Thursday, November 1, 2007

The Thursday Three

It's a day late for Halloween, but as I face the prospect of three kids on sugar highs I'm thinking about fear. So today, how about

Frightening Experiences

as a topic? Just to even the playing field a little (and to keep this post under 200 pages) I'm not going to list anything that directly involved any of my kids. Just because. And health issues. None of those either. I'm feeling very contrary today.

And this picture has nothing to do with anything.
It just freaks me out. I hope the Film Geek never comes home in one of those. But if he does, I'd better have a camera handy. Because those shots are going to be worth some cash.

#1. 1992 Los Angeles Riots. I was at home in the 'burbs with barely a month old Sasquatch and the FG was at his alma mater, USC, doing something or other when everything started. USC is about as close to ground zero as you can be and he was basically trapped. He couldn't get out through all the chaos. It took him almost six hours to make a fifteen minute trip.

I stood on a freeway overpass right by our house and looked toward downtown LA, which was enveloped in smoke. Where I was it was deathly still, at least at that point. It got a little crazed later.

And for six hours I carried my infant in my arms and paced. This was pre-cell phones and he sure as hell wasn't going to get out at a pay phone to call home.

Not a lot of fun. He doesn't get welcome home greetings like that every day.

#2. Bad hydraulics.
Summer before last the kids and I were on a flight to LA when the pilot got on the PA system. We had been in the air about twenty minutes at that point. He told us that the plane had had a serious hydraulic system failure and that we needed to turn around and land back in Kansas City ASAP. At first I thought it was a joke, because we were on Southwest and those people are pranksters of the highest order, with all of their weird hats and hilarious boarding instructions. They're capable of anything. Not that this is exactly joke material, but still.

No joke. We turned around and headed back. Sasquatch and Gumby were sitting directly in front of Surfer Dude and I. Gumby had his head stuck in a book and didn't have a clue what was going on. Sasquatch, who has anxiety issues to start with, turned around and looked at me. He didn't say a word. I told them all that everything was going to be fine, it was just a precautionary measure that we were going to change planes.

And then I settled back, with my head resting on Surfer Dude, and distracted myself by seeing how high my pulse could get without him noticing. I had my fingers on my carotid for twenty minutes - while the plane banked very awkwardly to land, when the pilot told us to expect a pretty rough landing, and finally as we raced down the runway past a line up of emergency vehicles with their lights flashing. I doubled my resting heart rate. I bet I could have gone even higher.

And the kid's response? "That was cool!!"

#3. 1987 Whittier Earthquake. Let's just get this on the table right away. I've been in bigger earthquakes. Way bigger than this wimpy little 5.9. I've just never been right on top of one. We were so close to the epicenter of this quake that the first clue I had was a huge sound like lightning hitting something. It was the ground cracking. Right under my feet. Then the shaking started.

I had plants flying through the air. My refrigerator walked across the kitchen. I honest to god thought my house was coming down. My double yellow headed Amazon parrot was freaking out and I couldn't catch him. Of course I was alone, since the FG and I have some sort of an unwritten agreement that he will always be at work if there's an earthquake of any significance.

It was bad. As soon as it was over I threw the bird in his carrying cage and drove to my moms, where we rode out the aftershocks.

I'd like to not repeat that particular experience. Any of these experiences, now that I think about it.


laurie said...

yikes. those are all scary. truly scary. death-defying, every one.

i have nothing to match. there was the time i went rock climbing and when i was just a couple of feet from the top (maybe 150 feet up) i took off the rope so someone else could use it. and then realized i had to jump from the ledge i was on to a different ledge... that was pretty damn scary.

but it was just a fraction of an instant of fear. yours were hours and hours...

laurie said...

oh, and of course that picture you posted is pretty scary, too.

Kaycie said...

I can remember watching a tornado follow us as we raced down the highway in Daddy's pick-up truck to get to the cellar. I sincerely thought the tornado was going to win, but we made it.

Once when I was about 17 I walked out to take a break from my job. The first thing I saw was my mother's Lincoln Continental on the back of a wrecker, the front of it all smashed in. I was frantic for 10 minutes until I found her inside looking for me, bruised but intact.

Everything else I can think of involves kids or health or both.

I don't think these are quite as scary as yours.

my two cents said...

