Just in Case I Wasn't Feeling Crazy Enough, We Decided to Go to the Arch

As if crawling through small, dark spaces wasn't enough, the next day of our St. Louis Spring Break Extravaganza was spent touring the Arch.

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.

Source
The Hubs went off on his own to look out the windows and take pictures while the kids and I sort of hovered near the exit with wild eyes. I could see that my fear was being projected on them and I couldn't scar them for life the same way I'd been scarred. "Let's look out a window!" I said, trying to sound excited. "I bet we can see far!" The kids calmed down and I pushed my Power Bar back into my stomach and we looked out the windows. After ten minutes of looking out windows and feeling the breeze move us, the kids and I were ready to go back down. The Hubs wanted to stay longer and take more pictures (he is Asian, after all). "Suit yourself, we'll see you at the bottom!" I yelled as I herded the kids to the elevators.

"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!)







39 comments:

ilikebeerandbabies.com said...

Never been a huge Arch fan. The grounds are great though.

Crazy Mama said...

I thought we would take a mini-vacation to STL this summer since we are doing Disney in OCT. As I have aged, my claustrophobia has become so bad that I had to bail out of a haunted house meant for kids at the pumpkin patch. Sorry kids! We will find a nice wide open field to play in!

Carla said...

I'm convinced those elevator pods are a reject from the Apollo missions. Scary stuff man.

Unknown said...

Never been there...not sure now if I want to go! Though I have been contemplating subjecting my family to a Griswold-esqe jaunt one of these days!

Kris at AintNobodysMama said...

Never heard about this whole elevator situation. Thanks for the heads up! I think it would be good if all husbands could jot a 'script when needed. That could come in handy.

Kp said...

I had a similar arch experience. those mork and mindy egg capsules that take you to the top are just perfect to let every anxiety you've ever had run wild. No thank you. Done and done.

Queen Holly the Magnificent said...

I hate heights. I cannot function well at all. I remember having some sort of nervous breakdown, in front of all my friends in the cable car at Bush Gardens. Go on the cable car they said, it will be fun they said. Yeah right.

Never. Again. I could have died. Clearly.

Christina Hovland said...

Getting into those elevators reminded me of climbing into a clothes dryer and then being lifted a mile into the air. *shudders* That was 12 years ago ... and it still gives me the goose bumps.

Unknown said...

Ugh, I thought I was going to have a panic attack when I went up in that pneumatic vacuum tube of torture. I'm pretty much good with never ever repeating that experience.

Lynn said...

Really, the movie at the arch is a million years old, and is the best part of the basement area.

On the same trip where I took my useless parents along with my quadruplets, I took the kids to the arch. One child would NOT go up so it was me and the other 3. Useless grandparents stayed with the one. Two adults, one child. Me? One adult, 3 children.

I was having a very hard time breathing that whole trip. I was later diagnosed with asthma, but I didn't really understand what was happening and I was flipping light-headed, so back off, OKAY??

Anyway, we got to the top and had to climb a ton of stairs to get to the viewing area. And it was so crowded. I was wheezing and coughing and trying to breathe and my 3 children had decided they didn't like it at all.

This whole trip was a giant PITA.

Rebekah Sanders said...

You know when you look out those windows on the way up and there is that rickety staircase just in case of power failure or whatever? Well, about 20 years ago, I had to get OUT of one of those stupid cars about 2/3 of the way up and WALK DOWN. I was sure that I was going to die - fireman help or not. (Power outage - they let us out after nearly 45 minutes of sitting there in the dark). Never. ever. again.

Dyanne @ I Want Backsies said...

Yeah, when I was in STL with the middle school youth group, I got as far as sticking my toe in the "sample" car by the ticket booth and bailed out. Not enough Valium for that ride. I'd rather have an MRI. No, I'd rather have hemorrhoid surgery. (Which I HAVE had and it was ten days of pure hell before I thought I would survive it).

Anonymous said...

Loved going to the Arch as a kid. I got a kick at how scared the adults were. Not sure I would find it that adventuresome anymore, especially with my 6'4" husband on board. At least the museum is still nice.

Michelle said...

Just your description of it is enough to make me barfy. "Swinging and clunking", "...swaying in the wind" ? Good god. I'd have to be taken down in a stretcher, and I'm not thinking that would fit too nicely in one of those pods.

Disney Redhead said...

We went when I was 10 (1991.) I remember them being white with a small window to see through. I actually thought being able to see out the window in the elevator was terrifying. Not sure how I'd handle it as an adult.

Girl 2.0 said...

I love the elevator at the Arch -- it's like the egg pod from Mork and Mindy! Of course, I sadistically enjoy the discomfort of family members (my mom is terrified of heights, my husband's mom was a wreck...) St. Louis is awesome for free/cheap things to do with kids. I wish it were baseball season. I'd get you tickets to a Gateway Grizzlies game so you could try the Krispy Kreme donut burger -- baseball's best burger! (They also have killer cheesesteak nachos, which you probably shouldn't eat after all that working out.)

Jenny P. said...

Wow - I went up the Arch a zillion years ago - and although I don't recall being at all traumatized, I honestly don't remember how I got up there ! Maybe I've just blanked the memory out - maybe it was so terrible I just chose to forget it ?? Hmmmm.

Raabster said...

I think that you've got the theme for your next book started!
"Move Over - I Think I'm Gonna Hurl!: Stories of Family Trips in America"
Should be a best seller, based on this start!

