So, for those who don’t know, I’m a bridgetender in Seattle. In September, I will have been operating drawbridges for 20 years. It’s a dream job. Mostly very calm and normal, and about 5 percent white knuckle panic.
You get into a routine. Each bridge has its own rhythm. It would be easy to get complacent. I make an effort not to, though. Safety first.
But some assumptions you have without even realizing you have them. When something happens to mess with those assumptions, it can be very confusing. For example, you have a habit of recognizing John Smith because he’s always at the front desk of your office building. Run into him dressed in casual clothes at the farmer’s market on a Saturday, and you may have a hard time placing him.
Something similar happened to me the other day at the bridge. I heard a horn signal that meant a boat was asking me to open the bridge. I looked out the window to spot the boat, and all I saw was a motor vessel who could easily fit under the bridge, so surely it couldn’t be him. I looked around some more. Was there a sailboat in one of my blind spots or something? I stuck my head out the window. The coast, as they say, was clear.
How strange. I looked and looked. No sailboat.
Then I glanced at the motor vessel again, and realized that it had a giant inflatable octopus (supposedly a Seattle Kraken, for our new hockey team) on top of it. This made the vessel twice as tall. Of course he’d need a bridge opening. Of course.
As I opened the bridge for my very first cephalopod, I had to laugh at my hidden assumptions. Motor vessels of that type never need an opening. Horn signals are always sailboats. And you’re never going to see a boat-sized octopus, so if you do see one, your brain can pretend it isn’t there. For a minute, at least.
Thank goodness I had the presence of mind to snap this picture. Who would believe this story without a picture? I mean, come on…
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