I have always had some trouble with heights. The theory is that it is due to very sensitive inner ears. I struggle with a sense of falling when still a good ten feet away from any edge that I can’t see the bottom to. Vistas hold little appeal to a person whose balance is questionable. And, so it was, that this led to my unexpected temporary death one year while vacationing in Maui.
My husband, Wild Greg, likes to explore when we go on vacation. This frequently involves remote winding roads. He is not lacking in compassion for my balance issues, and I try not to discourage his fun when he wants to ‘show me around’. He knows that I can’t handle looking out over edges, especially while in a moving vehicle, so he’ll often slow down or stop to let me have a chance to enjoy a view at his recommendation. That fateful day in Maui, one side of the road was next to a sheer drop off 100 feet into the rocky surf. The other side was cut almost vertically against the sea-side mountain. I was spending a lot of time looking at the side of the mountain.
On the northern leg of the journey, my side of the car had been right next to the mountainside. For the southern direction, I was next to the cliff, so I was concentrating on looking across the car to solid earth. With all the curves, Wild Greg was going easy on the gas pedal, from his perspective. All of a sudden, I saw him turn the steering wheel 90° to the right and I felt the car go over the cliff.
If you have never been driven over a cliff, you may have difficulty understanding the sensation. Time was suspended in a strange way. There was a sense of floating, but I didn’t scream. There was not, in reality, time for that. I did stop breathing for that poetic eternity – until I looked at my husband and saw his concern for the strain I had just gone through. He didn’t know I had just gone over the cliff. He had pulled into the only small dirt parking lot along the route. Which he had seen, but I hadn’t.
Even mentally knowing we were safely parked did little to immediately dissipate the physical shock of believing we had barreled over the precipice. For those split seconds, I had entered death. For the rest of the day, he treated me gently. He was very apologetic, having had no intention of causing such trauma. He also did not try to minimalize my experience.
Thus it is that I have gone over a cliff, spent a few long moments basically dead, and lived to tell about it. This may help explain why action movies have more of an effect on me than other people. Not only does the visual motion do something to my inner ear, but I am faced with reliving my own personal cliff hanger. Some things are truly burned on the memory.