What is the deal with St. Louis and tiny spaces?!
I remember touring the Arch when I was probably 10 or so. My family was doing that whole Griswold drive across America thing and we stopped at the Arch. That was when I first realized that I'm a bit claustrophobic. I can ride in a crowded elevator no problem, but put me in a space-aged pod that I can't even stand up in and send me up sideways to the top of the Arch and I just might freak the hell out.
I was so traumatized by that trip that when the Hubs suggested we take the kids up to the top of the Arch this weekend, I refused to go. "Hell no!" I said.
He reminded me that the day before he had graciously wedged himself into biohazard areas while I remained a safe distance at all times. "You owe me," he said. "I can't do that one by myself."
That's when I wished the Hubs was a doctor and could write me a 'script for Xanax. I don't take drugs, but I think Xanax or Valium would have been a tremendous help on our trip. Instead, I gulped down a Power Bar and psyched myself up for a 2 minute ride in a tin can.
I have to say, that in the 30 years since I last visited the Arch, they've done some improvements for the scaredy-cats like myself. There is now an elevator car in the lobby that you can climb into and see how you'll fit. (We all tried it out and even with our heavy winter coats it was still roomy - thank goodness, I've been working out!) They've added glass panels to the doors so that can see out. This doesn't sound like much, but it's so much more reassuring when you're bumping along to see the bend of the Arch and know that's why you're swinging and clunking. They've painted the interior white. I'm not sure what color it was before, for some reason I want to say yellow, but whatever it was, I remember feeling closed in. The white helps it feel much more open.
We bought our tickets and we were waiting on line when I almost puked from terror. I had been doing so well up until that point. The kids and I were exploring the museum part and reading the want ads from the 1800s for cattle wranglers and solicitors when the elevators arrived. We were reminded to stay to the right so the people exiting could get off. We moved over and the doors opened and a woman who was not a small woman burst through the opening and exclaimed, "Oh my God that was tight! Get me outta here." I thought, Hmm, she's a little bigger than me. Was it really that bad? And then four more adults who were bigger than her exited the car behind her!
Who loads up a car like that?? What is wrong with the people who work at the Arch?? I could feel my Power Bar threatening to come back up.
Just then a worker came up to us and asked how many were in our party. "Four," the Hubs replied.
"The car holds five," she replied and then called out, "Any singles? Any single riders?"
Shut up, woman!! Shut up!! We practiced getting into the elevator with the four of us, we never planned for a fifth! Shut up!
Luckily most people were in twos so we were able to ride up just the four us. Because the kids are still so small, we fit pretty well and it wasn't so bad.
Then we got to the top. Crap. I'd forgotten about the top. How hot and stale it is up there. How crowded it is and itsy bitsy windows. I'd forgotten how the floor is on a slant and you can feel the monument swaying in the wind.
"How many?" the attendant asked.
"Three," I said.
"Go down to that elevator and join that party of two," she said.
I looked to where she was pointing. Two full sized adults looking to gobble my air supply and encroach into my personal area. They sized me up with equal apprehension. "Uhhh. . . we'd like to be in our own car," I said.
"Sorry, ma'am. We're very full up here and we need to keep the elevators full doing down."
"OK," I said. We joined the party of two.
Suddenly, the Hubs saved me. "Ma'am, you didn't tell me there was fourth," the attendant said. The Hubs was standing beside her.
"Yes! My husband!"
"OK, well now you get your own elevator."
"Thank you, Hubs!" I said to him.
"I didn't want you to go alone," he said.
Aww. The Hubs loves me even when I'm crazy. (OK, now I really am going to throw up that Power Bar!)