&%#$ Drawbridges!

I’ve been making people late to work for more than 18 years. I open drawbridges for a living. And I love my job. Getting cursed at is, unfortunately, part of that job.

Once, a supervisor gave me some sage advice. “If you’ve safely opened the bridge and then you hear someone shout, don’t look. Because you probably won’t like the gesture or projectile that follows.”

It’s true. I’ve been pelted with eggs, rotten vegetables, and once, a full glass beer bottle, which shattered and drenched my clothes. I’ve also been flipped off, threatened, and called any number of unsavory names. Par for the course.

Here’s the thing. (Yes, there’s always a thing.) Bridgetenders are not trying to ruin your day. Truly, we aren’t. There are simply certain rules and federal regulations we are required to follow. Specifically, Coastguard Federal Regulations 33 Part 117. These regulations dictate when a bridge must open, when it can be delayed, what signals we must use, what equipment we must have, how we operate in an emergency.

Not only are we required to follow these federal regulations, but according to 33 U.S. Code 499, if we don’t, we can be fined up to $2000 and/or be thrown in jail for a year. Nothing personal, but I’d much rather make you late to work.

In less legal terms, consider this: Maritime law was around hundreds of years before cars existed. And heavy vessels can’t exactly slam on the brakes or take a side street if some bridgetender doesn’t want to hurt a motorist’s feelings.

So, yeah, from street level it may seem really annoying when one slow moving boat is backing up traffic for a mile. Even worse, the bridge may require an opening for maintenance purposes when there are no boats in sight. It may make you want to curse and throw things. But, you know, you should have thought of that before you chose this particular route. (Harsh, but true.)

So next time you’re waiting impatiently for a drawbridge to close, please remember that the bridgetender’s one and only goal is to maintain the safety of the traveling public. All of them, including you. And that may mean you have to wait your turn. At least try to enjoy the spectacular view while doing so.

For a really interesting podcast on this same subject, check out KUOW’s SoundQs “Um, why does that boat get priority over Seattle drivers?”

St Lucie River Drawbridge

A big thanks to StoryCorps for inspiring this blog and my first book. http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

Because Why?

So, the other day, some idiot left a rental bike on the movable part of one of our drawbridges here in Seattle. It’s not the first time someone has gotten that bright idea, and it probably won’t be the last. But this one was destructive and expensive. I’m glad I wasn’t on duty.

Unfortunately, the bike was parked in such a way that the bridgetender couldn’t see it prior to opening the bridge for a boat. The movement caused the bike to be caught in the span, and when the operator attempted to close the bridge, he couldn’t. He had to raise the bridge up a bit, and with the help of a pedestrian, he was then able to pull the bike out.


But then when he tried to close the bridge again, the bridge wasn’t in the mood to cooperate. Mechanics had to be called. The bridge couldn’t be opened for traffic or for vessels for 1 hour and 45 minutes.

The things pranksters don’t ever seem to take into account are consequences.

  • If that bike had fallen during the opening, it could have severely hurt, or possibly even killed, a pedestrian.

  • If it had fallen into the canal, it could have struck someone in a vessel crossing under the bridge.

  • The bike was ruined, and those things aren’t cheap.

  • The bridge was damaged, causing the taxpayers of Seattle a great deal of expense.

  • Traffic was backed up for miles. People may have lost jobs because they arrived late to work. Sick people might not have gotten to the doctor. Kids may have missed school, thus increasing the potential that they, too, will be stupid enough to pull a trick like this someday.

  • Idling cars caused pollution.

  • Road rage spiked.

  • Commercial vessels were not able to transit the canal, and were therefore unable to deliver their payloads on schedule, which caused independent truckers at the docks to lose time and money.

I hope you got a good laugh, genius. Oh, and by the way, if you were the last person to rent that bike before dumping it on the drawbridge (which is highly likely, since the back wheel won’t roll without credit card authorization), I hope they’re tracking you down via your card even as we speak. If so, the joke is going to be on you.


