obsessively, enthralled by the Tacoma Narrows Bridge Collapse of 1940.
The repeated viewing of this bridge collapsing embedded Gephyrophobia — the fear of bridges– deep within my subconscious. To this day, my palms sweat as I drive over suspension bridges, cold sweat blossoms under my arms and stains my shirt. My mouth goes dry. However, I never kick over in to a full-blown anxiety attack, the kind Maxwell has in Driving in Neutral because my rational brain knows my fear is based on nothing but repeated viewing of ‘Galloping Gertie,’ aka, the Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapse. But I guess I come close.
Driving over a bridge is like the time I held a python at the Royal Queensland Exhibition. I was utterly fascinated by the creature hanging off me, but my autonomic nervous system, my ‘reptilian brain’ was all DANGER! DANGER! THIS THING CAN KILL YOU! RUN AWAY NOW! In the same way, I drive over suspension bridges, not really aware that I am frightened, but the primitive part of my brain is, rather bizarrely, silently reminding me that the BRIDGE IS GOING TO COLLAPSE with the dry mouth, pit staining wetness, and cold sweat. The thing is, I always get to the other side, always, and then, only then, do I realize I’m all stinky and sweaty.