Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Emotional Triggers

I'm normally not a cryer--by that, I mean I don't weep every time I feel like it. I tend to suppress that particular outward expression unless it's really necessary. But sometimes, a person just doesn't have control over certain outward expressions--like laughing out loud when maybe you shouldn't, or like fitfully gasping at the sight of a large spider that has suddenly come dashing out at you while you're on a pontoon boat, or like crying when you're stopped at a red light.

Laughing when you shouldn't and poorly placed spiders are for another day, but here's the deal with the crying. Yesterday, #2 and I were stopped at a red light in Small Town, and I was telling her a story about a friend of mine, who she knows, who often does stupid things. I never like to pass up a chance to mock a friend, which shows what kind of shallow untrustworthy person I can be. So, I was telling this story, waiting for the light to turn green, when we heard this shocking tire-screaming sound coming from somewhere near us. We both panicked, braced for the impact, and looked all around to see who was going to slam into us and send us to the hospital on back boards. It was a time-stopping few seconds until I realized the sound was coming from an idiot redneck yocal moron with no future (I can't be strong enough here with adjectives), coming out of a dead stop as fast as he could in his beat up old pickup, leaving a trail of smoke from his balding tires as they became even more shredded on the pavement.

Big breath. Audible gasp for air. Then sudden crying. #2 put her hand on my shoulder to let me know that it was going to be OK. We weren't going to be life-flighted anywhere, and my car windows weren't in bits on the asphalt. In those few seconds, I felt such a range of emotion--fear, sorrow, relief, anger--I really did want to chase down the tractor-pull-watching, toothpick-chewing, ball-scratching-in-public, beer-can-smashing-on-the-forehead loser and scream in his face. I really did wish I was a cop. I have a sister who is a cop, and I suspect this is how she feels from time to time, although she can actually act on her desire to right the world.

Here's the deal with why this was such an emotional trigger.

Last April, while stopped at a red light, I was hit from behind by an industrial-strength garbage truck coming off of the highway. The back of my Pacifica was blown to pieces, but I was OK. I was scared, and the truck driver was really sorry, as were the company reps who were at my side almost before the trooper arrived.

Last December, two days before Christmas, I was stopped at a red light with a bottle of wine and a pound of salmon in the front seat waiting to be served for dinner, when I was hit from behind by an 120-year-old man in a 25-year-old car, the kind with the monster front end that needs both lanes for turning corners. He hit hard enough to lift the back end of my Accord off the ground. $2000 damage to the car and a little whiplash for me. Merry Christmas.

This past May, my husband was stopped at a red light on his motorcycle. He was hit from behind by a guy who just wasn't paying attention, and Husband was thrown head-first into the car in front of him. (Helmets really do serve a purpose!!!!!) The bike was totaled--looking like something the Whos would ride in Whoville, but Husband was pulled apart like Gumby. Like the Incredible Hulk doll. Like Silly Putty. I'm not making light of the terrible circumstances, but I still haven't quite figured out how to picture the whole thing. He was in unbearable pain for several weeks, although the only actually broken thing was a leg bone that still hasn't healed.

So, red lights make me tense. Screeching tires make me grip the wheel and wait for impact. Being vulnerable in my car puts me on edge just enough so that I am unable to resist a little crying when it all adds up to disaster, even for just a few seconds.

Funny thing, though (or sad, whichever), after my light turned green, I insisted on finishing my stupid-friend story, even through the tears and face wiping. It helped to snap things back to normal.


Anonymous said...

Sad to say...these things have a way of staying with you for many years. That horrible, mind-numbing fear that it will happen all over again, and you can't bear the thought. After 3 accidents involving MORONS BEHIND THE WHEEL and me (or husband and daughter), I still have butterflies approaching an intersection and some idiot turning left in front of me and me not being able to stop in time. Tears are sometimes appropriate and uncontrollable.
Have a nice day...
Pianist friend

Anonymous said...

Hey Rob sounds like your triggers are for good reason. I had a nsty whiplash some years ago that left me disabled for a bit. another story for another time...

I enjoy your stories... keep up the good work.

Rich AKA 3rdvalve

Rob said...

Hey Rich. Thanks!!

Driving is scary, motorcycles are scary, but I think a little scary is good.