Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Of Mines and Minds

When I first met Ted, I was plagued by phobias. The phobias were byproducts of a scary first marriage and life in a strife filled area of the Middle East. Through Ted's patience and love and a lot of time, I overcame most of them.  The few fears that still existed when he was diagnosed with the GBM took a backseat to the real threat of brain cancer.  But there is one fear that I've never been able to conquer. 

L to R: Ted, Lori and Tom
I'm claustrophobic.  So when friends from Indiana met us in Bisbee Arizona last week eager to tour the Bisbee Copper Mine, panic set in.  I didn't announce my fears to anyone because  I didn't want to be the wet blanket of the group, and the copper mine tour is about the only thing to do in Bisbee, so if I wanted to spend time with friends, I needed to suck it up and go along for the ride. I secretly hoped that I'd quietly overcome the fear and nobody would be the wiser.   

I'm on the left, Ted is behind me and Lori and Tom are next to us.
My nerves started to get the better of me as we waited in line to buy our tickets. My breath got shallow and I could feel my heart beating in my ears. To the right of the ticket booth was a staging area with safety equipment. After purchasing tickets, we went to the safety area and were outfitted with a hard hat, yellow jacket, miner's lamp and an ID tag attached to a safety pin.  Each tag had a number and we had to sign our names to a list that had corresponding numbers. If something went wrong and ten tons of mountain came crashing down on us, the nickel sized pin would be used to identify us.  I had a lot of faith in that.   
Heading into the tunnel

It's dark down there!
We were taken outside and asked to find a seat on a narrow train car aimed toward a tunnel in the hillside. There were about ten cars and four people to each car.  Our friends took the car in front of us and Ted sat behind me. We sat single file with our legs straddling the benches like we were riding a horse.  There was a tour guide on the front of the train and another one at the rear.  For a brief second, I had no fear and thought I was going to pull the whole thing off, but when the conductor announced our impending departure, I leaned back into Ted and told him to have a good tour.  I un-straddled the pony ride to hell and walked briskly past 40 or so people watching me chicken out. I didn't care.  I just wanted to get as far away from the tunnel as possible.  The tour guide on the back of the train jumped from her seat, ran to the office door and opened it for me. She had done this before.  "Are you sure?" She said, not even bothering to ask me why I got off the train.  
"Absolutely sure," I replied. She then told me that the train would make a stop about 150 feet into the tunnel. That stop was to weed out sissies like me. She said I could change my mind and go back out if I felt so inclined. This news gave me hope.  Once I knew I could get a small taste of what was to come and had the ability to escape, I felt braver, so I marched back outside and power walked past the crowd. Applause broke out.  I took a bow and rejoined Ted on the bench.  As the train creeped into the tunnel, my breath caught in my throat. It was the kind of breath you get after a crying jag or when you are about to go into a full blown panic attack.  I did neither.  

When we arrived at the first stop, the guide at the front of the train yelled "How's the lady with the fear doing?" I yelled back, "Fine," and I was fine.  I was so comfortable at one point during the journey that I almost fell asleep, which freaked me out a little. I never feel sleepy. Were we being deprived of oxygen? It was a momentary lapse into panic-ville.
Great view.

Ted pretending to birdwatch
Above ground, we went to a brewery and said good-bye to our friends.  Ted and I found a wildlife refuge called Whitewater Draw. I took a lot of deep breaths there, very appreciative for the open sky above.

Great place to view owls.
I'm happy to be above ground at Whitewater Draw Wildlife Refuge.

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