My mother has always been afraid of bridges.
I’m not sure how or why it started, but, for as long as I can remember, the closer we would get to the William Preston Lane Jr. Memorial Bridge, known simply around here as the Bay Bridge, she’d start to get tense.
Of course, my father didn’t help the situation. Dad would sightsee while driving across the nearly 5-mile span on the way to our annual trip to Ocean City, pointing out the boats bobbing in the green bay water below and frightening the wits out of my mother.
As kids, my brother and I would think we were almost to Ocean City when we’d got to the bridge, not realizing we still had about 2 1/2 hours to go. Today, my kids do the same.
In my teens and 20s, I’d been a passenger and a driver many times on the bridge. I could never grasp the fright my mother had experienced.
Then, on one return trip from the beach with my husband, I felt it. He’d always been a little skittish about traveling across the bridge, and I’d always been the one who was fine. But this trip, everything felt wrong. In my mind, the other vehicles were going too fast. Driving too close. Speeding up and then slamming on their brakes. I couldn’t get across the bridge fast enough.
We ended up crossing without incident, but ever since that ride, I’ve dreaded that portion of the trip. Maybe it was hearing more about the crashes that happen on the bridge that caused my sudden discomfort. Or maybe it’s simply because my blissful, youthful ignorance has worn off.
Now we have rules and rituals for the bridge crossing:
He drives, I don’t.
Music on, but not too loud.
Silence from the kids in the backseat.
Inevitably, I look out the window and speak hurriedly as I attempt casual small talk, trying not to notice the other cars and their speed or proximity or erratic driving. Anything to prevent me from stomping the imaginary brake on the passenger floorboard or grabbing the door handle when I see a hint of brake lights or a cluster of cars ahead of us.
My tenseness slowly disappears as we get closer to land — and when we get to the point where I think that if we were to smash through the side of the bridge and into the water, we would survive.
No matter what, the number one rule is to NOT get on the side where there two-way traffic. I don’t think our nerves could take it!
Do you have any Bay Bridge memories? Share yours in the comments!