Cross Over The Bridge

Does anybody else who drives regularly in urban/city traffic feel that road rage is on the increase?

Every time I have to drive into the Sydney CBD I  feel like I am endangering life and limb. Drivers are on the horn for the slightest thing and there is so much gesticulating and flipping the bird I am surprised people manage to steer the car their hands are flying around so much.

Surely all this carrying on doesn’t make for a pleasurable journey or in fact get you to your destination any faster. Surely it is a hindrance rather than a help.

Today I did something momentous. For me. I drove over the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

What’s the big deal? You ask. People drive over bridges all the time.

Well, I haven’t driven over the good old Harbour Bridge for over four years. I have been too afraid to. I feel ridiculous admitting it but there you have it.

Four years ago I was in a cab coming home from visiting a friend. We were heading south on the bridge. It was about 6PM so traffic was fairly busy. A guy in the lane next to us in one of those huge Nissan Pathfinders was weaving in and out of traffic in a very reckless manner. He clipped the car behind my cab which in turn, clipped my cab and drove us on an angle into the lane to our right where we clipped an elderly lady who banged her head on the windscreen.

Traffic was brought to a standstill and of course, the Nissan driver got out of his car and started hurling abuse at my cabbie for getting in his way. It got very nasty very quickly. As all the drivers stood around shouting I happened to notice the elderly lady leaning forward over her steering wheel. There was blood coming out of her mouth. I got into a panic thinking she had sustained a head injury and I was angry that everyone was so busy shouting and looking for someone to blame that no one checked to see if anyone was seriously injured.

When the police came the Nissan man was found to be DUI as well as obnoxious. I believe he later had his licence suspended. The paramedics recommended the elderly lady be taken to hospital for observation. Thank God, she ended up being completely fine. 

No one was seriously hurt but it scared me how easily chaos ensued. One car hitting another was like a domino effect. For weeks afterwards I dreamt of cars banging into one another and hurtling over the sides of the bridge into the water below.

I thought I was fine with it. I certainly didn’t feel nervous about driving but I did realise today that for years I have been deliberately avoiding crossing over the bridge.

There is a long way round which I have been taking for years but today I had to go and visit a friend and I thought: ‘This is crazy. I have to get over this.’

So I did it. I drove over the bridge and back again. I gripped the steering wheel so hard my knuckles were white. The road felt spongy. Through the rear view mirror all I could see was sky. To my right I saw glimpses of water with sunlight glancing on the surface.

I clenched my teeth whenever a car passed me. I held my breath when changing lanes but I made it, there and back again, just like I had been driving the bridge every day. Just like I had been crossing it every day.

It’s a good feeling to conquer a fear, no matter how small. There is a sense of empowerment to be had. It’s a relief to finally say goodbye to the hold the reckless, raging driver had over me and to take once more, whichever route I please. Little things mean a lot.

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26 thoughts on “Cross Over The Bridge

  1. I wonder if the current economic crisis is going to spur more incidents of road rage as the stress of trying to stay ahead of the creditors bleeds into everything else. Especially driving. It’s like folks get behind the wheel and suddenly they are the boss of all and everyone else is an idiot.

    Just one more sound reason for mass transit.

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  2. I was also going to say “Excellent post” but I hit submit because my brain said, “oh, that’s the preview button…”

    Guess who hasn’t had her coffee this morning…

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  3. Did you have a ventriloquist doll in the seat beside you?

    Actually, Selma, this has inspired me… to keep on avoiding button factories. I see nothing wrong with a fear that grips me and controls my life. I haven’t been in a button factory since… um… well… I’ve NEVER been in a button factory, and that suits me just fine.

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  4. You really can’t live without taking risks, and driving always involves some of that. While plunging off a bridge isn’t my ideal way to go, we all simply have to accept certain risks just to live. My guess is that you’ll have an easier time crossing that bridge from now on. You just put those fearful thoughts out of your mind and do it anyway.

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  5. Quite a few years ago hubby and I were travelling down from Queensland to South Australia. We had all our worldly goods in a trailer which we were towing. The night before we were to go through the heart of Sydney I had a panic attack. It wasn’t just the thought of going over the bridge, it was the thought of negotiating all that city traffic in an unfamiliar area with WAY more cars than we’re used to. We drove through it without incident but my body was in knots before it was over.

