Treasure Hunting

One of my fellow bridgetenders, whom I met in my Drawbridge Lovers Facebook group, recently asked me if I had ever heard of magnet fishing. I had not. He suggested that I do a search for it on Youtube, so I did. And it opened up a whole new world for me.

What made him think of suggesting it, I believe, was a recent blog post that I wrote about never really knowing what’s beneath the surface of the water, and how easy it is to start believing there’s nothing there. In fact, there’s a whole world down there, just out of sight. It’s both exciting and a little scary to contemplate.

Magnet fishermen know this all too well. They attach a rope to a very strong magnet that’s about an inch thick and the size of your hand, and they toss it in rivers and canals to see what metallic detritus they can find. They’re modern day treasure hunters.

From the looks of the oddly compelling Youtube videos I’ve seen so far, mostly what they come up with is a whole lot of nothing. Cans. Broken fish hooks. Jagged chunks of metal. Lots and lots of garbage. (We humans have been treating our waterways like waste dumps for centuries.)

And yet I can’t seem to look away, because you just never know, do you? They might pull up some valuable historic artifact. Or a submerged safe. Or a murder weapon. Who knows?

They like to look around bridges and docks and places where factories once stood. They assume that with all the human activity, more stuff will have been dropped or disposed of. That makes sense. And it makes enough sense to keep them coming back.

If I were a magnet fisherman, I’d be checking out the ship canal here in Seattle. There used to be so many houseboats floating in Lake Union that you could barely see the water, I’m told. And there are several sunken ships down there. I’d also go to London and check out the Thames. Or the canals in Holland. Centuries of history there. I bet it would be fascinating.

I think this obsession with finding something amazing, in spite of the fact that we keep coming up with practically nothing, is a very strong human trait. Who among us doesn’t wish to change our stars? It’s why we buy lottery tickets.

I’m absolutely obsessed with the series The Curse of Oak Island, which is on the History Channel, and also available on Hulu, for that very same reason. Why do I sit there, episode after episode, season after season, when all they usually come up with is just more dirt? Because once in a blue moon, they find a button. Or a three hundred year old coin. That’s all I need to keep tuning in.

But the thing that makes magnet fishing even more appealing than digging holes in Oak Island is that while these guys are tossing their magnets in there, even if they come up with nothing of note, they’re helping to clean up the waterways. So even on a bad day, their activities are a plus for us all.

Hmm… Maybe I should buy myself a magnet…

(Thanks, David M, for the inspiration for this post!)

1000-pound-pull-force-fishing-34490

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How Easily We’re Taken In

If you’ve got a website, you must be legit, right? Hmph. Anyone can have a website. What apparently is much harder to acquire is critical thinking.

Case in point, The Shed at Dulwich. For a few weeks, it was London’s number one ranked restaurant, according to TripAdvisor. It was the place to be. Their phones were ringing off the hook, but it was a wasted effort on hungry diners’ parts, because they were so exclusive, they were booked for weeks in advance.

The food on the website looked delicious. Their meals were mood themed. My favorite one is “Comfort”. It consisted of “Yorkshire blue Macaroni and Cheese seasoned with bacon shavings and served in a 600TC Egyptian cotton bowl. Comes with a side of sourdough bread.”

And even that didn’t raise eyebrows? I guess the thread count was high enough to give it authenticity. No pilly-sheeted bowls for their patrons!

Here’s the thing, though. The Shed was, literally, a shed. In someone’s back yard. No address, as it was “by appointment only”. No food to be had, unless you wanted to share the resident’s TV dinner. The food in the pictures was actually made of shaving cream and urinal cakes and even, in one case, the author’s foot. It was a huge hoax. It was all just an experiment to see if he could punk TripAdvisor, and wow, did he ever.

Before you say you’d have never fallen for it, ask yourself how many times you’ve bought something that was completely unnecessary simply because it was popular. Can you deny that you’ve ever regretted an impulse buy? Have you ever stood in line for the latest iPhone when the one you have is perfectly functional? Who among us doesn’t look at pictures of ourselves from 35 years ago and think, “What the devil was I thinking when I bought that shirt?”

Let’s admit what the advertising industry has known all along: Humans will follow trends even if it takes them over the edge of a cliff. Even the Russians know this. It’s why we have a buffoon in the White House.

This destructive tendency is even more acute now that we have the internet. Now we can have our misinformation more quickly and act upon it with even less thought. How lucky are we?

We need to teach ourselves and future generations to ask questions and check sources and listen to that little doubtful voice inside our heads. We need to value education and actually apply that learning to our daily lives. Otherwise we will plunge off that cliff to our urinal-caked doom.

Urinal Cake
Urinal Cake, anyone?

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Hate When That Happens

The other day, construction workers came across an unexploded bomb, as big as a man, which had apparently been sitting there in Northwest London since World War II. Needless to say, it caused quite a panic. Residents and schools had to be evacuated. You can read more about it here.

I’m always astounded when such discoveries are made. People have been living their lives, going about their business, smoking, shooting off fireworks, blasting their radios, you name it, right on top of this thing for decades.

And how do you lose a bomb? I mean, seriously. Yes, it was just one of untold numbers going off at the time, and people had, no doubt, quite a bit on their minds, but still. This thing is huge. You’d think it would be rather hard to overlook.

One can hope that incidents of this kind are relatively rare. More insidious are the 110 million anti-personnel mines in the ground, and another 100 million stockpiled around the world, according to care.org.

Landmines are meant to be hidden. The problem with that is that they stay hidden, even long after wars are over. They kill and maim even in times of peace. They target both sides, in perpetuity. And children, in particular, are at risk, because they tend to play off the beaten path, and like to pick up things that look interesting.

Again, according to care.org, each day over 70 people are killed or injured by these mines. That’s one person every 15 minutes. 300,000 children have been severely disabled because of them.

Once again I’m reminded how lucky I am. I’ve only visited one country with a major landmine problem: Croatia. While there, I planned to visit the gorgeous Plitvice Lakes National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, but was warned that if I did, I shouldn’t stray at all off the established paths because they still find landmines there. In a serene, bucolic national park. Horrifying. (It turned out it was too out of the way to fit into my itinerary, and I have to admit I was equally disappointed and relieved.)

I can’t imagine what it must be like to live every day in the vicinity of live ordinance. It must be terrifying to have to worry about your child getting blown up while walking to school, your wife getting blown up while fetching water, and you yourself having to hesitate to farm your own fields.

There is no justification for landmines. What horrors we visit upon ourselves.

landmines

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