That Moment When the Hair Stands up on the Back of Your Neck

So, I was sitting at my desk at work. It was a typical day on my drawbridge (if you can call any day on a drawbridge typical). I’d been there for several hours. I was thinking about lunch. That’s when I saw the half-eaten food in the recycle bin.

My first instinct was to be irritated. Not everyone takes recycling as seriously as I do. I sighed, and transferred the food into the regular trash can. But then I realized that the last employee who had been on the bridge was… me.

I had gotten off work at 11 pm the night before, and had returned to work at 7 am that morning. No one had been there in the intervening hours. Let me rephrase that. No one who was supposed to have been there had been there. And yet, there was that food.

I tested the window beside the desk. It was unlocked. We never leave it unlocked. I looked at the lock on the outside of the window. It had been tampered with. (See below.) Someone had been there.

This felt like a violation, as if someone had rifled through my underwear drawer. Granted, nothing of value was taken. Then I realized that some of my food items were missing from the fridge. And I had left the toilet seat up after cleaning the bathroom the night before. Now it was down.

Someone had broken in to get out of the wind and weather, and had made themselves at home, helped themselves to my food, and used the bathroom. Thank goodness they weren’t still there when I arrived in the morning. What would I have done? I wouldn’t have seen them until I reached the top of the stairs, which would have made it awfully hard for either one of us to beat a hasty retreat.

And then I realized that they could still be there.

Let that sink in for a minute.

Suddenly the closed closet door behind me felt like it was radiating heat. I turned slowly. I looked at that door. My heart was pounding.

But surely no one had been standing in there for 4 solid hours, amongst the mops and buckets, as I sat all alone not two feet away, without me hearing a sound. Surely not.

Still…

I slowly opened the drawer where the heavy industrial flashlight was housed. I gripped it tightly. I took a deep breath and opened the closet door.

Nobody. I felt sick with relief. I felt resentful that my safe place no longer felt safe.

And then there were the phone calls and the paperwork and the police report and the debate about best methods to amp up security. Those things kept me busy. Those things prevented me from digesting the experience.

That night, before security measures could be put into place, an employee was posted on the bridge overnight. And at 1 am, someone tried to break in again. My coworker scared them away, but couldn’t give a good description. Great.

Now, a few days out, what strikes me most is how abruptly the atmosphere in that room had changed for me. One minute, status quo. The next… Someone had been there. Someone who shouldn’t have been. In my sanctuary.

And it could happen again at any time.

Tranquility is such a tenuous thing.

P_20200124_114803_NT

Portable gratitude. Inspiring pictures. Claim your copy of my first collection of favorite posts! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

Third and Pine

Shots rang out on Third and Pine in the gritty heart of downtown Seattle, Washington. A major commuter hub in the midst of rush hour, it was bustling with activity. All were strangers to one another. They’re forever linked now, as they hit the ground together and scrambled for cover.

This was the third shooting in the area in just over 24 hours. The total head count for those three incidents is two dead, and 8 injured, including a 9-year-old boy. The latest of these three tragedies escalated from some kind of a dispute outside the McDonalds.

There’s no fight on earth, absolutely none, that justifies opening fire on a crowd of strangers. It’s heartbreaking. It’s outrageous. It’s unnecessary.

What strikes me most about this situation is that it was so arbitrary. All the victims were simply minding their own business. Perhaps they were getting ready to catch a bus after a hard day’s work, or craving some French fries, or stopping in for their daily coffee break. Maybe they had just paused long enough to text a message to a spouse. “Honey, could you pick up a gallon of milk on the way home?” “Don’t forget to stop at the dry cleaners.” And bam, their lives were forever changed, if not ended.

Our very existence, in general, is pretty arbitrary. We never know when we’ll find ourselves at the Thirds and the Pines of life. It could all end in a second. There’s no way to know.

You can choose to live your life in fear because of this, but I think a better option is to savor every single moment you have, because each one is a precious gift. It’s all so fragile, so priceless, so bittersweet. It’s much better to appreciate than to fear.