    Good for you for overcoming a very real fear and yes I definitely agree with you that road rage is on the rise.

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  6. Good for you Selma! After a terrible car accident, in which I wasn’t even the driver, it took me forever to find the courage to go out and get my driver’s license. Finally with my friend’s help I went out and got my license. Bridges and tunnels scared me, especially if I would have to drive alone. Slowly I overcame my fear of tunnels. If I want to go shopping at IKEA, I have to go through a tunnel in order to get of the island. I am able to do it by myself, but bridges well for now I avoid them. Haven’t built up the courage yet to cross them on my own. And yes road rage seems to be increasing, I just do my best. But on occasion I swear at the idiots who cut me or drive like lunatics, but I make sure they don’t see me LOL. I don’t want them coming after me!

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  7. Road rage is common in Philadelphia Pennsylvania USA, also. The incidents involving gunfire are the only ones brought to our attention on the local news, however. (This week: man critically wounded when another driver became so enraged that he leveled a .40-caliber gun from the window of his vehicle and shot the man in the head as the man tried to shield his 8-year-old daughter who was belted in the backseat.) This travesty is the worse for endangering the safety – the life – of a child. Defensive driving and courteous driving might be our only strongholds for safety on the highways. (In reference to your accomplishment: Congratulations, Selma! May all your roads rise up to meet you, whatever path you travel.)

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  8. Selma, I hope you didnt take that photo whilst you were driving!
    That bridge gives me the heebeejeebees. I think I’m the only person who slows down to go through the e-toll hence creating a mass snarl behind me of people with tourettes screaming at me for doing the speed limit.
    I cant drive on motorways without vomiting a little after a horrific accident that killed a friend. It always feels worse when there are kids in the car too.
    I salute you for overcoming your fear!

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  9. Congratulations on conquering your fear, Selma. I know what a big deal it is to face down something like that.

    Road rage is over the top anymore – and incredibly dangerous. I sold my car when I moved to Chicago because I knew I’d be living and working downtown. I thought it would be tough, but it was actually quite liberating.

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  10. There was an article in the Toronto Star about a woman, (a mother no less) caught doing 110 km/h in a school zone (limit 30.) What the heck… it seems to me that if people were just a little bit kinder that we could all get there more safely.

    I’m glad you faced your fears. The longer we wait the worse it seems to get with these irrational things we get hung up on. I’m ok with bridges. My thing… elevators.

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  11. It reminds me of the domino effect of the horrific accident in Burnley tunnel here in Melbourne. There was just nowhere for drivers involved to swerve out of the way in time. Frightening.

    I stick to my safe little routes. I haven’t driven on a motorway in years and I get clammy just having to change lanes on a main road while doing 80.

    I’m glad the elderly lady was okay.

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  12. MELEAH – I think I give in to a bit of road rage from time to time too. It’s the tailgaters that get me. I’ve only conquered half of my fear. There is also a Harbour Tunnel. A tunnel that goes under water. I don’t know if I can bring myself to do it – what if it starts to crumble and leak just as I drive through? This may take a while.

    KAREN – you won’t believe it, I heard something about that very thing on the local news this morning. A psychologist was predicting an increase in things like road rage as a result of the economic crisis. I think many people are going to be on a very short fuse for quite a while. Think I’ll get the bus from now on.

    BEAR – oh, you are wicked. LOL. That would be a horror movie come to life for me. Looking at the car in the lane next to me on the bridge and seeing it was being driven by a ventriloquist dummy. I would lose my sanity right there and then. I think you should join me in facing your fears. I think you should go to that button factory. Just remember – they’re only little buttons. They can’t hurt you!

    LINDA – I can relate. I yell when I’m driving too but I also talk to myself. They say it’s OK as long as you don’t start answering yourself. Ha ha.

    RICHARD – I am glad I’ve done it. Fear is an odd emotion in that when you face it, it does seem to lessen. And you are right – there are risks everywhere you look.

    GYPSY – I know how daunting the Sydney traffic can be, especially if you’re not used to it. It scares me and I’ve been driving here for 25 years. People are so impatient these days and they don’t mind intimidating other drivers. I dream of the days where we still came across common courtesy on the roads.

