&%#$ 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

Living with Pain

At the moment I have a migraine and I’m at work, so I can’t do anything about it. To say I’m not functioning at my peak would be putting it mildly. I wish I could go home, take my meds, crawl into bed in a dark, quiet room and just wait for the pain to go away. Unfortunately I don’t have that luxury. But at least I can comfort myself with the fact that this, too, shall pass. At least until it happens again.

Not everyone is that lucky. Speaking from (thank God) past experience, living with chronic pain is life-changing. If you’ve never experienced it, you simply don’t understand. You become like an animal. You are all about the pain. Nothing else matters. Everything takes ten times as much energy, and you are constantly exhausted. You would do anything, anything, to just stop hurting.

When you are in that state, you often feel very misunderstood. People become impatient with your foul mood, your lethargy, your increased mistakes. They don’t get why you have trouble focusing, and why you are forgetting birthdays, anniversaries, and other special events. They may become frustrated with all the things you can no longer do, and the accommodations and compromises they must therefore make.

It’s very hard when you’re doing the best that you can, but your best isn’t nearly what it ought to be or what it used to be. The constant pain never lets you forget that, but the people around you often can. It alters you. It makes you and everyone who loves you feel helpless.

If you are living with pain, I wish I had a solution for you. I hope you find one. I also hope that you at least get a little bit of comfort from the fact that many of us really do understand.

[Image credit: examiner.com]
[Image credit: examiner.com]