Whittier earthquake number one. I had been in CA for four months and I was home alone getting ready for work. We lived maybe a 1/2 mile from the epicenter. The force was so great I was thrown to the floor. One moment I am ironing a skirt and wondering if I had time to make lunch, or if I would miss the bus, the next moment all I could think was that I wasn't ready to die. We got engaged the next night - I wasn't staying otherwise.

I-5 dust storm of November 1991 number 2. We were driving to a friend's wedding in San Francisco when a windstorm just started blowing all of this dust across the lower half of the San Joaquim Valley. It was so thick you couldn't see the front of the car. My husband was driving and we kept at a steady pace hoping everyone in front of us was doing the same. I had just found out I was pregnant, we hadn't told anyone yet, and I thought I'm going to die and no one will ever know I was pregnant. It was a miracle we made it through because in the other direction there was a 100 car pile up, and several people were killed. When we got to the hotel I called my mother who was just a wreck, 3000 miles away.

Closest call I've ever had on the freeway was coming home from a bridal shower in San Diego with my daughter in the back seat...Driving north on I-5, again the I-5, maybe 8:30 p.m. in the middle of seven lanes (somewhere in Orange County) when out of nowhere a huge piece of plastic blows into the windshield of the car in the farthest right lane. The car goes out of control and starts to cross in front of the car next to me, then starts to pass in front of me and all I can think is 'there is no way I am not going to hit this car and I am going to kill who ever is in there, and I just hope we don't get killed ourselves' but the car somehow misses us, then passes into the lane to my left, spins and reverses course in front of me and the car to my right again, who somehow misses hitting them again, and finally comes to rest facing the wrong direction in the lane in which it was originally driving. Believe it or not, they didn't even get hit by oncoming traffic. It all happened in a matter of seconds, probably shorter than the Whittier earthquake. I was completely shaken, and crying, and barely able to breathe. I just kept driving home hoping we would make it. Now that I have written this, maybe it was number one...

The riots weren't as scary for me because although I worked downtown, we were sent home as soon as the verdict was read, and not called to come back to work until Monday. There are stories there, but my comment is certainly long enough. Why do we remember in such great detail such dreadful things? I guess that's adrenaline for you.

Willowtree said...

Yowza! Those are really scary, and I can match each one, but it's your blog so I won't.

Flowerpot said...

very very scary. I've got more of a wimp as I've got older. god knows what I'll be like in 20 years time - if I'm still here.

Jen said...

Your Borat picture reminds me of a guy we saw on our honeymoon. Except he was wearing a tangerine coloured Speedo, and was not nearly as slim as Mr. Borat


Hmm. A tornado back in 1990 in Detroit. We getting changed after swim class, and the sirens went off. They forbade us from continuing to change and told us we had to sit on the floor. I rebelled. My reasoning was no one was going to find my half naked body flung ten miles away. If I was gonna die, I wanted to have clothes on.

Amy said...

Those are scary things. But guy in the nutsling is scarier. My 8-year-old took one look and said, "I wonder what the back looks like."

The Rotten Correspondent said...

laurie - there is not enough money in the world to make me jump from one ledge to another 150 feet up. I would have just died of old age right there on the first ledge.

I think those instants of fear can be worse than drawn out ones, because at some point in the drawn out ones you get kind of numb. But the fraction of a second ones? Whoo boy.

kaycie - those are both terrifying. I don't have the casualness about tornadoes yet that the midwest natives do. But I damn sure wouldn't want to see one in the rear view mirror. Even though I spent summers in Michigan I don't remember going to the basement that often.

And if I saw my mother's crumbled up car I think I'd vomit.

my two cents - I'd forgotten how unbearably close you were to that epicenter. Welcome to California!

If I were to pick my worst freeway experiences I think the huge majority of them are on I-5 too. I have Grapevine stories for days, but never with a kid in the backseat. Or pregnant, now that I think of it.

Weren't the riots right before you went on bedrest?

willowtree - I would love to hear your stories. You could post them on your own blog since you feel shy about putting them here.

Wait a minute. Haven't I heard you bitch (repeatedly) about a post a day in November? Sounds like a post to me.

