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.
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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Apparently yesterday was Crazy Dude on the Bridge Day, and nobody warned me. I should actually read the e-mails, I suppose. But no.
My first tip-off was when I heard a blaring of honking horns. (I’m making it official. A group of honking horns is called a blaring.) I looked out, and there was a man standing in the middle of my drawbridge, blocking two of the four lanes of traffic. Aw, shit. Paperwork.
Every time someone tried to veer around him, he’d shuffle sideways so they couldn’t accomplish their goal. All the while, he’s screaming at the top of his lungs. At best he was shredding his voice, and would probably wake up the next day unable to speak without remembering why. Worst case scenario, he was going to get himself killed. Either way, it was obvious that some substance or other was involved. I called 911.
As per usual with 911, they assumed I was a crank caller. “You work where? Which bridge is that?” Then they started getting bombarded with calls from the drivers. I guess that gave me an air of legitimacy. They sat up and took notice then.
Especially when I told them that the guy was now throwing his bicycle at cars. He’d heave the thing, hit a car, then retrieve the bike after the car sped off. Rinse. Repeat.
I saw a pedestrian videoing him with his smart phone. I’d love to see that footage. But I bet the video-er had second thoughts when the guy went over to the bike lane and started hassling bicyclists. Scatter!
This guy needed help. It’s scary to think the republicans just took away the last obstacle to his getting a firearm. But a bike can be a deadly weapon, too.
Naturally, he rode away long before the police arrived. That must have been one sturdy bike. I suspect he went elsewhere and caused more trouble. I bet they could track him through downtown Seattle just by the 911 calls.
Just another day at the office for me.
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Back in November, I started seeing these 4 foot tall white silhouettes of people at seemingly random spots throughout Seattle. I had no idea what they represented. I kept making a mental note to find out, but I’d always forget by the time I got home. One is attached to a telephone pole down the street from my house, and I pass it every day. Another is a block down from my drawbridge.
These silhouettes have writing on them, but from my car I have always been moving too fast to see what they say. For someone who is as easily distracted as I seem to be these days, this was quite a mystery. Finally the other day when I passed one, I started singing the song “Silhouettes” by the Rays, over and over and over again, until I got home. Then I rushed inside and wrote it down on my “to blog about” list before I did anything else.
According to this article, it seems that there are 212 of these silhouettes posted all over the city, to represent the 240 people killed in traffic here in the past 10 years. They are placed at the very spot where the person died, and therefore 28 of them couldn’t be put up because the location was too dangerous. The City of Seattle is trying to raise awareness of this situation because in future years, the number of pedestrians and automobiles are only bound to increase.
I think it’s fantastic that they are getting creative about these horrible statistics in hopes of reducing them. And according to this article, they held a ceremony for the friends and families of the victims before putting them up, and many people found it quite cleansing. Anything that helps you toward healing is a good thing, in my opinion.
However. I happen to have one friend who is a family member of one of the victims, and he has chosen not to participate in this program because his wounds are too fresh, and his grieving is too personal. His loved one’s silhouette is therefore not nailed to a post somewhere. But I’m sure he gets to see these ghostly forms all over the place, just like I do. And for him they must evoke painful memories.
Now when I see these silhouettes, I have very mixed emotions. We do need solutions. The worst thing about this city is the traffic. But I have to admit that I’m also starting to be creeped out by these daily reminders of lives cut short.
But for all those loved ones out there, regardless of where you are in your grieving process, I am truly sorry for your losses.
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The other day I was walking up the bridge to work and I saw the Barking Man. I immediately slowed my pace to assess the situation. The Barking Man is a guy who likes to fish off the bridge on mild evenings. When he’s on his medication he’s quite friendly, and we’ll exchange pleasantries. When he’s not, he’ll often lunge at me and do the best imitation of a Pit Bull with Rabies you’re likely to see in your lifetime. He barks. He slobbers. He growls and shakes his head rapidly from side to side. The first time he did that, after months of cordial conversations, I nearly soiled myself. He’ll never actually make physical contact, but to say it can be disconcerting is putting it mildly. And the worst part about it is you’re never quite sure who you’re going to get. Every once in a while at shift change, the oncoming bridgetender will have to tell the offgoing one that the Barking Man is out there and he’s off his meds. That at least gives the person who’s leaving for the night a heads up. But he’s not the first person on a drawbridge to be barking mad, and he won’t be the last.
Another time, I got stuck on the South end of a vertical lift bridge with the Preaching Man. The bridge went up, leaving me stranded on the roadway with this guy who kept his distance, but was shouting scripture at me. He was very adamant about it. I got on the radio to the guy who was driving the bridge and said, “You better lower this thing as fast as you can, ‘cause I’m out here getting saved whether I like it or not.” The scary thing about the Preaching Man is that I can easily imagine him deciding that one of us is the devil incarnate who needs to be dispatched, and when you’re working the South end, you’re a captive audience.
Same bridge, different day: I’m walking on the sidewalk, clearing traffic and pedestrians so the bridgetender could do a lift for a very large barge. The vessel was bearing down on us, and everyone was cooperating except this one homeless guy. When I told him he had to get off the bridge for an opening, he looked at me suspiciously, turned around and walked back the way he had come. That works for me. I don’t care where you go as long as you go. But just as he was about to step off the part of the bridge that goes up, he looked back at me and turned back around. Shit. Shit. Shit. I got on the radio and told them we had an uncooperative pedestrian, so they couldn’t open the bridge just yet. But meanwhile there’s this barge, he’s coming with the tide, and can’t exactly stop on a dime. And the river is too narrow for him to paddle in circles. We were all starting to panic. Then the guy stopped in the middle of the span, emptied his pockets and threw all his loose change into the river, then ran away. We got the bridge open with only inches to spare.
One night we heard a loud crash. We looked out and saw a car at the end of the bridge angled across both lanes. We ran down to see if anyone was hurt, and it was the strangest thing. There was only one car. The entire back hatch was shattered. And there was no one inside. Or outside. Or…anywhere. We called 911, and in an uncharacteristically prompt response, before we knew it there were cops everywhere. And then a helicopter with a spot light. Then divers. Nothing. They went to the address of the vehicle’s owner, and he was sitting on the couch drunk as a baboon on fermented fruit, and he says, “Oh yeah. I forgot to report that my car was stolen this morning.” Uh huh. Sure it was.
These are just a few of the millions of stories I have about oddballs and drawbridges. We get our fair share of crazies, drunks and jumpers on a regular basis. I’d tell you more but then what would I do the next time I can’t come up with a topic for this blog?
But I’d love to know what it is about drawbridges that seems to draw these people in.