I’m Free… Falling…

Pam Pollock
July 2022

I’ve always been surprised that my photo does not appear in the dictionary next to the words: scared, neurotic, anxious, crazy, insecure.  It’s true, I am all of these things and so much more. I have more phobias than Doan’s has pills.

But something strange has happened over the past couple of years.  I’ve gotten more adventurous.  I suspect it’s because I’ve watched my grandkids don their “Brave Cape” when they are scared of doing something.  I decided to put on my own “Brave Cape” and venture out of my comfort zone.

I started out slow, with the help on my SUV’s OnStar navigation system, I felt confident enough to start driving in traffic, specifically in downtown Pittsburgh.  I’ve taken the grandkids to Pittsburgh Penguins games on my own.  Last year, the two oldest granddaughters and I went to Columbus, Ohio overnight. 

Oh, even with OnStar’s help, I still manage to get semi-lost.  I take wrong turns or blow by my exits.

When the Pandemic hit, I found myself seeking solace in the woods.  I pursued my love of photographing birds with a passion.  I began to travel, by myself, to locales that are sometimes 3 or 4 hours from my house.  I still have a habit of either packing food or running through the drive-through of a fast food joint because I feel too weird to dine by myself.

Earlier this Spring, my spouse and I were figuring out our schedules in regard to upcoming truck show.  I must confess that the bulk of going to the shows falls on him.  Feeling particularly brave that day, I volunteered to attend the Shell Rotella SuperRigs Truck Show by myself.  It was a 12 hour road trip from our house and although I felt brave, I didn’t feel brave enough to tackle that drive.  I booked air flight, a hotel, and a rental car. 

I have flown in airplanes lots of times, even by myself to Louisville, Kentucky – but this was the first time that I would have to switch planes solo (3 times out and 2 times back).  And in our 39.5 years of marriage, I never drove any of the cars that we have rented on our travels. 

As the date of my trip loomed closer and closer, my fear set in.  What the &$#*@! Had I gotten myself into?!  The tickets were non-refundable and non-transferrable.  It appears that I was backed into a corner.  In other words, I was royally screwed. Dang you, “Brave Cape,” dang you!  I made a mental note to stick that cape in the attic.

My departure day arrived.  I left my house at 5:00 am and drove to the airport, leaving my car at a parking lot.  I breezed through security, even with my camera, 2 lens, 5 lithium batteries and a laptop computer.  I flew to Chicago and then to Memphis.  The roadblock appeared when I landed at Memphis and sought the next gate for my flight to Harrison, Arkansas.  I could not find it.  I sought help from 2 airport employees.  They had never heard of the airline.  Phone calls were made, and it was discovered that I would be flying out of the other terminal, which was located over a mile away and across the freeway.  A complimentary shuttle should have taken me there, but it was broken down.  I paid $20 for a taxi ride.  I had 2 hours until the flight took off.  I sat and sat and sat.  My flight was delayed for another 2 hours.  And that’s when I learned that I would be flying on a 9 passenger plane.  I will admit that the flight was pretty cool.  I felt like I was floating like a cloud. 

With my “Brave Cape” tightly wrapped around me, I navigated the next 3 days like a pro.  My son had shown me how to use Google Maps to navigate my drive from Harrison, Arkansas to Branson, Missouri. Did I get lost? Of course, I did!  I took hundreds of photographs of beautiful trucks.  I actually dined in restaurants by myself.  I talked to random strangers in restaurants, airports, and on airplanes.  I sneaked out for a quick trip to Table Rock State Park and the Baker Natural Prairie Area.  I saw and photographed species of birds that I had never seen before.  I got lost… again.

As I was scouring a place to set up to take photos of the SuperRigs Parade through Branson Landing, I spied a very cool chair zipline that zoomed across Lake Taneycomo.  Impulsively, I bounded up the steps and got in line.  I paid my fee.  Now, to put things in perspective, I am terrified of heights, but I always have this strong desire to jump out of a plane, to go parasailing (done that twice), and zipline (did the kiddie one once with my granddaughter).  I have no problem once I am in the air, but I panic if I have to step off of a ledge.  Because I would be sitting in a chair, I thought I would be ok. 

I watched people zoom across and back.  The line was getting shorter, soon it would be my turn.  I started to turn to bolt and make a run for safety.  And then the 8 or 9 year old boy in line in front of me asked me where I was from.  He was very excited to learn that I lived an hour from Pittsburgh.  “Do you like hockey?” he asked.  “I LOVE hockey!” I exclaimed.  And we bonded over our mutual admiration for Sidney Crosby.

I expressed my fear to my new friend Aiden.  He told me that this was his 5th time doing the zip line that day.  “At first I was afraid, but it’s really fun,” he told me.   And then that kind young man offered to ride with me. 

“You don’t mind riding with a little old Grandma that you don’t know?” I inquired.

“We all start out as strangers, “ Aiden replied.  “But we can be friends in the end.”

Aiden’s Mom offered to take photos and videos of our ride together.  We started across the lake.  Aiden threw his arms up in the air and encouraged me to do the same.  We shrieked with joy. “Dallas Stars”, Aiden yelled.  “Pittsburgh Penguins rule” I screamed.  We made two trips across that lake. 

  I felt like I was free falling, but in a good way.  I guess I’ll keep that “Brave Cape” close by because I am ready and roaring to try some more new things. Oh, I’m free, free falling…