You're welcome.

flowerpot - my nerves haven't improved with age either. I got all queasy just thinking about this list.

jen - Borat is bad enough. Thanks for the new mental image. I totally understand your wanting to get dressed. It's a control element in an uncontrollable situation.

That and not wanting to be found naked in Royal Oak.

amy - lalalalalalalalala. I don't want to KNOW what the back looks like.

Nutsling. Heh.

Thalia's Child said...

Uck. You've had some seriously scary experiences. I was trapped in a really lame riot once and that was enough for me, I can't imagine the terror of a riot as HUGE and scary as the riot in LA in 1991

ped crossing said...

I prefer simulated terror to the real thing. Knock on wood, I haven't had anything more than a traffic accident. Totaled my car, but my seat belt saved me from being totaled too.

laurie said...

ah (to ped crossing): i cannot abide simulated terror. i cannot read scary books, i cannot watch gory films, i do not have any interest in being scared.

RC: i can't imagine doing something like that now, either. i can't believe i did it. i relive it, sometimes, and i am aghast at my recklessness.

PixelPi said...

Gosh, my life has been so bland and boring. I have had no terrifying experiences that I recall from this life.

Maybe this means they're all yet to arrive. Wait. Did I just say that? NO! I take it back!

Heavenly Body said...

All really scary.

But the picture is really scary too, but in a different way. What is he trying to say, that he needs a hoist?

Eileen said...

Those are some really major stressors you experienced!!! WOW! The LA riots, I remember just watching from TV and being totally freaked out. The Oaklahoma City Bombing really got to me, I had just delivered Hannah and was home on maternity leave, holding this beautiful new, innocent baby, hearing there was a day care inside the building...I was glued to the tv, crying, holding Hannah so close. It was so scarey for me.
The other thing was when Flight 103 blew up over Lockerbie in 1988, a lot of SU students were on, including some Social Work Graduate students that I was in classes with at the time. That was very, very sad and scarey. You just never know.

The picture of Borat....well what can I say. It speaks for itself. Didn't he just become a dad?

Have a good weekend!

Devon said...

Very scary, all of them. I hit my head on a window during the big earthquake in San francisco... very spooky!

But the most I have ever been scared was on a small plane in an area of downdrafts. We kept dropping in huge dips!

This is a truly scary post Halloween post!!!!

Akelamalu said...

'Bad Hydrolics' was really scary - but not as scary as that photograph! :0

Diana said...

Triple yikes! Guess it's the proximity as well as the magnitude when dealing with an earthquake.

Jo Beaufoix said...

Oh my God, those are so scary and everyone's comments are too.

Laurie, I'd have said, @give me back the rope. I'm not moving till you give it back."

Kaycie, I'd have died seeing my mum's car all crumpled up, terrifying.

RC, we don't really get tornadoes aor earthquakes in the UK, at least not bad ones, but I have two scary moments I remember.

1. When I was about 6 we were on holiday in Mevagissey in Cornwall when my dad started us backing us down a stone jetty into the harbour by mistake. It was dark, and he was backing out of a pub car park. I remember looking out the back window and seeing this shiny, inky blackness and screaming, 'Dad.' I don't think we drove anywhere at night again that holiday.

2. The second happened about 5 or 6 years ago when my mum, Miss E (aged 19 months) and I were returning from Corfu on a plane. Mr B was doing his finals so he couldn't come with us, but My sister worked for a travel company and had got us a cheap deal to go out and see her as she was based at a hotel out there for a while.

It was a stormy night and we new we were in for a rough ride, but suddenly there was a loud explosion, a huge flash, and then all the lights went out.
Miss E was fast asleep strapped to my knees and I just held mu mum's hand and thought, 'Oh my God, this is it.'
The lights came back on but we were told to remain strapped in and the cabin crew also strapped themselves in.

The Captain explained we'd been hit by lightening but were continuing to the Uk and that everything was fine, but we were going to hit some bad turbulence, which we did.

If that wasn't bad enough, about 10 minutes later the captain headed past us down the plane and did so about every 15 minutes for the rest of the journey.

It turns out one of the passengers had spotted a hole in the wing and the captain kept checking in it to make sure it wasn't getting too much bigger.

I'm so glad they didn't tell us this until after the plain had landed.

And, whoops, sorry for the essay.