Lisa said...

Oh, HELL to the NO. This is why I pack a valium when I travel. In case someone I'm with insists on doing something INSANE like that. LOL

Wendy at Taking the Long Way Home said...

I went up in the Arch about 20 years ago with a college friend who was living in St Louis at the time. I'll admit, I was a little anxious about the whole thing. It wasn't riding up in a little pod crammed full of people that bothered me. Nor that when we got up to the top, the only thing to look out of was those little slits of windows. You'd think that scenic view of East St Louis Illinois would have made it all worthwhile. But what did me in was that It was a windy day and I swear I could feel the Arch twisting in the wind. I tried to put the image of the Arch swaying out of my mind, but in the end, I told my friend I had to go back down. I ran to the front of the line, shoved people out of the way and got into the next pod going down. I heard about that for years after. Never ever again.

You are going to need a vacation after the week you're having. Bet your kids think you are the best mom ever, though!

Sorry kid, your mom doesn't play well with others said...

The arch is pretty much a one and done type of deal. It's cool as a kid not ao much as an adult. We live about 20 minutes away from the arch and I have not taken the kids up once, the one time I tried they had it shut down for some reason. But the concerts under the arch In The summer are awesome.

Carolyn Watson-Dubisch said...

Never been to the Arch,but now I'd like to go!

Jack Steiner said...

Let's hear it for good husbands.

Katiepoopenstein said...

I went up there when I was visiting St. Louis University. I had never had an issue with claustrophobia until that ride. Never ever again!

Jenn @ Something Clever 2.0 said...

Oh, helllllllll no. You're a better mom than I.

BadParentingMoments said...

I have never been so happy to have no reason to ever go to St. Louis.

RachRiot said...

I would like to see the Arch, but have no desire to be *inside* the Arch. This is kinda how I feel about most monuments. I'm kind of like the platonic friend of all monuments...

Michele said...

When we went up in the Arch when I was young I didn't have any problems. When I went up a few years ago with my husband and two kids? Another story entirely. Not enough room. Not enough air. I was convinced terrorists were going to fly a plane into it while we were in the pod. I was eyeing the stairs out of the window. Thank God for that window! I seriously almost bolted out of that thing before the doors closed trapping me inside. I thought I was gonna die before I got out of that friggen pod. The top didn't bother me but that pod was nearly the death of me.

Unknown said...

As rude as it may be, I'm glad you're experiencing this horror and sharing it with us, so that I know where my family will NEVER go on vacation. Ever.

Isabelle said...

I had repressed how awful those pods are. Ugh. I also recommend avoiding the Shark encounter at Seaworld. I could not deal with the insanely over-crowded hallways leading to the tunnel. The actual tunnel was cool but so not worth the near panic attack.

Adrienn Hunt said...

Aww, hubs. What a guy! I would have to pass on the whole going up to the top of the arch thing, seriously. The pod, the height, sharing air with strangers. no. I don't even like sharing my Hibatchi Grill table with strangers when we eat at Japenese restaurants. My husband would have to take the kids up alone. Probably try to embarass me in the lobby and call me an alien, then load the kids into the pod. I'd be ok with it.

spymay said...

My friend and I went to the arch several years ago and discovered the true name(to us) of those pods: "death bubbles".Forget waterboarding, the CIA should use those pods to get information out of terrorists.Terrifying!

Anonymous said...

I've been up in the Washington monument in DC and hated every minute of it. Definitely not doing that arch. It sounds way worse. Thanks for the review.

phunk said...

Don't ya hate it when you have to pretend you're not scared by things for your kids? I had to do that the other week when a massive spider ran across my car window (thankfully on the outside). Oh it's nothing to be afraid of darling, just an ENORMOUS HORRIFIC SPIDER THAN WILL PROBABLY BITE YOUR HEAD OFF & LAY EGGS DOWN YOUR NECK! Ack.
As for crowded/tight spaces - I never knew I had an issue until I visited the Vatican Museum. Man they squish you in there. Maybe it's some innate 'Godliness' that stops the deathly stampede that seems imminent at every turn. At least it makes for an exciting visit I guess..

Anonymous said...

I feel your pain about the Arch. When we went to visit it I felt all the same emotions plus a man of middle eastern descent with a small box in his lap who was sweating bullets was in that tiny capsule with us. I could barely breathe for praying so hard that he wasn't going to blow us up!
!!!
I will never go there again!!!

Deborah

Unknown said...

Reading this made me all panicky, but also made be all "Aww..." because you and the Hubs are so cute. So cute that I almost want to go on the Tight Spaces of the Midwest tour like you guys did.

Unknown said...

I went up with me husband, our 4 month old, and some random other couple. We JUST get in and my son messes his diaper- big time, to this day it was still the worst diaper blowout ever. Trapped in a pod...my hubs says oh gonna change him? How is that going to work, we are shoved in here T2A with complete strangers...excuse me we haven't met, is it okay if I stretch my sons poop smeared legs across your lap while I clean him up? Oh no?

We sat there in silence as we SLOWWWWLY crept up the arch and the smell crept crept up our nostrils. When the door opened the other couple busted out of there like there was a fire. Welcome to St. Louis ya'll!

Mosaicwench said...

Looks like the next trip should be to Chicago and the glass SkyDeck on the Willis Tower. . . . .no thanks.

Cynthia said...

Wow - I have just added this one to the list of "Things that I will never, ever do. Not even if you beg me or try to shame me."

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