The Mad Scramble

The alarm was set. I swear to God.

The alarm was set. I swear to God. But the volume was turned down.

I rolled over and looked at the clock an hour later. “Oh, Sh**!!!!!!”

“You’re here???” dear husband said. He had just been thinking how impressed he was that I’d managed to get ready for work and leave without waking him up.

I ran around the house, leaping over dogs and trying to figure out what to do. I did a fairly accurate imitation of one of those squirrels who sees a car bearing down on him, and can’t decide which way to run. At one point I was wearing my husband’s glasses, and wondering why I couldn’t see. I vaguely recall running into several rooms for no apparent reason.

I couldn’t figure out how to use my phone. My brain does not thrive on these abrupt transitions. I knew I had to call someone, but who?

I called my coworker as I rushed into the bathroom. “How long will it take you to get here?” he asked.

“I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know! I’m on my way! Less than an hour. I’m so sorry! Sh**!”

I was out of the bathroom and changing my clothes and out the door, shouting goodbye over my shoulder, in less than 6 minutes.

Thank goodness I have a hairbrush in my car. Unfortunately, I don’t have a toothbrush. And I hadn’t taken my morning meds. This is not the first time I’ve been grateful that I don’t do makeup.

I got to work, only 9 minutes late, feeling nauseous from the adrenaline dump. I refuse to incriminate myself regarding how many traffic violations I committed to do so, and how many times I questioned myself along the way to make sure I was driving to the correct drawbridge.

Upon arrival, I looked in the mirror and realized I still had marks on my face from my CPAP mask. I’d gladly pay someone $500 to let me go back to bed. That offer is still on the table.

As I write this, I’m sitting here feeling gross because of skipping so many steps in my morning hygiene regimen, and kind of resentful of the fact that even though I got an extra hour of sleep, I didn’t get to enjoy it. And I’m doing that leg shaking thing that I thought I got over in my 20’s.

Ugh. I need a hug.


I wrote an actual book, and you can own it! How cool is that?


&%#$ Drawbridges!

I’ve been making people late to work for more than 18 years.

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.

Screwing Up Once

So my phone rang at 7:03 am. I woke up, took one look at the clock, shouted, “Oh, SHIT!!!!” (causing my sleepy dog to give me the hairy eyeball) and answered the phone. I knew it was my supervisor. Before he could say much of anything, I apologized profusely and said I’d be right there. My alarm hadn’t gone off. I had set it for PM instead of AM.

It happens to the best of us. But you have to understand: Bridgetenders cannot, simply cannot, be late. Ever. First of all, if you don’t show up on time, it means the person you are relieving can’t leave. That tends to cause discontent amongst the troops.

But even more importantly, since we are regulated by the Coastguard, abandonment of a bridge can constitute a $10,000 fine and/or 10 years in prison. You just don’t get to impede maritime passage like that. It’s a big no-no. Granted, I’ve never seen this regulation actually enforced, but it is a possibility. It’s why I’ve only been late to work 3 times in 15 years.

Let’s do the math, here. 15 years times 50 weeks a year (allowing for vacations) times 5 days a week equals 3750 days of work. Number of days late: 3. That’s a 0.08% error rate.

You know what that says to me? Congratulations, Barb, you are human. Alert the press.

But instead I got written up. Here, it’s called a “coaching and counseling” and we’re told it does not become a part of our permanent records. They just hold it for 6 months or a year. (The fact that I can’t remember the length shows you how much I care.) I guess they want to see if you are a chronically late person.

Upon receiving my copy, I asked if there was any documentation of the 99.92% of the time that I actually show up 20 minutes early. I was told no. “Well, that’s fair,” I said.

What a destructive policy. All this does is make your staff feel unappreciated. It is a blow to morale. It makes one want to do the bare minimum for an organization that clearly does not care about its employees. Bad business.

This is not the first time I’ve observed companies come down like a ton of bricks on a good employee who screwed up just once. It makes absolutely no sense. It’s the equivalent to setting fire to your own hair. (“Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time…”)

Here’s what I don’t get. I screw up once and get written up. Trump screws up several times a day for 6 months running, and he’s allowed to destroy our governmental infrastructure and our standing in the international community, all while robbing the taxpayers while he golfs, and there are no consequences.



Read any good books lately? Try mine!

Slumber Parties

Did you ever have a slumber party as a child? Just thinking back on them gives me butterflies in my stomach. It was always so exciting to change your routine, stay up late, giggle with friends, eat unhealthy stuff, gossip, bond, play… Seriously, why did we ever stop?

I think it would be great fun to have a slumber party as an adult. The biggest hurdle would be finding adults to invite who wouldn’t think you were completely off your nut. I think this is one of the reasons we go camping and sleep on the cold, damp ground. We aren’t willing to admit that what we really want is a slumber party.

So this week I did a little thought experiment. Every night I had a slumber party with my inner child. I indulged myself. I got comfy, cozy, ate stuff that wasn’t exactly good for me. I watched movies, snuggled with my dogs. Stayed up late. It was kind of nice, actually. You should try it.

“When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.” ― C.S. Lewis



I keep a list of ideas for blog entries. I write them down as they occur to me, or they’ll buzz away like hummingbirds, never to be seen again. I’ve even been known to pull off the interstate just so I can take a note if the topic sounds particularly intriguing.

When that list gets short, I get nervous. I’m waiting for the day when all I can say is, “I got nothin’.” That will probably be my last entry. Surely at some point the river of ideas will run dry. I’m amazed it’s continued to flow for this long.