So, your homework assignment, should you choose to accept it, is to go tell someone you love them. Right now.

pike_union_stops_final_map

Do you enjoy my random musings? Then you’ll love my book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

A Real Dog and Pony Show

It was early in the morning, and I had just gotten to work. My brain was in a bit of a fog, and I was just going through the motions. I had logged into the City of Seattle employee website to fill out my time sheet, when this image popped up.

Capture

I had to rub my eyes and stare at it for a minute. Were they serious? Clearly whoever put that training together had no idea what the term “Dog and Pony Show” really means.

If you google the definition of this phrase, and go to the most qualified of sources, Merriam-Webster Dictionary, you find that it’s an elaborate or overblown affair or event, and that its first known use was in 1949. Innocuous enough, I suppose.

But if you go to Wikipedia, you learn that the term is typically “used in a pejorative sense to connote disdain, jocular lack of appreciation, or distrust of the message being presented or the efforts undertaken to present it.”

Now, why would the City of Seattle want to name a training about public engagement, designed to attract people who are “curious about training and managing digital communications” a Dog and Pony Show? It boggles the mind.

Oh, but it gets worse. Because this is NOT the only definition of a Dog and Pony Show. It’s certainly not the definition that I learned and cannot ever wash out of my head. This definition is crude. It’s about sexual exploitation. It’s so disgusting that I refuse to go into detail here. If you’re really interested, follow this link. But be advised that it’s not safe for work, and it’s definitely rated x. All of these definitions are gross, but scroll down to the very bottom one, which is by far the worst, and you’ll see the one that I was taught. Perhaps that’s because I spent the bulk of my life in a military town. Either way, yuck.

So anyway, that was what was going through my foggy head that morning when I saw that particular training on offer. At first I kind of scoffed at their ignorance, and planned to say nothing. Let the stuff hit the fan and sit back and watch. Because even the least innocuous, more official definition, with all its implications of incompetence and disdain, are very, very bad optics for the City of Seattle.

But as the day went on, it began to eat at me. Any woman in the know would be offended by the name of this training. They wouldn’t want to attend. And I’d certainly think less of any man who did so. The City of Seattle prides itself on its enlightenment and inclusiveness and its diversity, but this is not the first time (see my post entitled The Cubic Yard Test) that they’ve clearly demonstrated that they have a long, long, long way to go.

So I decided to contact the training department. In fairness, they were very polite, and said that the training was being sponsored by the Information Technology Department, and they would forward my concerns to them. Several days went by. The graphic remained on the employee website (where it still is as of this writing). Surely, I thought, more people were complaining about this.

But no. I came to work today to an e-mail from the IT department that said, basically, that the Urban Dictionary isn’t an official or credible dictionary source. Instead they provided sources that refer back to the pejorative definition mentioned above. As if that would be acceptable.

While I wouldn’t cite the Urban Dictionary in a master’s thesis, these definitions exist because some portion of the general population (read “unwashed masses” if you must) interprets these words in this manner. That, to me, would be enough to rethink the name of my training, especially when you are representing a public entity like the City of Seattle. But hey, that’s just me.

This is purely speculation, but they’re probably loathe to give up such a cool graphic. (I have to admit, it is really well done, and probably took more than a minute to design.) I’m sure they’ve got all their power point presentations in place and don’t want to change them. And they’re IT people who hate to be (rightly or wrongly) considered out of touch with popular culture. And no one wants to be  called out as foolish or wrongheaded in any way, so to heck with the small percentage of us who are shocked and appalled by their poorly researched idea.

So in the end, they’re absolutely right. This is a dog and pony show, indeed.

____________________________________________________

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

 

Lightning Stories

I find lightning fascinating. From a distance. And from inside a safely grounded shelter. You don’t see much of it here in the Seattle area, though, and I miss it.

