Do a Search of Women and Drawbridges

A friend of mine recently did a Google search of Women and Drawbridges, and what came up was disheartening. Not one word about the many amazing female bridge operators out there. Sadly, nothing about this blog, either.

No. It was all about the stupid things women have done on bridges. Especially this woman, who famously got stuck on an automated bridge as it was rising.

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She has become the poster child for all the foolish pedestrians who ignore warnings when a bridge is opening. (And did she have to be wearing that tacky shirt while doing so? Jeez.) I see them every day. (She also happens to be the perfect argument for why drawbridges should never be automated.)

Another thing that pops up is the woman who died after falling from an opening bridge. (Please take those gongs seriously, folks. Getting to your destination on time is rarely worth your life!)

And then there’s this insane and obviously faked video of a woman jumping across an opening bridge. “Do not attempt”, it says. Uh, yeah. That’s putting it mildly.

For what it’s worth, after years of observation, I can say with a certain amount of authority that stupidity on drawbridges knows no gender.

The reason I find these search results so frustrating is that I’ve been a bridgetender for 17 years. I’ve worked with dozens of other female operators, and we are every bit as capable as our male counterparts. And yet inevitably I’ve encountered people in positions of influence who openly state that they don’t think women should be bridgetenders.

What is this, 1950?

Yes, it’s a male-dominated profession. I have no idea why. It’s something that I’ve had to adjust to throughout my career. There’s a constant push back from certain sources. It can be exhausting.

One male coworker refers to a female coworker of mine as “the little blonde,” which completely discounts her intelligence and capabilities, and reduces her to her physical attributes. It makes me want to scream. Another coworker referred to an assault incident between two women as a “cat fight.”

For God’s sake. What an ignorant world we live in. I’d clutch my pearls if I weren’t so busy cleaning the motor oil out from under my fingernails.

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Just One Step Ahead

I don’t think I’d be very good at chess, even if I found someone with the patience to teach me how to play. I find it very hard to strategize. Thinking 3 steps ahead seems to confound me. If I were on Survivor, I’d be the first one voted off the island.

Having said that, I am extremely good at thinking one step ahead. I can anticipate accidents waiting to happen and take steps to prevent them. I can also figure out the immediate consequences of my actions.

It never ceases to amaze me that more people aren’t good at this. If they were, here are the kinds of things they would be thinking:

“Maybe I shouldn’t stop and chat with someone right in the middle of the grocery aisle, because other people are trying to shop.”

“I really need to make it a point not to throw my cigarette butts on the sidewalk, because some poor non-smoking schmuck is going to have to clean them up.”

“Actually, I shouldn’t be smoking in the first place, because my loved ones do not want to see me die a horrible death.”

“If I abuse this child, he’s going to have problems as an adult.”

“If I drink (or text) and drive, someone else might get killed.”

“It is a good idea to spay or neuter my pet to avoid generations of suffering strays.”

“If I don’t vote, or I vote for a third party candidate, Donald Trump might win.”

“If I don’t pay my taxes, infrastructure and support agencies might not exist when I need them.”

“It’s probably not a good idea to come to a dead stop on a drawbridge when a 2000 ton gravel barge is bearing down on it.”

To me, thinking one step ahead comes easily. Apparently this is rare, though, because I see people not having the thoughts above all the time. And it renders me speechless.

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Crazy Bicyclists

The first thing most people think of when you mention Seattle is rain. Because of that, I was really taken by surprise at the number of people who ride bicycles in this town. Thousands of bikes cross my drawbridge every single day, rain or shine, cold weather or mild. You have to admire their determination, but you also have to peek out the door before stepping on the sidewalk to avoid being taken out by one of them. And there are bike lanes on every major road.

From an environmental standpoint I love this about Seattle. And frankly, given the sheer density of vehicles on the roads here, the more cars that are left in garages, the better off we are. All that extra exercise makes for a healthier population, too, and we can all benefit from that.

Having said that, there are a few issues that appear to be a general source of irritation with regard to the bicycle culture in this town. First of all, bikes are expected to adhere to the same rules of the road that cars do, and yet many of them simply don’t bother. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve seen bikes go right through red lights and make no apologies. This astounds me, because if a bike and a car meet, it’s the bicyclist who will suffer, so you’d think they’d be more cautious as a consequence, not less.

And another complaint I hear quite a bit is that if there is a vehicle/bike accident, more often than not it’s the driver who gets the ticket, even if it was the biker who was breaking the rules. This means you have to drive even more defensively than you do in other cities.

Then there are the militant bicyclists. Those are the ones who block intersections on Ride Your Bike to Work Days, which causes traffic to back up for miles. I’m sorry, but many of us couldn’t ride our bikes to work even if we wanted to, because we have a 30 mile commute, or have to drop 3 kids off at daycare, or can’t do so for health reasons. Why should we be punished?

Cooperation is a two way street, and we all have to share that street. Until all parties involved bear equal levels of responsibility, the roads will not be safe for anyone. Can’t we all just get along?

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[Image credit: seattle-cycling-tours.com]

I am Officially Doomed

After 12 years of working crazy shifts here on the drawbridge, often two or three different shifts in the space of a week, I’m now discovering that there is an official name for my constant state of mental fog, my messed up immune system, and my apparent inability to lose weight despite all efforts. It’s called Shift Work Sleep Disorder. Classified as Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorder in the DSM-IV, I can now say that what’s going on with me can be taken seriously, for all the good that does me.

Symptoms of this disorder include:

  • Lack of sleep. (Well, duh…)
  • Increased stress.
  • Increased risk of infections, including colds and flu.
  • Increased risk of breast and prostate cancer.
  • Higher cholesterol.
  • Increased risk of heart attack.
  • Increased risk of obesity.
  • Insomnia.
  • Headaches.
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Reduced attention span.
  • Gastrointestinal and digestive problems.
  • Decreased production of Melatonin, causing decreased immunity, and increased production of tumors.

Some other fun facts about shift work are:

  • We are twice as likely to have a work related accident.
  • Sick leave is reported in 63 percent of shift workers as opposed to 34 percent of day workers.
  • 30 percent of us are single, compared to 20 percent of day workers.

All this due to a disruption in our circadian rhythms. I’d love to say “Now I don’t feel so bad,” but actually I feel just as bad. Now I just have a name for it.

There are some things you can do about it, but I’m just too tired to write more. So just check out the sources for this blog entry:

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Confession: I Can be a Sick Puppy.

No, I don’t pull the wings off flies or flash people from under a trench coat, but apparently I AM the only human being willing to admit that, yes, I DO slow down to look at traffic accidents. So feel free to blame me for every traffic jam you’ve been in since about 1970. I can take it.

I don’t know what it is about traffic accidents. Maybe they remind me how lucky I am at that moment in time. Maybe I’m trying to figure out how it happened so I can avoid it myself. Maybe it’s the same thing that attracts moths to flames. I couldn’t tell you.

But I’ll also confess that I have an obsession with serial killers. I read everything I can about them. I think that’s more explainable. Since I don’t have a violent bone in my body, I’m fascinated with finding out what could possibly cause a human being to become that sick and twisted.

And reality shows? I can’t get enough of those, either. It’s more than just a throwback to the Bread and Circus concept of ancient Rome. It’s that I can’t look away because I keep hoping I’ll learn why it is people are willing to humiliate themselves in that fashion. The context of the show is much less important to me than the fact that people are making utter fools of themselves on national television. I guess, in their own way, they are human car wrecks, so I just have to slow down and bear witness.

Oh, and one last thing! I am the only person I know who seems to be willing to take ownership of my farts. There. I’ve said it. You’re excused.