    TBALL – I’m so sorry about that accident. How awful. Accidents do prey on your mind afterwards even if you think you are OK at the time. So glad you can manage the tunnels. And yes, you can’t be too careful with those lunatic drivers. The last thing we want is them going after you.

    BJ – the incident you refer to is absolutely shocking. I cannot begin to imagine having to go through that. How awful. Oh, I feel for that poor little girl. Thank you for your kind wishes. I wish the same for you. Thank you so much for stopping by.

    KATE – I’m even worse than you – I pay cash and forgot about the E Toll so after such a triumphant trip I ended up in the non-cash lane at the tollbooth. What an idiot. I put on a really thick Glaswegian accent and pretended I was a tourist.I tried to give him my toll money but he just kept saying : ‘No cash. No cash’ in a very strident tone. The guy just waved me through as if I was the ultimate loser. I’ll probably get a fine later. And yes, I did take the photo while driving. I was on a roll.

    EPIPHANY – there would be something liberating about having no car. Do you get the L ? Is that what they call the train system in Chicago? I only know that from watching ER. I love when you say downtown. Reminds me of that Petula Clark song!

    NAT – imagine a Mum doing that. That is madness. You’re right – we need to be a little kinder to one another and things will change. I am not all that keen on elevators either. I’m alright if it’s just a few floors but those massive skyscrapers with over 100 floors? No thanks. Nuh-uh.

    DAOINE – that accident was shocking. I remember seeing it on the news. I know what you mean about the motorways, although truth be told I am a bit of a rev head so I quite like them. I was delighted the elderly lady was OK. It could have been much worse.

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  13. You’re braver than I am … I always took a bus into the Sydney CBD, and confined use of my hire car to the suburbs and environs. Likewise, I never take a car into London, except for Heathrow Airport.

    OTOH, the Adelaide CBD is a dream to drive in … I wonder if it’s unique in this respect?

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  14. TRAVELRAT – I haven’t yet driven through the Adelaide CBD but I have heard the roads are very well planned. At least one Aussie city got it right, eh?

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  15. I used to joke that you could live all your life in Adelaide, and never make a right turn … and that’s not far off the truth.

    The city was planned from the get-go by Colonel William Light (originally, the capital of SA was to be in Glenelg) … the CBD and North Adelaide are laid out in a grid iron pattern, and the main roads to the burbs and other towns and cities radiate from them like spokes of a wheel.

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  16. When I lived in Sarnia Ontario many years ago, we regularly drove across to the US, via the Bluewater Bridge, a huge structure, very long and curving along the way. I was always holding my breath and keeping my eyes closed for part of each trip. Sounds like you defeated a tough fear Selma, good for you. It’s getting more dangerous by the day to venture out on the highways and byways… 😦

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  17. I used to be afraid of the tunnel, I thought exactly the same thing you did. What if it caves in to all that water pressure around it, or there is a leak they can’t stop and it all crashes around me! But somehow that sounded better than having the bridge collapsing under me and having the car plunge into ice cold water. Go figure! So now I’m ok to go through the LH tunnel,but I think I hold my breath the whole way thru!

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  18. TRAVELRAT – now I really want to go there. Sounds like a driver’s dream.

    GERALDINE – I can’t say I was completely relaxed crossing that bridge, though. I guess that will take a bit of time. You’re right about it getting more dangerous on the roads. I just wish people would calm down.

    MELEAH – Hahaha. That would work for me too!

    TBALL – good on you for tackling the tunnel. I am nowhere near as brave as you!

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  19. One thing that struck me about Adelaide was how courteous everyone on the road was … my brother-in-law said it was probably because I had Victorian plates on my hire car, so everyone was giving me a bit more space.

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  20. TRAVELRAT – LOL. I know the Victorian drivers can be quite manic (sorry Daoine). They don’t run the orange light, they run the red one. Good one!

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  21. Hey! (We only run the reds that have no cameras attached 😉 )

    “I used to joke that you could live all your life in Adelaide, and never make a right turn … and that’s not far off the truth.”

    Now, hook-right turns are just plain fun… Maybe that’s why we get some respect in SA. We take turning right to a whole new level; Addies don’t even turn right if they can help it… 😉

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  22. >>We take turning right to a whole new level;<<

    I believe the Melbourne trams have something to do with that? 😀

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