THE LONGEST TEN MINUTES OF MY LIFE
I hate tunnels.
And small spaces.
And elevators. Especially those dinky ones in old hotels in Europe where you can see each floor, and your life, groaning and squeaking past.
There are two bridges and two tunnels connecting the Eastern Shore of Virginia in the United States with civilization.
Coming from the Eastern Shore it goes like this:
The first bridge is the CBBT. (Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel.) This is the only bridge that has a high Babel-like arch where small to medium size boats can pass through.
The lovely tunnels in between, wait for it,
Run underwater. Gulp!
The day we came to a standstill was in the second tunnel, the Thimble Shoal. Closest to Norfolk on the “mainland.”
Where those huge aircraft carriers and other Navy ships merrily cruise overhead to and from the Atlantic Ocean.
Our stop was probably no more than 10 minutes. A lifetime for someone who suffers from claustrophobia.
I closed my eyes.
Tried the box thingy.
Inhale for a count of four;
hold for a count of four;
exhale for a count of four;
hold for a count of four.
I did well except for that holding with no air in my lungs. I had to breathe, NOW.
I took my heart rate. Bad move. It wasn’t so much racing as skipping beats all over the place.
I tried calming thoughts. The ocean. A lake. Water.
That reminded me that I was stuck in a tunnel. Underwater.
And I knew, I just KNEW that an aircraft carrier was overhead. Any moment now that tunnel was going to collapse.
My dogs. Oh dear. Would someone remember that my vet has custody?
And so, it went. One ridiculous thought after another.
I got myself into a right tizzy.
Remembered all the times I’d embarrassed myself. The most noteworthy being the Palm Sunday where I’d practically “walked” on branches.
The church was packed (the CPE people – Christmas, Palm Sunday, Easter).
Everyone waving their branches, celebrating Jesus’ triumphant entrance into Jerusalem.
I saw that forest closing in overhead and couldn’t breathe.
My exit was less than elegant.
More recent was my excursion into the old prisons of Venice inside the Doge’s Palace. The Captain some ways ahead. (As normal.) Two grandchildren. Another couple of tourists. I’m always last.
The passage got narrower. The light grew dimmer. The ceiling dropped lower.
And I freaked.
“I’m turning back,” I yelled at the Captain.
“You can’t,” he yelled back. “It will get wider soon.”
It didn’t get wider. Individual cells appeared on both sides.
Giving the false impression of width.
But back in my underwater tunnel in the Chesapeake I was praying. As I always do in situations when I’m helpless. And even when I’m not helpless.
My thank you prayer.
“Lord, thank you for helping me stay calm. I know you are near.”
I looked up to see a welcome blue flashing light. The police had arrived.
The traffic started moving.
My breathing went back normal.
My heart stopped doing the cha-cha.
We crawled out of the tunnel past the breakdown.
Into bright sunshine.
Cyber hugs and Blessings All. May your tunnels be few and far between.
For those who like statistics:
They are building a new Thimble Shoal Tunnel. It will run parallel to the existing Thimble Shoal. Two lanes in each direction.
The Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel is a 23-mile bridge-tunnel crossing. The total length is 17.6 miles and it has a clearance of 75 feet below.
Photo by Gabriela Palai from Pexels