Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Carstrophobia and people watching, a study in humanity

I've discovered a new fear.  I've coined it carstrophobia.  It's fear of being trapped in traffic in my car.  It is almost as anxiety provoking to me as my claustrophobia.  But first, answer me this.  Why the hell do people choose to drive every day in crazy Boston traffic?!

A few times a month, I drive to various Boston Hospitals for my job.  I typically leave my relatively traffic free suburb after 'rush' hour time (after 9 am) for the hour drive and leave wherever I am by 2 pm to get the hell out of the city before the evening traffic chaos.  Or so I thought...

Every time I've gone in, it has taken me nearly 2 hours.  It doesn't seem to matter what time, what route I choose, what day or the weather.  It's always something.  Every.  Single.  Time.

Today, it was the Red Sox game at 1:30.  I sat on the exit ramp from the Pike for 30 minutes to go the less than 1/4 mile to Memorial Drive at 10:30 am.  Don't even get me started on the poorly designed ramps and merges in the city...The hospital area traffic is always heavy, but typically moves.  Thankfully.

This was after the 'usual' slow downs for no apparent reason by the 128 off ramp from the Pike and various other places.  Why aren't these people at work already at 10 am?!

Once I finally got to MGH, I sat in the lobby for a while waiting for my colleague.  That place is crazy busy.  More like Penn station than a hospital lobby.  It was fascinating and entertaining to observe the cross section of humanity that passed by me.  People of every age, size, shape, color and heritage.  Healthy people, those who walked with assistive devices, artificial limbs, missing limbs, and wheelchair bound.  Brand new babies and those appearing near the end of life.  Those obviously suffering from illness or disease and likely there to fight for their lives.  Those going home happily and those coming to visit someone with anxiety and fear all over their faces.  I couldn't help but think that one never knows what the story is of the person you pass by or sit next to.  You never know when it will be YOU they are watching pass by.  It gives one pause to take an inventory of what they have and realize no matter how bad it may be, someone else has it worse than you.  A lesson in gratitude.

And then, I had to leave the city.  It took me nearly 45 minutes to get OUT of the city thanks to the same baseball game, because Storrow Drive was a standstill (at 2 pm).  I opted out as soon as I could and went through the city.  I don't know my way around the city by vehicle very well and my *bleeping* GPS kept trying to take me back to Storrow Drive.  I finally found my way back to Memorial Drive and the Pike, but it took freaking forever. 

When I was finally freely driving on the highway, I pondered the day.  The stress the traffic causes for people.  For me.  Why?  I have no control over it.  I'll get there when I get there.  I need to buffer more time and hope for the best.  The entertainment I had watching what other people did while they were stuck in traffic was an unexpected treat.  The gift of being able to soak up the sun and listen to my music a bit longer was appreciated.  The realization that it was out of my control and I might as well make the best of it.  There was surely a lesson in it for me.  

I did realize my greatest stress wasn't from the traffic itself.  It was my poor planning and that I'd be late.  I hate to be late!  But a phone call fixed that.  It was really the underlying fear that IF I needed to get out of the city in a hurry, if one of my kids needed me, if there was a disaster of some kind, that the city would be gridlocked and THAT is what bothers me.  I'd be stuck, against my will, with no where to go. It was a lack of control over the situation, the lack of an 'escape' route that provoked the fear of being trapped only instead of in an elevator or cave, it was in a vehicle.  

I'm not sure how to overcome my carstrophobia.  Avoiding the city would only help to a certain degree. It could happen anywhere.  I have the same anxiety in crowded places like theme parks and concerts.  I seem to always need an escape route.  I wonder why...

Or maybe, the lesson is not to overcome it, but to learn from it.  It's clearly a control issue.  It's fear based.  I try to choose love, not fear, acceptance, not fear.  Yet, it provokes anxiety I've yet to learn to manage.

Don't I have enough lessons to learn already?

How about you?  Do you have carstrophobia?  Any suggestions for coping with it?  

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