Four Women Drive Together for Eleven Years…Over a Bridge


In 1976, we four women going back to work were the outliers. Most of the other mothers were at home, with their children.

We had no cell phones. Between us, however, we did have husbands, bills to pay, monthly periods and nine kids. When we started our carpool, the oldest kid was seven; the youngest, was learning to walk.

We were returning to full time teaching from maternity leave. We did not know each other before we met on that September day in 1976.  I was the oldest at 31, and Ellen was the youngest at 29.

For the next eleven years, our merry carpool crossed the Tappan Zee Bridge from our homes on one side of the Hudson River to the school where we all taught on the other side. On a good day, it would take us 40 minutes. On a bad day, it could take two hours.

On our daily ride, when we weren’t sleeping, sulking or squabbling, we talked to each other. We became friends.

Things change. Our carpool ended in 1987, and then, we all drove to work separately until each of us retired.

I am writing this because I read that The New Tappan Zee Bridge when it is finished in 2018 is going to probably have only electronic tolls. What fun is that? In 1976, when we carpooled, we paid $1.50 to cross and we actually touched the hand of another human being at the toll!

Technology changed. You may be reading this, now, on your phone or pad or whatever. I can’t keep up. You may also have children, husbands, bills and monthly periods, or not, if you’re old like me.

It’s hard to be a working mother. I know. It’s also hard to be a stay-at-home mother. I know that too. Now, because of technology, some of you can do both at the same time.  How’s that for a change? I think it’s for the better, but I am sure there are those of you who will disagree. Let me know.

When they tear the Old Tap down and replace it with the New Tap, it will be a celebratory event.

I, however, will be remembering those eleven years when I rode to work with my friends…

…even that time when one of us, in a snit, drove over the bridge while furiously pounding her hands on the steering wheel, and screaming in exasperation at me, the one with the fear of driving over the edge into the Hudson below.

But, for now, that’s all water under the bridge.

The True Story of Rip Van Winkle, by a Gephyrophobic

Photo Credit: edenpictures via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: edenpictures via Compfight cc

I have a different view on Washington Irving’s beloved tale, Rip Van Winkle.

As you probably know  Rip Van Winkle takes place in the glorious Hudson River Valley. Rip, leaves his shrewish wife at home and sets out for the mountains. There he meets some new friends, some of them very short. They all drink too much and go bowling. Then Rip falls asleep for twenty years. He wakes up and discovers he has slept through the entire American Revolution. Bummer.

Now ponder this, “How can anyone sleep for twenty years?

I believe Rip must have drunk a helluva lot of booze to sleep that long. Or, he probably ingested a powerful herbal similar to, let’s say Xanax?

“But why,” you ask, “would Rip need such an herbal?”

The answer is, “He needed the powerful herbal because he was having a panic attack.”

“Why was he having a panic attack,” you may ask.

The answer is “Because he wanted to go with his new friends to the other side of the Hudson River where he learned that there was even better food, partying and outdoor activities.

You wonder, “Why couldn’t Rip go with his buddies to the other side of the Hudson?”

The answer is “Because he was afraid to cross the bridge his buddies had built.”

“Why was he afraid,” you ask.

My answer is, “Because the bridge was swaying and Rip had gephyrophobia, a fear of bridges.”  My theory is Rip ran down to the shore every day to try to get the nerve to cross that damn bridge. He’d start out, take a step and turn back. Then, he’d try again the next day. Then he’d chomp on some of his herbal remedies and probably practice some deep breathing.

One day, he took too many herbs, and his new friends got disgusted with him. They left him on his side of the bridge, for twenty years. Also, they stole his gun and his dog.

Today there really is a bridge across the Hudson River called the Rip Van Winkle Bridge.

There are a few other bridges too…like the George Washington Bridge and The Tappan Zee Bridge. I live close to The Tappan Zee Bridge….note the use of the word ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ…I think it’s secret code to remember Rip’s snooze.

Somebody must have been snoozing when they built The Tappan Zee Bridge because now they have to build it all over again.

I really feel for Rip Van Winkle and his problems because I am a gephyrophobic too. I do drive to “the other side,” but, I never know when “It” the panic attack is going to hit. When “It” attacks, unlike Rip, I power my way through it and then say, “never again.” But that’s the thing about living in the Hudson River Valley; whether you are on the west side or the east side of the Hudson River, you will need to cross over to the other side at different times in your life. For some of us, that can be a challenge, but we persevere.

No one has more sympathy, empathy, or whatever you call it, for others out there who are afraid of driving over bridges, particularly high ones. As the New Tappan Zee Bridge and other bridges are being built in this great country,  let’s share our stories.