When I was little, we lived about 25 minutes from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It was nothing for us to drive to the airport to watch the planes take off. We were also close to the Pittsburgh Zoo and Kennywood Park, a well-known amusement park in our area. We went to the big city quite often. But, it was always a thrill to approach the Fort Pitt Tunnel.
As noted in Wikpedia, “Before entering the tunnel at its southwest end, one sees a commonplace view of Western Pennsylvania’s rolling green hills, but upon exiting at the northeast end, one sees a spectacular view of Pittsburgh’s skyline, often famous as “the best way to enter an American city”. So true, so true. It is just a barren drive on the parkway. And after exiting the tunnel, a whole world of skyscrapers and bridges appear before you, magically, like Dorothy seeing Munchkinland for the first time. Well, except, this was Pennsylvania and not the great land of Oz.
The one thing that I didn’t like about the drive to Pittsburgh was the tradition of holding your breath when you go through the tunnel. I mean, really? We have to do this? Whose messed up parent invented this? And is it just with this Pittsburgh tunnel, or is everyone across the nation demented? Everyone was always excited about
the prospect. “Ooooh, here comes the tunnel. Hold your breath!” And with that, everyone would blow up their cheeks and sit quietly, if not passing out, while they traveled through the tunnel.
From what I understand, if you are able to hold your breath all the way through the tunnel, and then make a wish, that wish is supposed to come true. That’s just wrong. I have always had the lung capacity of a worm. I would never have a wish come true. And what happens if you are in the car with someone who is a slow driver. Like my Grandpa, creator of the traffic jam. He drove like he was heading towards yesterday. Whatever the hell that means.
My sister could hold her breath until she attained brain damage. That explains so much about her nowadays. So could my brother, David. They would sit through that whole drive through the tunnel and then let out an explosion of air noise when we reached the other side.
So, I did the only thing I knew how to do. Ask questions. My dad rarely answered questions while he was driving. My mom was more than happy to answer questions when she wasn’t swiping us with her hand when we were fighting.
“Vickie, why are you talking? You are supposed to be holding your breath……..Because you are…………..No, it isn’t a law…….I don’t know if the president holds his breath when he goes through a tunnel……..Vickie, you won’t be able to make a wish if you don’t hold your breath…………..Because that’s how it is……….It just is…………..Vickie, that’s ridiculous, dogs don’t hold their breath………..Please be quiet…………..Please……………..Vickie, ENOUGH!”
And then we would be through the tunnel. Sometimes I would pretend to hold my breath. I would puff my cheeks out like a stuffed, over-fed hamster and still breathe through my nose. I wasn’t born yesterday.
In the end, I have no idea why people hold their breath when they go through tunnels. Perhaps parents wanted a bit of peace and quiet and created this as a nice diversion. Perhaps people enjoyed passing out from lack of oxygen.
I know it thrills me to no end.