I am grateful I am not one of those people who suffers from claustrophobia. Elevators are no problem. Even MRI machines don’t faze me. I usually lie back and nap. And while I don’t particularly like crowds, I don’t go into a full-blown panic attack when I am in one. But there is one thing which will send my heart into palpitations, cause sweat to trickle down my back, and make me hyperventilate—getting stuck on Eglin Air Force Base when they close down the gate and don’t allow traffic to leave the base.
It’s not only during those times when I have a carful of groceries, half of which are melting as I sit there going nowhere. Likewise, it isn’t just when I have to pick up my son from school in ten minutes or be at an appointment in Bluewater in fifteen minutes. I can’t explain it, but when I can clearly see the gate and I am restrained from leaving the base, my anxiety level kicks into overdrive. I’m a trapped prisoner and freedom is just thirty yards away!
My eyes dart to the grassy area to the right of the road. If I could just swing my car out from this line of cars and make it over to the grass, I could exit around the gate and be free. Even the prospect of getting my car stuck or several military police cars chasing me down does little to dissuade me. The longer we sit, the more this scenario looks reasonable. But we are jammed in too tight. There is no way I can maneuver my car out of the line. So, I switch to Plan B. I’ll leave the car right here and run. Yes, I understand that I am unlikely to run thirty yards before passing out from exhaustion, let alone the fact that bullets might be flying around my exposed body.
But I can’t stand it! I’ve GOT to get OUT OF HERE! My hands are shaking, my heartbeat is erratic, and I’m breathing like a woman practicing Lamaze. My rational brain tells me there is absolutely no reason to panic. Nothing bad is happening. But my body is churning out massive quantities of adrenaline in preparation for the fight or flight response. Each minute that passes drives the response higher. I keep my eyes glued to the gate, where the guards are still restricting anyone from leaving. Maybe if I slowly approach them with my hands up, they will take pity on me and let me leave. Or perhaps call the nice people who will come to collect me in a strait-jacket and remove me to a padded cell. Oh, wait … that would really escalate my claustrophobia. Unless, of course, someone gives me a nice valium or two. Too bad I don’t carry them in my purse. I could use one about now.
I look over to the grass again. If I back up into the car behind me and ram the car in front of me out of the way, I might be able to make it. Maybe everyone will be so distracted I can get away. I don’t have to go far—just to the other side of the gate. After that I will return to normal and can logically explain how I went temporarily insane due to false imprisonment. I doubt it will work, but it’s better than sitting here spontaneously combusting.
I wonder if anyone else has this phobia. If so, there is probably a scientific name for it, in which case I cannot be held accountable for my actions. But if you happen to see me in the police blotter section of the paper, you’ll know I finally snapped. Don’t worry, as long as they don’t close the door on my jail cell, I’ll be okay.