Thursday, July 26, 2012


Don't you feel off balance just
looking at the photo?

       One of the sillier highlights of my recent SoCal trip included a ride on the ferris wheel at the Santa Monica pier.  Somehow I got it in my head that there was ferris wheel there and, despite (or maybe because of) my discomfort with heights, I wanted to ride that thing.  More about that in a moment.


View from the top of the Ferris Wheel
    About that fear of heights.... Acrophobia is the technical word for it and, according to Wikipedia, between 2 and 5 percent of the general population suffer from acrophobia.  Frankly, I am not an acrophobic person.  I am not truly frightened of heights so much as they make me feel unsteady and unsafe. I don't experience panic attacks and can make my way down from high places without needing assistance.  I suspect this discomfort with heights is common in most people and is likely to be an evolutionary adaptation of sorts.  After all, it would be smart for humans to avoid high places where falls and danger might lurk.

    What I do know is that, when I put myself in high places but on steady ground (that is to say not in an airplane), I can get jittery, and adrenaline runs in high quantities and  at full speed through all parts of my body.  I can feel the tingles and change in breathing even as I am ascending.  Scary! There are several times that immediately come to mind when I have put myself there.  I went to the top of the Empire State Building at 1:30 in the morning and freaked myself out mightily.  I had though perhaps darkness would cover some of that discomfort but, if darkness covered it, the wind up there uncovered it.  I could so easily imagine the wind breaking the protective see through shield and sending me blowing across the skies of NYC. I wanted to get away from the edge so fast.

View from the top of the Gettysburg structure.  Gulp
   On a trip to Gettysburg a couple of years ago, I traipsed to the top of a five plus story viewing strcuture along with about 35 brave 8th graders.  That was scary because the structure was made of metal poles and you could see below you in every step you took.   I wanted to do it because it scared me.  I told the kids I was scared but I was going to do it anyway.  Good strategy for life, heh?

   I long ago decided I never needed to walk across the Golden Gate Bridge again.  I really don't need to see between the cracks where the blocks of asphalt and concrete meet.  I don't need to imagine my foot slipping through that crack and my body going on its last grand adventure into the sea.  I am well aware of the 500+ people who have chosen to leap off that bridge.  Is it possible that I could somehow be lifted off the bridge?  I can drive across but even then I am most comfortable with my eyes on the road or on the impressive bridge towers.

   So why the desire to ride the Ferris Wheel in Santa Monica?  Heck if I know but I was so excited.  Poor Matthew.  He had to put up with my "We are going to get to the pier and ride the ferris wheel?' questions every day until we made it happen.  He chose to calmly ride with me and teased me a bit because I told him that a certain other brother (someone you know, Noel) used to rock the cart on the ferris wheel that came every year to town and scare me to tears.

   I suppose I  wanted to get the rush of adrenaline that goes with doing something that is scary but safe.  Before being a parent, I was open to all sorts of risks and experiences.  I think, once parenthood got ahold of me, I became so much more risk aversive and cautious.  Perhaps since I am no longer in the care taking role, I can allow myself to feel more safe fears again.  I can go out on more limbs and let the body feel things to its core.  I sure know I am alive when every sense is tuned in.  I like that.


  1. When us kids were little, my parents would take us to POP (Pacific Ocean Park) and we would ride the rides and have a blast. I always wondered whatever happened to it. It wasn't until just recently that I realized that POP was the amusement park on the Santa Monica Pier!

  2. Wow! You really were brave up there, JT. I'm glad we did that, I really enjoyed it. I should have gone on the roller coaster, but was feeling the need to get away from that carny atmosphere. It always creeps me out, the press of humanity, the crass way they handle you, the very humanity of the place....

  3. I get acrophobic looking down from the roof of a two-story structure, but have found that the work removes the fear-it's just about being able to focus on something that overshadows the acrophobia. Otherwise, I highly doubt that I would care to repeat any of the steps you took, in taking those pictures, unless they need some roof work done on the Empire State Building. What's the pay scale? Is there overtime available?

  4. The photo I didn't include b/c I can't find it is the one of me on the fire department ladder 175 feet about the school yard. It was a demo from the fire department and they needed a volunteer. SCARY! No tether, no nothing - up that ladder and if you fall you are going to go splat right in front of 500 kids. I adopted your strategy - looking straight ahead, never down, breathing deeply, and taking it one step at a time - entirely focused on the ladder and NOTHING else. Worked but I would recommend that they not do that again - not without some kind of a tether....

  5. JT you are very brave. I would say you have overcome your fear of heights. No further proof needed!

  6. I always say I'm not afraid of heights, but I definitely experience some pretty profound anxiety if I am up high enough even when I know that it is in a relatively safe and stable structure. And don't even get me started about having the kids in those viewing tower situations, etc. Ugh. ;)