In my daughter's baby book is a sheet of notebook paper where, in neat handwriting, I jotted down the time of the first contraction so that I could do the math should a second one hit.
The handwriting on that second one, six minutes later, is still fairly neat, but when the next few came at five and four-and-a-half minutes apart -- and my car had only moved a few feet -- it's clear by the crazed scrawling handwriting, with letters digging into the page, that I was beginning to panic.
I began to envision how her roadside birth might play on the news. Tried to distract myself with road-related name possibilities, like Pylon or Dee-Laigh. Imagined how I could decorate her nursery in Road Construction Orange. Have a mobile over her crib with little barrels and flashing arrows. Sooth her to sleep at night with the sounds of idling engines and muttered obscenities.
Luckily, traffic started moving again, and I was soon at the hospital, where my daughter pulled the first of her many pranks on me by ceasing the contractions almost as soon as I arrived.
Still, the damage was done. From that day forward, when I get stuck in traffic, I begin to panic. I only recently learned there's a name for this condition. David Moxon, a psychology lecturer from Peterborough Regional College, coined the term Traffic Stress Syndrome to describe people like me.
According to an article on buzzle.com, when faced with traffic congestion, those afflicted will "go into a frenzy of panic modes, known as time-bomb phenomena," which can cause them to drive recklessly and without judgment to get as far away from traffic as possible.
It's a panic and flee mechanism, with physical symptoms that can include sweaty palms, increased heart rate, headaches and nausea. Personal experience prompts me to add that it can also trigger horn honking, rude hand gestures from other motorists, and the occasional traffic citation.
And in the near future, it might also trigger the sale of ice cream. Or beer.
Reach Karin Fuller via email at karinful...@gmail.com.