“The best teacher is experience and not through someone’s distorted point of view.” -Jack Kerouac, On the Road
Last week, after driving by corn in countless fields and arguing about whether it was dead or not quite dead yet (there was green “in the middle” according to my husband, whatever that means), viewing the smooth and hypnotizing gigantism of wind turbines stemming from hill after hill in Iowa, and finally experiencing the entrapment of a toll road for the first time (at least that I can remember), my husband and I arrived in Chicago, Illinois, what I have considered to be the land of plenty for many a year. This was meant to be our vacation, a getaway since the four years since our honeymoon in Minnesota (apparently we really like venturing just a little bit East and maybe North together), but I fear it turned out to be Tim dragging me around like a tiny shaking Chihuahua who could also stress and complain. A lot.
I’ve always held Chicago up as some ideal city where the adventurous and skyscraper-loving me could connect with my reserved Midwestern gal who enjoys deep dish pizza and would someday reside. Why? I don’t know. Books, probably. I’m not saying I’m ruling that possibility out, but let’s just say my ideal is a bit different now. “Vacationing” was an exciting idea my husband and I had been formulating for some time, but once we got there, I ended up being on “survival mode” more than “relax and let the breeze take you mode,” which is probably to be expected. I fretted so much that Tim ended up saying, “This trip is just one thing you hate after another, isn’t it?” It wasn’t, but I can see why he felt that way. I am a great ruiner of exciting things. I like to think I make them more exciting by offering ALL the scary possibilities of what might happen, but really, I think I’m just the worst traveler. Here are a few reasons why:
1. Driving with lots and lots of traffic.
I’m not the worst driver, but I’m definitely not the best. Driving a car in more than two lanes going one direction and more than one other car on the road is enough to make my heart race and my armpits to overpower my deodorant and sweat profusely. I can drive under these conditions, but again, I’m not the best at it. But driving into a city with hundreds of other cars where the destination was just more roads with more cars had me on über sighing mode. Mind you, Tim was at the wheel, but I had all of our irrational fears of crashing or getting lost or driving straight into the river or a building ready at a moment’s notice if we needed them. But Tim drove into town (three days!) and nothing eventful happened (unless you count us having to drive extra blocks downtown because I couldn’t read the GPS—to my credit, the little red dot had fallen behind real time, but I guess the map was still there).
2. If the boat’s a floatin’, Rachel might be ralphing her lunch over the side.
Tim claims he once read that motion sickness is “the least sexy thing about a woman.” I, for one, do not trust his source, and two, believe he made this statement up to make me feel less sexy and therefore keep my ego in check. Not really. But I probably am pretty irresistible when he does a U-turn in the car and I flop my head back and moan, “Noooooooo. Now I’m carsick!” Sex appeal abounds. Anyway, as tourists to the Windy City, we did touristy things like take a boat tour through downtown to see all the spectacular buildings. While I downed Dramamine and everyone on the big boat (ferry? I don’t know boat sizes—it was bigger than a rowboat but smaller than a cruise ship) was looking up at the buildings, I was staring at my knees, trying to keep my eyes from spinning. Tim spent the first five minutes grabbing my arm and asking if I was okay. Meanwhile, his grabbing my arm adding to my head spinning. Eventually though, I was fine. I saw the sights, got some pictures, and forgot I was on a boat for a little while. And I didn’t throw up. Part of me was even sad when it ended though I was glad to have my feet back on the ground an hour later.
3. Tall buildings are scary.
I’m not afraid of heights. I’m afraid of the idea of them. Tim and I dedicated 2 horrible hours of waiting to go see the view from the top of the Sears (now Willis—who knew?) Tower. From outside, I careened my neck and camera to get a view from below, and YOU CAN’T EVEN SEE THE TOP OF THE BUILDING. It’s that tall due to magic, or complex math I don’t understand. After sweating out the first hour and a half in the basement in a line waiting to get on the elevator and then sweating and trying not to cry as I squeezed the life out of Tim’s hand for an entire minute and fourteen seconds (it wasn’t long at all, but I figured it would take less time for us to crash and die) as we rode the elevator to the top. I’ll admit it was neat to look out and see the view, and we even waited to stand on the new looks-like-glass-but-it’s-not-glass viewing panels. It didn’t fall the second I stepped onto it, either.
4. Tall Ferris Wheels are also scary.
You can get the gist of this one. Tall ride. Out in the open. Moving. Could break or maybe keep going up into space. Me scared.
5. People can be scary too.
I’m not afraid of people, but crowds seemed to have a mind of their own. Once a hoard began walking, it did not stop. People don’t move for you; you move for People. How you become a People, I don’t know, but you must need to belong to a crowd. People would also leap into traffic before crossing signs changed, and keep walking as if an invisible force field floated between them and cars. Once I figured out how to dart, I was golden. Darting is fun, so this became less of a fret and more of a game.
What I discovered about myself was that I needed to have more faith in manmade objects and if need be and there’s a market for it, I could be a professional Doomsdayer. The best part was once I experienced something, I didn’t let the neurotic part of my brain get the best of me anymore. Experience gave me the strength (and the logic to override said neuroses) to know that if I feel like I am being irrational, I probably am. There were so many things I loved about our vacation—art, theater, museums, history, walking for hours without worrying about having to be somewhere, spending time with Tim—and yes, after a few days, I was able to think of the trip as a vacation.
So I may have not been the ideal partner for venturing out into new territory, but once my eyes could see past the distorted fears I had in my head, the view became a lot clearer, and it was beautiful. Why expect the worst from something good? I know I have a habit of thinking about the worst possibilities of any situation, so when something bad happens and it’s not as bad as I thought, I know I’ll be able to handle it. But I hadn’t considered this might be making ME a worse person. Sometimes going somewhere new can change who you are. I’m hoping I left my distorted fears behind me in Chicago where hopefully they’ll just blow away on the breeze and drift off into space, possibly right above the Ferris Wheel.