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May 10, 2015


I don't know from bridges, but I do know that travel on the Cross-Bronx Expressway is a time-consuming disaster.

Take the other route.

My condolences, for all of it.

PARTICULARLY the drive on the LIE. There's this ONE GUY...grrr

Are you afraid of heights in general Dr Science or is your problem just bridges period?

Lincoln tunnel, then straight across to the Queens Midtown, which puts you on the LIE.

The crosstown thing can be a nightmare, but maybe not so bad on a Sunday.

I left Long Island in 81. Haven't been back since probably about 85. Too many people.


I guess I wasn't clear -- I did this on Wednesday, and the Cross-Bronx wasn't too bad (going east, at least -- I wouldn't have wanted to be one of the poor souls going west). And the Brooklyn-side roads were worse, not to mention Staten Island ...


I did this last Wednesday, and cross-town would have been horrific. The Cross-Bronx was OK that day.


Heights in general, but bridges are the worst because they come up most often and have to be dealt with. I have only rarely found myself in a glass elevator.

When I moved to Philly for grad school, I knew I'd need to be able to get downtown by foot. So that first fall I walked back and forth across the Chestnut Street Bridge with a friend. First I walked next to the road and he walked between me and the river, with me clutching his arm with a deathlike grip. Then after I got used to that, we switched so I was nearer the river, still with the deathlike grip. Eventually I acclimated enough that I could walk across by myself.

But this took quite a while, and the Chestnut, Market, and Walnut Street Bridges are hilariously tame: completely flat, very wide, and only about 40 feet above the water. The very thought of something like the Walkway Over the Hudson makes me feel faint.

Given a choice of driving thru New York City, I think I would fly from Newark to Boston and rent a car.

I've driven in most major cities in the US, and a number of others big citiers around the world. But the only one which is anywhere near as bad as NYC is Sydney, Australia.

Doctor Science, if you're looking for help conquering a fear of heights, might I recommend a session at flying trapeze school? They usually have a net underneath you a harness on your person....

Interestingly going above a certain height seems to cancel the effect. I do not like crossing high bridges either but have little trouble looking out of airplanes once they are up a few hundred meters. I guess it has something to do with the landscape getting two-dimensional in perception combined with a perceived slow movement. My stomach turns once it is fast movement, in particular maneuvres, at low heights. I also hate big jumps in 1st-person-view videogames (slightly less so in 3rd-person-view). Why the $§%&! am I afraid looking at a collection of pixilated polygons jumping down hills on a small screen while I am sitting safely at a desk in front of it?


I just found out that the general phenomenon is called visual height intolerance -- "acrophobia" is when it becomes severe enough to significantly hamper life. A friend from Pittsburgh reports that she's known people to move away because of the stress of dealing with all the bridges.

Wikipedia suggests that the problem is over-relying on visual signals (as opposed to vestibular) as height increases, which leads to a kind of overload of the visual processing system.

I, too, find that I don't have problems in a plane, so it's probably that the signals we're relying on to interpret "dangerous height!" are no longer working. As you say, the landscape becomes 2-dimensional, the usual 3-D info isn't there at all.

I did this last Wednesday, and cross-town would have been horrific.

Yeah, I hear you.

I think I did that once on a weekday, or maybe a Saturday, long time ago. It took me something like an hour to get across town.

Manhattan, at that point, is about 2 miles wide, give or take.

Plus, if memory serves, the tunnels themselves can suck pretty badly. The Lincoln in particular.

Forget I even mentioned it.... :(

Last time I was on the North Fork, the big local industries were potatoes and fishing. My understanding is that the weir fishing is kind of all gone now, due to being insufficiently scenic for the tastes of swanky new arrivals.

No grapes back in the day.

Far eastern LI used to be kind of an interesting cultural eco-system of its own, more like southern New England than like NY. Locals had their own dialect, very distinct from the western part of the Island, with odd archaic English words and usages.

Still some of those folks around, probably. Maybe some of them run vineyards now.

I've driven in most major cities in the US, and a number of others big citiers around the world. But the only one which is anywhere near as bad as NYC is Sydney, Australia.

Well, it's worth remembering that there's different sorts of "bad". The worst two I've ever had the pleasure of experiencing are Honolulu and Bangalore, but those are bad in very different ways.

