Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Down on the ground, Frog!!

So I was on the streetcar and subway during rush hour not too long ago and I made a fantastic discovery.  I wasn't terrified!!! These modes of public transportation were jam-packed with people and I wasn't headed for a panic attack.

Many people have a fear of crowds.  Mine stems from when I was 16 and got trampled at a Michael Jackson Dance-Off competition in Assiniboine Park in Winnipeg.  (I couldn't make that shit up.)  One second I was sitting on the grass minding my own business, and then next my friend Heidi was rescuing me from people who were actually walking ON my squooshed body.  A direct result of the  Michael Jackson Dance-Off trampling was an abject terror of crowds that lasted 26 years.

Canada Day in on Parliament Hill had me sweaty and hyperventilating.  Travelling in rush hour pushed me close to vomit.  Security at concerts would attempt to eject me from a crowded venue with little success.  "Excuse me miss?  We're clearing the stadium now, you have to vacate your seat."  I would turn to them with wide and crazy eyes, and say something along the lines of, "I have a phobia of crowds.  If you don't want to clean up the mess that involves hysterical weeping, shrieking and almost certainly projectile vomiting, I'd let me have a few minutes.  Please."

The phobia was all about being IN a moving crowd.  Sitting in a crowd for me was fine.  Performing onstage in front of a crowded house was fine.  The minute there was any kind of movement that had me caught up IN it?  I was toast.

Then we moved to NY for 5 months.  NY is crowded almost ALL the time.  There were a couple of times that I'd have to wait for the next train, and the next train and perhaps the train after that before I could reach a comfort level of transit capacity.  

I can tell you the exact day that I got over my phobia.  It was the day before Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, November 24, 2010.  We'd decided to head down and see them inflate the balloons near the Museum of Natural History.  For the next 2 hours, I was shoulder to shoulder, heel to toe with thousands of people in a crowd.  In my mind, we were cattle on the way to an abattoir.  We plodded our way around the blocks where the balloons were corralled, I put one foot in front of the other, and two hours later?  Phobia was gone.  That's not to say that there wasn't a shitload of heavy breathing, nausea and heart palpitations on my part for probably the first hour of that cattle parade, but after that?  I was okay.  In a way that I hadn't been in 26 years.   David and Rissa kept talking to me to keep me occupied.  And what I remember most from the evening is that I got to see Kermit the Frog, apparently arrested and pinned to the ground with netting.

Down on the ground FROG!  ON YOUR STOMACH ON THE GROUND!!!  Drop the gun!

I highly recommend this method for curing a crowd phobia.  You're in a defined area with other people at the beginning of the holiday season, so the crowd is more apt to be patient and smiley.  Before you get into the crowd you can have hot chocolate.  There are LOTS of police and medical professionals in case of emergency, so if you start freaking out they can get you to safety relatively quickly.  The weather is cool so you won't overheat. PLUS you get to see them blow up cartoon characters which keeps you all distracticated from the reality of you being packed in like sardines with strangers. 

And now?  I can have these great moments on the TTC where I realize that I'm no longer afraid of crowds and I can be all smiley towards other people in the midst of the crowd who look like they're going to woof their cookies.

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