"Well--" said Billy's father, manfully kicking a pebble into space, "there it is." They had come to this famous place by automobile. They had had seven blowouts on the way.
"It was worth the trip," said Billy's mother raptly. "Oh, God--was it ever worth it."
Billy hated the canyon. He was sure that he was going to fall in. His mother touched him, and he wet his pants.
Billy, on a trip through space, shifts in time to . . . another trip. His family vacation to the Grand Canyon. I have not yet been to the Grand Canyon. It's on my bucket list, along with Rome, London, and a performance of Hamilton. Frankly, the odds of Hamilton aren't that good. Twelve-year-old Billy isn't a big fan of the Grand Canyon. It scares the piss out of him, literally. I know what my reaction would be if I were standing on the lip of a mile-deep hole in the earth.
On my second trip to New York City, I went to the Empire State Building. I was excited. I'd seen the original King Kong many times as a kid. I had visions of meeting Fay Wray, watching Kong swatting airplanes out of the heavens. When I got to the top, I stepped off the elevator, into the gift shop. It was crowded. I pushed my way through the people and went out into the open air.
And I had a panic attack. There are fences and barriers all around the perimeter of the top of the Empire State Building. The chances of someone accidentally falling off the top are absolutely zero. A stiff, cold wind was blowing. I could see the panorama of city below, stretching out to the horizon. The World Trade Center buildings were still standing at the time. We were about seven months away from 9-11.
I stood with my back pressed against the windows of the gift shop, my heart roaring like King Kong in my chest. I could not move. I slowly pushed my way back inside the store. I stood by a shelf of miniature Empire State Buildings in a cold sweat, panting. If my wife had touched me on the shoulder, I probably would have wet myself, like little Billy.
Eventually, I forced myself to walk around the entire perimeter of the building, but it wasn't a pleasant experience. I was nauseated by the time I got back into the elevator to descend to ground level. I felt like kissing the sidewalk when I left the lobby.
I have never experienced fear like that since. Then again, I've never been in a building that tall, either. This weekend, I'm driving to Grand Rapids with my family. My daughter has another dance competition. The only difficult part of the journey for me will be crossing the Mackinac Bridge. Don't like it. My wife will be behind the wheel on that leg of the journey. Again, it has to do with the height of the structure and the possibility of falling to my death.
An irrational fear, I know. I can't control it. That's why it's called irrational. I won't be climbing any skyscrapers this weekend. I will be sticking as close to the ground as I can. No jumping off diving boards. No monkey bars. No scenic lookouts.
Saint Marty is thankful for flat earth this afternoon.
|And the sudden stop on the cement sidewalk . . .|