When I lived in San Francisco before the move back to Seattle (before moving back to San Francisco) I didn’t worry about earth quakes. I counted them. I counted how many I had experienced while living in The Bay. I think it was 6. I grew up with earthquakes so the only thing that scared me was watching the “what if the big one hits us and we all drown or burn or our food and water supply gets cut off” TV show.
But after being here for 3 years and seeing my time in SF coming to a close, I immediately started to worry that I wouldn’t get out alive. Naturally. I felt like I had survived without having The Big One hit and now that I had a countdown for when I would leave it was as if I was in a race, The Big One nipping at my heels. This is irrational thought. I know this and yet it makes 0 difference. Nada.
When I came back my fear of The Big One escalated to anxiety attacks while crossing any bridge. At that time I needed to cross 2 of them every time I went to work and every time I came home. Eventually I became numb to this, until we were moving out of the city and to San Mateo. I felt again like I was escaping by the hair on my chinny chin chin. My mom also felt this way – she had had dreams she said – it’s not surprising my neurosis runs in the family.
So now I take the train every morning to work. At first I loved this. And I still do like it a lot. I read (a book a week), I people watch, I give no thought to where I’m going or when I’ll get there. I just do.
But then the other day, as I was hopping across the tracks to the correct side, I noticed how the grooves in the ground where the walking path is are very very verrrry shallow. And this got my brain -a-churnin’. I rationalized my anxiety about those tiny grooves by looking at the rest of the track and thinking, “but those tracks are like… a foot deep… and trains are heavy! They are well anchored down. Well anchored.” But the damage had been done. Soon I imagined every fictional train pile up I had ever seen on any movie or TV show. Soon I was stopping mid-page, my eyes the size of saucers with every lurch or weird noise. I’ve even texted Kamel:
Me: I hear a horrible noise coming from the part where the train connects
Kamel: It’s probably just because the train is a little wet from the rain
Kamel: It’s normal
Me: I don’t like it. I don’t like it at all.
Me: God I feel like Elf when he discovers the radiator
I generally shake off the start of any panic and adrenaline I feel and shove my face in a book. I judge everyone else’s non-stressed demeanor and feel like …. ok, yeah, obviously nothing to worry about. But then! On Friday! I saw the truth of the rail system… the wheels don’t actually latch down deep onto the rail! It’s practically a floating greased up tire without any rubber, sitting on a very very very tiny metal beam. Any little thing could just knock it over! Sure, it’s heavy so it’s pretty secure in the up and down direction, but say it gets a little too much momentum going around a curve? Or a strong wind? Or a cow runs into it? Basically, long story short, we’re dead.
And did you know that in order to escape out of a train you actually have to pull the sealant from around the BIG heavy window and then hope the big heavy window doesn’t fall on you while you’re untwining the big string of window sealant? I mean, who has time for that kind patience and tricky maneuvers that probably take group participation? I would be dead, so it would be someone else’s job. But these are the things I’ve been thinking about.
1) We are all doomed to die in a fiery fiery public transit accident. (Meaning me, most definitely me.)
2) Those who don’t die from impact probably won’t be able to get out. (Also me.)
I may be a total loon, but at least I come clean. Also, in the vein of total honesty and openness… yesterday as I was standing on the bus, doing my best to hold on, the bus driver jerked forward and I totally fell back and had to grab on to some poor lady’s butt cheek to steady myself, all while I was talking to a new co-worker… the judgement and the horror to be associated with me painted all over her face.
I was totally that guy.