Bridges, Boats and Just Plain Fear –Linda Knight Seccaspina
One hot summer day when I was 6 my mother spoke some wise words to me while we stood on the edge of the dock at Selby Lake. Bernice Ethylene Knight warned me over and over not to stare at the water as she prophesied that I would fall in. While everyone was enjoying their picnic lunch I immediately returned to the edge of that dock to test her theory.
Like a flying duck making a fell swoop into the water I fell in head first. That was the day I nearly drowned and water and “boating” became a fearful enemy. When I turned 60 eleven years ago, I felt I should finally throw caution to the wind.
Oakland, California- July 2012
I slowly went down the planked path to the Oakland Ferry dock as the seagulls flew over me with mocking cries. They could smell my fear and taunted me as I approached the dock. I could feel my stomach inching up into my throat and it felt like the church picnic at Haven Isles in the 60’s all over again.
There was a swinging bridge across the river at Haven Isles that everyone had to cross– no if, and or buts. Every year the Sunday School picnics were held there, and they had a beloved teacup ride and the miserable suspension bridge. I hated that bridge, but it was the only way to get to the island that held a snack bar, a beach, and all my friends. So, Linda Knight had to suck in her fear, and go across that bridge. Sometimes a nasty kid would be on the other end, throw me a smirk, and start rocking it. Those were the times I held on for dear life, and then threw up over the side. Reality hits me and I am back at the Oakland dock waiting to stand up to my fears.
Seldom late for anything I arrive 37 minutes ahead of schedule to make sure I am on time to possibly die. I decide to stick my identification that I have placed in a plastic bag inside my sports bra so if the boat goes down they can identify my body quickly.
I watch the elderly tourists getting onto the Potomac; fondly known as The Floating White House. The boat was originally called the USCG Cutter Electra in 1934. I watch as they pull anchor and gaze at the waving occupants that I feel might not make it across the bay.
We all proceed on to the ferry like a funeral march, and I glance at the sign that states that if the above alarm goes off to man your stations. Where actually is my station I ask the steward as he silently motions me to go upstairs to the second deck. Watching from above I see a child below grasping a floater. He too is unsure of his fate and I silently berate myself for not also bringing a floater.
We approach Treasure Island and the water begins to get rougher. An elderly man from the old 187th Airborne assures me everything will be fine and begins to tell me stories from WWII. The fear has now been replaced by similar droning words that I have been told dozens of times by my late grandfather.
I am amazed at how little that holds up the Bay Bridge and realize that the bridge will fall on us if an earthquake should immediately occur. I wonder if the captain is slowing down just to scare us as there is most certainly no backed up traffic in the San Francisco Bay.
Attempting to get the perfect shot of the bridge I fall on the slippery deck as the captain increases his speed. Thankfully my nightmare does not occur and Linda does not do a fatal swan dive over the edge. The passengers are impressed as I lay there and take a picture of the under belly of the Bay Bridge. There is no way I could have gotten this angle standing up.
The captain now assumes his ferry is a speed boat and we bounce off the crests of the waves that make the nearby sailboats heave up and down. I suddenly question whether I should immediately go in and hit the bar.
I see Pier 39 in the distance and wonder how people swim from that pier to Alcatraz Island everyday. Fellow passengers tell me there are dolphins in this part of the bay and I think of the TV dolphin Flipper and how he helped drowning people.
Getting off the ferry I am immediately greeted by a clown trying to attract our attention. I notice the large bucket he has for the exiting passengers like myself. My stomach silently asks what form of payment he wants. I am proud that I faced my fear head on and know that if I ever win a cruise — I’m going to give it to the first person that wants it – I’ll pass!
See you next week!