Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Why I'll Never be a Willa Cather Heroine

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It occurred to me today, sometime after I got onto I-68, outside Hancock, Maryland that I would have never cut it as a pioneer. I could see the Sideling Hill attraction looming in the distance, snowy and grey. And I dreaded the ascent and subsequent descent. This continued for the rest of the mountains through most of western Maryland. I thought it over and over: you would've never cut it in a wagon train. Today is not the first time that this thought has crossed my mind. I hate hate hate driving over the mountains. I'm not sure why, either. I live in West Virginia for cryin' out loud. But the mountains on I-68 just bother me for some reason. It may be because there are instances when I can see beyond the berms of the interstate and realize just how friggin' high up I am. It could be the steepness or the way the road surface is banked in places. It could be that my ears pop frequently. It could be that I drive a subcompact and I fear for my safety because of the barrelling semis and assorted jackasses that share the road. It could also be as simple as I'm getting old and fearful.

I like to drive. I don't mind driving in cities or places I've never been. Give me a rough map and some idea of what to look for and I'm fine. But that fact, in and of itself, shows my lack of pioneering, adventuresome spirit. I don't mind going if I have even the roughest idea of where. But just set me out on my own or with someone who has a rough idea of where we're headed and I'm screwed--things clench and I feel anxiety attacks comin' on.

Usually the anxiety at some point abates and I'm fine. It seems to be the anticipation that gets me: my imagination and ability to spin out a worst-case scenario are massive--once I'm at the point I feared, in the middle of it, I'm fine. I eventually found myself thinking of other things: why there are so many christian radio stations in western Maryland (not just Protestant/Evangelical, but Catholic); is there any other state with such a state police presence on the roads as Maryland; what is it about Arby's hash browns that do such horrible things to my stomach.

I can manage travelling in a car provided I have cigarettes, distractions, cheap coffee and frequent bathroom breaks. But had you plopped my ass on a covered wagon and expected me to navigate west, I'd have slapped you stupid and stayed put.

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