But I also have a healthy respect for lightning. At the age of 10, I moved from Connecticut to Florida, and quickly discovered that Connecticut’s lightning is child’s play by comparison. Florida has epic downpours with thunder that rattles the fillings in your teeth and lightning that can render you speechless. In fact, Florida is the most lightning-prone state in the U.S.

That kind of weather gets magnified tenfold if experiencing it for the first time while living in a tent as I did. Back then, I was terrified by Florida storms, and used those unsettling events as an opportunity to wail and howl out my rage and fear about having been rendered all but homeless at a time in life when I had absolutely no control.

With age and an improved living situation, I learned to take shelter and enjoy nature’s free light shows whenever possible.

Once, a friend of mine was visiting from Holland, so I took her to the beach. She wandered along the shoreline as I sat and enjoyed the Atlantic waves. But storm clouds rushed in from the East, and me and the rest of the savvy Floridians took off for the safety of our cars. I was desperately hopping up and down and motioning to the black, looming clouds and waving at her to come the eff on, and you’d think that that, and the fact that she suddenly had the beach to herself, would have been some sort of a clue. But no. She continued to slowly amble down the shoreline. When she finally came back, I explained to her how much danger she had been in, but she simply got angry with me for rushing her. She rarely took me seriously. For a variety of reasons, we’ve lost touch.

Later in life, when I worked for the State of Florida Department of Transportation, I was friends with the district lighting inspector. One of his tasks was to drive around at night and make sure street lights were functioning, and report them for repair if they were not. One night he drove up to a light pole just after it had been struck by lightning. The pole was in sand, and the sand was still glowing. He came back after it cooled and dug up several chunks of multicolored glass from the ground. He gave me one. I still have it. Somewhere.

Another time he showed me a dead turtle, frozen in place, its legs extended, its neck outstretched. He said that it had been struck by lightning before his very eyes. You never knew what you’d see when you worked in the field.

When I first became a bridgetender in Florida, I quickly got used to lightning striking my bridges. All of our structures came with lightning rods which were attached to copper cables that stretched down to the water, but the fishermen often harvested said copper, so you never knew what was going to happen from one strike to the next. But when the lightning was at a distance, I enjoyed the light show, along with the blue glow of transformers being struck on the horizon, with the accompanying patches of dark city skyline.

Nature, man. It’s awesome.

Recently I learned about something to add to my bucket list. The Maracaibo Beacon, also known as the Catatumbo lightning is a phenomenon that happens in Venezuela, where the Catatumbo River meets Lake Maracaibo. Lightning can strike up to 280 times per hour, 160 days a year, for 9 hours at a stretch. It happens so much that it draws tourists, but it also kills residents, and drastically impacts economic pursuits, so scientists are attempting to predict these storms as much as three months in advance. I wish them luck.

There are several theories about these storms. The most reasonable one is that the warm, moist Caribbean air is forced upward into the cold surrounding mountains, causing electrical storms. Another has to do with the methane in area swamps, while a third mentions the uranium in the ground.

It’s hard to say, but it sounds like it would be a fascinating place to indulge in my lightning fetish! I only wish the politics of that country were a little more stable. Maybe someday. Until then, I’ll have to content myself with watching this amazing video.

Catatumbolightning (4)
Catatumbo lightning

I wrote an actual book, and you can own it! How cool is that? http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

 

Water Light and Dark

As I write this, I’m in the midst of an epic downpour here in Seattle. Six inches in a 48-hour period. Now I completely understand why the least favorite word in the English language is moist.

This has me thinking about the love/hate relationship we all have with water. We can’t live without it. It’s refreshing on a hot day. It’s fun to swim and surf in. It is vital for food growth and production. And since the world revolves around me, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that my job as a bridgetender depends on its existence.

On the other hand, as global climate change plagues us all, the sea levels are rising, and areas that used to put up with mere nuisance floods are now inundated. In other parts of the world, severe droughts are destroying crops and causing fires the likes of which the world has never seen. People the world over are being forced to relocate. Thanks to our meddling, nature seems to be struggling to find that balance between too much water and not enough. At either extreme, the results can be deadly.

