as long as I can remember, I've aimed for aisle seats on planes and
trains and in restaurants and theaters. When I couldn't have my way,
I pouted and felt all closed in.
They call it claustrophobia, but my case is not as severe as some.
For example, I can handle air travel OK (aisle seat preferred) while
some of my friends suffer unrelenting panic attacks for the duration
of a flight.
"I just wish I could open a window and let in some fresh air," one
of them told me. "I feel all closed in." And I said, "There's a time
and place for everything."
As assistant managing editor at The Baytown Sun, I led a pane-less
existence with nary a window in a small office. The work space was
about the right size for a rack and clothes hangers.
When managing editor Jim Finley resigned, I took his place and inherited
his office, making instant use of a wide window that glared over the
newsroom. I liked watching what was going on out there and especially
enjoyed having two doors -- one to the newsroom and the other to a
hallway leading to an exit to the parking lot. It was good knowing
I could see out and get out.
The work atmosphere got even better when, as the result of a major
remodeling project, I moved into a glass-walled office with windows
opening directly to the outside world. Beautiful view, all that shrubbery
Elevators, since their invention, have been the nemeses of claustrophobics.
As I gingerly step into one and watch the heavy door close, for one
fleeting second I sense entrapment. What if the door won't open again?
What if this box won't budge, no matter how many buttons we push?
Years ago in a hospital in Baytown,
I was stranded in a jam-packed elevator that stopped between floors
and stayed there for too long a time.
I recognized a man standing in the back, undaunted in the midst of
whiners going slightly unhinged. I had interviewed him once. A PhD
research chemist, he had survived the Holocaust, having escaped as
a youth from a concentration camp where the rest of his family died.
The demeanor of that brave and brilliant man - calm and serene in
the stuck elevator -- reminded me of a popular book title, "Don't
Sweat the Small Stuff." An elevator, temporarily immobile, must have
seemed extremely small stuff to him.
I used to tour caves on vacation trips and never gave claustrophobia
a thought. I trailed through Carlsbad Caverns three times and visited
several smaller caves over the years.
No problem, enjoyed each tour.
A few years ago I planned to tour the cave at Sonora
but, Houston, we had a problem. The tour had just begun- we were barely
inside -- but I was already anxious to leave the underground of calcite
crystal treasures and come up for air. Caves don't have windows, you
When a woman in our tour group complained of feeling weak and dizzy,
our guide asked if anyone would escort her out of the cave. "I'll
do it," said I, with a snappy Girl Scout salute.
After doing a good deed for a weak and dizzy tourist, this outsider
relaxed on a bench, gazing at clouds racing across the big sky and
wondering how the tour was going in the land down under.
Postscript: From what I've read but have not seen because I left early,
the Sonora cave is awesome
fantastic, wondrous, unique - the best. Wikipedia quotes National
Speleological Society founder Bill Stephenson's comment that Sonora
"is the most indescribably beautiful cave in the world. Its beauty
cannot be exaggerated, not even by a Texan."
See what I missed?
© Wanda Orton
Baytown Sun Columnist
6, 2016 columns
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