Like this blog? Then you’ll love this book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

“Just” 4 Minutes

I see it happen every day. I open my drawbridge for a vessel, and at least one car does a u-turn and reroutes itself rather than waiting. This always astounds me. The average bridge opening here in Seattle is only 4 ½ minutes. But the time you take your detour, the bridge would have closed again and you could have gone on your merry way. We as a society are too impatient. We want instant gratification.

I especially don’t understand this as each driver surely knows that he or she is crossing a drawbridge, and there’s a potential for delay. It can’t come as a surprise. Why not make the most of it? I admire those drivers who get out of their cars and take in the view. Take a moment to turn off your engines and just be.

That’s easy for me to say, I suppose. During that 4 ½ minutes, I’m rather busy, trying to insure the safety of the traveling public, and doing my best not to break one of the City of Seattle’s largest pieces of equipment. For me, the time flies.

A friend of mine recently conducted an experiment with me. She set her phone alarm for 4 minutes, and we were to sit in silence. Utter silence, for that entire time.

It was an eternity. Now I get it. Granted, if I were in a car, I’d probably be listening to NPR, so I’d barely notice. But if you’re walking, or riding a bike, or sitting alone in your car in silence, then 4 minutes can be torture.

Sorry. :/

Traffic backs up as I open my drawbridge. I try not to let this power go to my head.

Like this blog? Then you’ll LOVE this book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

Delayed Gratification

I have an 820 credit rating. I’m rather proud of that. I think that’s because I absolutely HATE paying interest for anything. You might say I have no interest in interest. To me it sort of feels like taking that money and setting it alight. Poof. Gone. And nothing to show for it.

So whenever I want to buy something, I put off getting it until I have the cash. I try not to charge anything unless I can pay it off that same month. Of course there are exceptions to that rule. Emergencies, for example, or things that are time sensitive. But my absolute goal in life is to not be in debt. Even a small amount causes me undue stress.

You will never see me rent to own anything. If I need a flat screen TV that badly, I’ll wait until I’ve set aside enough money rather than winding up paying two or three times its actual value just so I don’t miss the season opener of House of Cards in high def.

I seem to be the exception to the rule in this credit-loving society. I give my mother credit for that (pardon the pun). She got me into this habit at a very young age, long before I was old enough to qualify for a credit card or buy a car. It would probably be much harder to adopt this practice once you’ve taught yourself that you don’t have to wait for anything.

Delayed gratification is very gratifying in the end. If you can’t embrace this philosophy yourself, at least try to teach it to your children. They’ll thank you for it someday.

[Image credit: evolvedmale.com]

Drawbridge Tao

People can take it very personally when you interrupt their morning commute. Even though the average drawbridge opening takes only 4 minutes from start to finish and they should know to allow for the fact that their route crosses a drawbridge, when those red lights start to flash and that bell starts to clang, people tend to lose it.

I have been pelted with eggs, beer bottles, and a wide variety of garbage. I’ve been cursed at and have learned a few new rude gestures. I always feel kind of sorry for these people. It’s such a minor thing in the overall scheme. It’s really nothing to get so worked up about. And it’s not as if I’m doing it to intentionally ruin someone’s day. If you want to throw eggs, throw them at the boaters. Just doin’ my job, here.

Having recently lost someone I love, I’m very conscious these days as to how very precious time is. Getting amped up over a 4 minute delay, especially when there’s nothing you can do about it, is not a good use of that time. Impotent rage rarely adds anything positive to one’s day.

Instead, I admire those people who embrace the opening. If it’s a nice day, they get out of their cars, breathe the fresh air and take in the view. Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about! The universe has provided you with an opportunity to slow down. Enjoy it.

So next time you’re stopped by a drawbridge, don’t fight the experience. Become one with the opening. You might just learn something about yourself.


[Image credit: ava7.com]