In this current downpour, as I descend the hill from my house, I’ve witnessed water jetting up to three feet out of the storm drains, either because of a blockage down below, or because they simply cannot handle the volume. This has caused the street in the valley below to be closed. Landslides are happening in the region, and more than a few large Pacific Northwest trees are toppling because of the waterlogged soil.

If I were Queen of the world, I’d send some of this water down to California, where it’s desperately needed. But as it stands, I can barely convince Quagmire, my fastidious dachshund, to go outside to potty, so that tells you how powerful I am in the face of this storm. Water can be quite humbling that way.

Singin in the Rain Adam Cooper

Read any good books lately? Try mine! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

Plymouth Pillars Park. Who Knew?

Every once in a while, I’ll drive past a pretty little park in downtown Seattle. I keep meaning to stop and check it out on foot, but that would require parking. And this is a city where parking is hard to find, and expensive when you do. So I’ve contented myself with merely admiring this place as I rush past. But now that I know more about it, I’m definitely going to have to change that.

It’s a park with four lovely old pillars, standing all alone, like soldiers. They prop up nothing but the sky. This park is a tiny respite from the urban sprawl while also presiding over some lovely views. In addition, apparently, it’s a dog park, and I’m all for those.

But recently I came across this post in Atlas Obscura. (It’s a fascinating website, by the way. Check it out. You’ll learn stuff.)

This particular post describes this park in more detail, in all its fascinating historical context. The pillars in the park used to grace the front of the Plymouth Congregational Church, whose congregation first started meeting in Seattle in 1869. The church was known for its stance on social justice issues.

At a time when Seattlites were expressing their hatred of Chinese immigrants, this church supported immigrants’ rights. They also supported women’s suffrage. Later, they hosted Martin Luther King Jr. during his only visit to Seattle.

Sadly, the church had to be demolished after the 1965 earthquake, but the congregation donated the 4 original pillars to the city, and they now stand in this lovely little park. The church is still going strong in a new location. That makes me happy.

Now, as I pass this park, I will think of it as part of Seattle’s liberal legacy. I’ll gaze on its elegant beauty, and smile even wider than I used to. When you think about it, history is everywhere you look. Sometimes you just have to do your homework.

Plymouth Pillars Park

Read any good books lately? Try mine! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

When Do You Have Enough?

According to Forbes most recent list of billionaires, which came out in March of 2019, the richest person in the entire world is my Pacific Northwest neighbor, Jeff Bezos. Yeah, that guy. The CEO of Amazon.

At the time, his net worth was $131 billion dollars. Granted, he’s in the midst of a divorce, and I’m sure that won’t be pretty, but even so, with that kind of money he could retire today and live quite comfortably for at least 100 lifetimes.

And yet, that guy just threw 1.5 million dollars at the elections for Seattle City Council, in the hopes of flipping the progressive majority. Why? Because the city and its council thinks that maybe Amazon should pony up its fair share of taxes for once.

Well, Bezos’ scheme backfired. Only 2 of the 7 candidates he supported actually won, and one of those was an incumbent. The people have spoken.

But a million dollars for Bezos is like a penny to you or me. He isn’t going to give up or go away. Because, apparently, one can never have too much money.

I find this supremely pathetic. That man could most likely solve the homeless crisis in Seattle with the interest he earns on his personal savings account in one month. But has he done that? No. He’s too busy trying to avoid taxes that he can well afford. He drives past people in tents every single solitary day, and he’d much rather focus on the amount of taxes he can avoid. Let them eat cake.

How much money does it take before you can feel free of petty BS and actually turn your attention to paying it forward? What does it take for someone to feel compassion for the very people who have generated all that money for you? Apparently, it’s more than $131 billion dollars.

There’s something wrong with a system that supports such greed and corruption. Henny Penny, the sky is falling. And rest assured it’s not going to land on Bezos.

Jeff Bezos

Yup. My book is for sale on Amazon. Awkward. http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5