Mike Buzzelli

High anxiety

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When I moved to Los Angeles, I took a job as a messenger. I had to drive all around a city I didn’t know. It was a great way to learn about my new environment. It was also a great way to get lost.


One of my assignments was to take a package to the top of a mountain. An actual mountain. Located on the Santa Monica Mountains is Piuma Ridge. There is a paved street, Piuma Road, that goes all the way to the top of Malibu. It is a steep, twisty road that goes up and up and up (and up and up). At the very top there is a small enclave of houses. The view is breathtaking. You can see the ocean and, well, everything. I wouldn’t want to live there. It takes 30 minutes to get down the mountain. That’s a long way to go if you forgot milk at the grocery store. I guess you’re eating your cereal dry.


I was a little frightened on the trip up. I was on the clock, so I had to go or get fired, acrophobia be damned. On the way up, someone was trying to pass me because I was going too slowly. I was not pulling over, because I was afraid I’d pull all the way over to oblivion. It was pretty much paved road and cliff. Drive or die. He honked until he had enough courage to go around me.


Once I made my first trip, I knew it was a safe place to sightsee. I returned several times with visitors. All of them cried on the way up the mountain. My mom and my Aunt Terri were so terrified, they even peed their pants a little. I’m like a haunted house. I delight in terrorizing my friends and family.


I have to stress that it’s a real road, paved, with two-way traffic. Except for the view, it was not all that scary.


Last week, I was with my Aunt Terri and we drove through Cacapon State Park in West Virginia. At one point, my aunt saw a sign that said, “Mountain View.” We decided to go up. We must have very short memories.


She was driving. The road became a bumpy, dirt road that twisted to the top. We were surrounded by trees, until we weren’t. We reached a clearing and we could see for miles downward. She started to sweat. I got scared because the road became wide enough for only one car. I started to laugh, because when I’m scared, I laugh. That’s normal, right?


I was also frightened because I wasn’t in control. What if she panicked and drove off the cliff? It was a passive passenger ride to death.


There was no place to turn around when she said, “I have to turn around!”


I said, “I will be glad to drive, but you have to go until the road gets wide enough to turn around.”


She said, “What if it doesn’t ever get wide enough to turn around?”


P.S. Earlier we were listening to tapes about the power of positive thinking. We have short memories AND we’re slow learners.


Finally, there was a big, tree-lined area to turn around in. We got out of the car and switched seats, and I drove us down the mountain. No one was seeing the Mountain View that day.


We reached the wide, paved part of the road, and we both began to breathe again. We noticed three cars going up, convoy style. I thought, “God help the guy in the middle if he gets too scared to reach the top.”


Later, we sat over salad bowls in a restaurant and Terri said to me, “It’s always an adventure with you!” I didn’t remind her that two people who are afraid of heights shouldn’t go looking for the Mountain View.


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