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Chris Johnson: Birds should not fly under me

I'm scared of heights. There, I said it. For those of you who've followed me for 18 years in the Ledger-Enquirer, it must be a relief to realize that, indeed, I have a flaw.

That one. Nothing more.

But having acrophobia -- which in Latin means "fear of acros" -- is a big deal, even though I've never seen an acro up close. Apparently, acros must stay in high places in an effort to scare folks like me.

Nevertheless, I took a major step toward conquering my fear of heights in the most unlikely of places -- at the beach.

I don't go to the beach to get high; I go to get low. I want to be at sea level. My idea of "high" at the beach is an 8-foot wave, a rickety lifeguard chair, a lighthouse or a plane pulling a banner that reads "All you can eat flounder, $12.95."

I can handle the mountains because they are naturally high and don't often collapse. And I can handle riding in airplanes because I'm not sure that's real. I'm pretty sure they hire folks to run by the windows with pictures of clouds. How that gets me to Nicaragua, I'm not exactly sure.

But unnatural heights terrify me. And just off the coast of Brunswick, Ga., near one of my favorite retreats is the Sidney Lanier Bridge. The bridge is 480 feet tall with a clearance of 185 feet underneath so that giant ships and freighters can pass. Of course, the bridge opened in 2003, so when you adjust for inflation, the bridge is even higher today, like a mile high.

I know because I walked to the top of this bridge last weekend. Actually, my wife walked up this bridge and I kinda crawled along the side. Down below, way down below, I could see the road that led to the old drawbridge -- the one Burt Reynolds' character jumps in "The Longest Yard" to avoid the cops. It's also one that had a couple of ships bump into it, one of those collisions in 1972 causing parts of the bridge to collapse and sending several cars into the water, killing 10 people.

And we've already had one near-death experience on this bridge a few years ago when a water spout appeared outside our car while we were driving at the very top of the bridge. That apparently wasn't enough bridge danger for my wife.

Not even halfway up the bridge, I saw pieces of concrete that had crumbled. Wow, Bernie wasn't lying about our nation's crumbling infrastructure. I was standing on our nation's crumbling infrastructure. And any moment the whole thing was gonna come down and I'd land in that cold water where I'd no doubt be eaten by a great white shark or strangled by a giant squid.

Somehow, I managed to make it all the way to the top, where my wife asked some question about my life savings, but my heart was pounding too hard for me to hear. I was too busy looking down because birds were flying under me. The only bird that should ever be below me comes in a bucket with a side of mashed potatoes.

I am glad I made it to the top of the bridge, and I'm even happier that I made it back down to the bottom of the bridge -- and that I walked down instead of plummeting while screaming "aarrghhh" all the way down. Still, I've decided that we don't need such high bridges.

We need lower boats.

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