So when I sat down to write today and consulted my list, I found one item that utterly baffles me. “Late.” That’s it. That’s all I wrote. Late. What is that supposed to mean? I don’t even remember writing it. (Maybe I was running late.)

Did I want to write about how I seem to start everything later in life than most people do? Was I planning on writing a rant about someone showing up late? Was I going to write about someone who passed away?

Maybe I meant to say “Latte”, and was going to hold forth on the number of coffee shops in Seattle. Or “Date”, because I had one recently. (But it didn’t work out, so I don’t really want to talk about it.)

Maybe I need to start another list, and at the very top of it I should write, “Provide a little more detail when you write a list.”

Yeah, I know. It needs an apostrophe. [Image credit:]
Yeah, I know. It needs an apostrophe.
[Image credit:]


The alarm rang this morning, and while I would have rather slept in, I did feel unusually rested for a work day. My dogs were looking at me rather strangely, but I chalked that up to their usual desire to be fed NOW. After doing just that, I started in on the rest of my work day routine.

I remember thinking that it was going to be a nice sunny day. I can’t get used to how freakin’ early the sun rises in Seattle at this time of year. It completely confuses my body into thinking that it’s later than… wait a minute. What time is it? WHAT TIME IS IT??? Omigod! I’m LATE!!!

I set the alarm for the time I was supposed to walk out the door rather than the time I was supposed to wake up. What the hell was I thinking? Suddenly, instead of my foggy slow-moving morning customs, I was thrown into overdrive. Leaping over dogs while getting dressed almost in mid-air, I bolted into the bathroom, brushed my teeth, grabbed my lunch from the kitchen and rushed out the door with sheet marks still on my face. I’m sure my dogs are still shaking their heads in disbelief.

Driving that thin line between breaking every law in the book and yet not putting my life at risk, I got to work with barely a minute to spare. Only then did I wipe the sleep from my eyes. Ugh. I hate when I do this.

Yes, I got to work on time. So now everything should proceed as planned. But no. First of all, I feel vaguely nauseous from the adrenaline dump. And my head feels all muzzy and confused. I’m supposed to be sitting in the back yard, enjoying the morning birdsong while waiting for the dogs to pee before closing them in for the day. Instead I’m… where am I? I’m at work. Yeah. That’s where I am.

The rest of the day is going to feel ever so slightly off. Not quite right. Just a little wonky.

I wish I had a reset button.

off balance

[Image credit:]

Ever Had One of Those Days?

Thinking I had the day off yesterday, I stayed up until 6 a.m. watching really mindless stuff on Youtube. Asia’s Next Top Model. I know. I’m embarrassed. But I was too tired to do anything else, yet not tired enough to go to sleep.

It was garbage pickup day, so no way I could drift off to sleep until around 7 a.m. At 9 am, my neighbor started cutting down a tree. He gave up after about an hour and I sank back into dreamland. Then the phone rang. I looked at the clock and it was noon. I let the machine get it, but it’s my boss, and I fell out of bed in a rush to find my cordless phone which seems to delight in being God knows where at any given time. I make a mental note to remind myself that when I see that big bruise on my knee in a few days, this is why it’s there. I called my boss back. He wants to know if I’ll come in to work at 3:45. Will I? When I’ve only been getting about 8 hours of work a week and have been waking up in a cold sweat wondering how I’ll pay the bills? Of course I will!

At this point, if I were a cartoon, I’d have one of those squiggly lines drawn above my head, but it occurs to me that I have no food in the house, and when you work on a bridge you don’t get to run down the street for lunch, so if I’m going to eat during that shift, I need to bring a meal with me. So In a sleep deprived fog, I feed my dogs, who have long since given up trying to figure out my schedule, then I go down the street to do some shopping. I have plenty of time. It’s 12:30, and I don’t have to leave for work until 3:00. So I stumble down the grocery aisles, putting random sh*t in my cart, when this lady near me accepts a call on her cell phone. She’s chatting away, and then she says “Well, it’s 2:30 now. I’ll be there soon.”

Suddenly I’m wide awake. What did she just say? I grab my cell phone and look at the time. It IS 2:30. “SON OF A B**TCH!” I shout, right in front of the dairy case. I rush to the cash register, practically throw my food at the cashier, grab my bags and bolt out the door. I can’t go straight to work because I’m not in my extremely unattractive uniform, and if I don’t let the dogs out to poop they’re going to leave presents all over my landlady’s new carpet.

I rush home, toss the dogs into the back yard, hop in the shower, and get dressed. I’m running around the house in a panic, leaping over piles of dirty clothes, forgetting what I’m looking for, and then realize, jeez, after all that I almost forgot to pack my lunch.

Okay, now I’m ready to head out the door. All I have to do is bring the dogs in. I go to the back yard and they’re nowhere to be found. My landlady has left the side gate open again. Now I’m running around the house, frantically shouting for the dogs, and the neighbors are peeking out the windows at me. Blue comes right away. He’s a mama’s dog. But Devo is cruising the neighborhood trying to pick up chicks. Cursing the disaster that is my life, I put Blue in the house, put my stuff in the car, and then start walking down the street, screaming for Devo. He finally runs out of someone’s garage looking pleased with himself and I drag him back to the house.

I start the commute, thinking at least I can speed to make up time, but then I realize that on this shift I always hit the three school zones. Great. So I grit my teeth as I drive 15 miles per hour, and then I finally get to the parking lot, and my coworkers aren’t there yet. Not only am I on time, but somehow I’m early. I fall asleep waiting for my coworkers, and when they arrive I discover I’m working with the woman who hates me, that I blogged about the other day.

If it’s not one thing, it’s another.