There used to be truck traffic on both decks of the GWB. They decided to restrict trucks to the upper deck after 9/11, for whatever security reasons. This was controversial, because many people, including some having real expertise in transportation and traffic, thought it would disrupt the flow of traffic across the bridge. As it turrned out, it improved the flow of traffic, and the rule remains in place to this day.

My reaction to heights is a little more nuanced. I think it has something to do with the perception of whether falling ia actually possible. For example, I get twitchy just going up a ladder to clean the rain gutters. But I have no problem walking on a bridge which has at least some railing on the side. And airplanes are so little problem that I can even do takeoffs and landings (as pilot) without any problem.

I do not, however, have the least desire to try the trapese thing, net or no. Let alone try skydiving -- even with two parachutes.

I don't recall having this problem as a child. We re-roofed the house one year, and I was up there climbing around and unrolling the roofing, etc. So I suspect it may have something to do with the time (as an adult) when I was sweeping off the leaves on my parents' (flat) roof. And managed to forget about the skylight over the entry. I have this snapshot image from the way down, with the roof about chest high. (No physical injury, fortunately. But apparently some psychological after-effects.)

Had a roomate who was a world class rock climber.
It blew me away watching him free climb El Capitan.
He broke his femer falling from a step ladder.
Be safe out there, being high is not your enemy.

I have an uncle, now 89 years old, who lives in Brooklyn Heights just a few blocks from the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge.

We last visited in 2000.

The exit plan was to drive uptown to the George Washington Bridge on the far upper west side.

I decided to be adventurous, as it was a Sunday if I recall, and so we crossed the Brooklyn Bridge and drove Broadway all the way up.

Traffic seemed heavy for a Sunday, but I thought my son, who was 11 at the time, would enjoy being in the midst of one of the biggest metropolises in the universe and craning his neck up at the skyscrapers.

It was a brilliant sunny day.

About half way up we ran into the funeral procession and wake for Tito Puente outside of wherever it was held.

Traffic ground to a stop for a good hour but we got to see Tito's casket across the street held aloft by the crowds mamboing to "Oye Como Va".

So, if you get stuck in the spectacle that is Manhatten, there are always countervailing pleasures to the urban annoyance.

If you get stuck, Doc, maybe we'll see you in a traffic scene in a forthcoming movie, window rolled down with your weary head propped up by your elbow resting on the door, your other hand jammed on the horn for a New York minute.

Hey, you want to try "death defying heights" try going up the Leaning Tower (in Pisa) on a drizzly, blustery day.

From the ground, it looks like it's just a 10 degree tilt. When you get to the top, it feels like about 45 degrees, the top is a narrow little ring of slick polished marble (wet!), and the railing is a tiny little thing with just a few supports.

But the view is fantastic.

jeff, I have a lot of friends that are acrobats and gymnasts and most serious accidents they have occur outside the studio/gym. One woman is a gymnast who broke her wrist badly enough to need surgery and six months of PT: she was hit by a car while biking.

I think that when doing dangerous things normally, people aggressively control risk, so they don't attempt moves beyond their capabilities until they're ready, they have spotters helping out, there are thick crash mats, etc. Outside, danger is not nearly so well managed.


My fear of heights goes back at least as long as I can remember. The building where my father's office was until I was 11 had an open stairwell, and I remember being paralyzed with fear, crying and crawling along the wall.

Did the sky dive just once, but will never bungee jump, nor this either.

bobbyp, wow, that was pretty impressive. But where's the artistry? Here's an alternative perspective on working without a safety line.

From the Mackinaw Bridge's FAQ:

What if I am not comfortable about driving across the bridge?
The Mackinac Bridge Authority has a "Drivers Assistance Program" that provides drivers for those uncomfortable with driving across the Mackinac Bridge. If you are traveling northbound, there is a phone at the south end of the bridge. Instructions for using the phone are posted in the phone box. If you are southbound, just ask a fare collector for assistance. There is no additional fee for this service.


Mackinac Bridge, only because I drove it last Fall.

Mackinaw City, but Mackinac Island. Everything is Macki-this and Macki-that on that end of the Upper P.

I was a bit skittish about driving it so I availed myself of the service. Nice younger lady name of Beatrice was my driver guide across, with her caramel lab, Virgil.

We went far together. To Hell and back, actually, but you get lost in those dark woods on the Peninsula and you'll never find your way out.

Ghosts of the Ojibwa.

Actually, rea, that service would be an excellent metaphor leading off a love story combined with a road movie, or maybe something more sinister.

Mackinaw City, but Mackinac Island.

Pronounced identically.

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