Could You be a Bridgetender?

Within 5 minutes of meeting a new bridgetender, I can tell if he or she is going to last. And I’m never wrong. Opening drawbridges isn’t for everyone.

Some people don’t even last for that 5 minutes. They take one look at the catwalks and stairways, suspended precariously high above the water, and they quit right on the spot. And some tenderhouses are considerably shabbier than others (when they’re gross, they’re very, very gross), and that can turn people off as well.

Others quit after a few days. They can’t take the isolation and/or the boredom. Very few people are accustomed to no human interaction whatsoever for 8 hours at a stretch. That amount of introspection can be very uncomfortable if it’s not your thing. Solitary confinement is considered to be a form of torture, after all.

If you are used to spending your holidays at home with family, this is definitely not the job for you. And if you’re the type of person who likes to show up late, the coworker you are relieving will kill you sooner rather than later. If you have only a passing relationship with the concept of ensuring the safety of the traveling public, then we’d all rather that you go away.

If you are inflexible, you won’t thrive when working on a bridge. Yes, for the most part this is a sedentary job, but that’s punctuated with times of great activity. Doing maintenance. Responding to emergencies. Opening the bridge (well, duh). If you come to resent those parts of the job, or think the world owes you a living for doing absolutely nothing, ever, then you will not be happy here.

Sadly, there’s no uniformity of benefits or pay scale for this job. In some parts of the country the compensation is absolutely abysmal. (I can’t stress this enough: UNION.)

I’ve also run into short timers who were hesitant to talk on the marine radio, or couldn’t read or write well (there’s a lot more paperwork than you’d suspect), or were afraid to step outside alone at night or in inclement weather when things needed doing. These are always red flags.

Rereading this, I realize that I make it sound as if this is the worst job in the world. On the contrary. I’ve written about my love for this job in this blog on numerous occasions. But as with any other profession, you have to be suited to it. You have to have a certain je ne sais quoi. I may not be able to describe it to you, but I can spot a bridgetender with staying power at 50 paces.


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Every Step Counts

Several months ago, my sister gave me a pedometer. It kind of hurt my feelings. I already know I’m fat. But her skinny little butt had a point. I’m a sedentary person. My job doesn’t help. Trying to get a bridgetender off his or her behind is like trying to shift a very large rock up a very steep hill.


(Cartoon credit:

The pedometer stayed in its packaging for a couple weeks. I’d glare at it from time to time, but that was the extent of our interaction at first. Then one day, I growled, “Oh, all RIGHT. All right,” and I opened the stupid thing, turned it on, even. The instructions said that one should take 6,000 steps a day to maintain good health, and 10,000 steps a day for weight loss. I’d have estimated that I take about 500 steps a day, but after putting it on, I discovered to my surprise that I take an average of 3,500 steps a day, and that’s just going to the refrigerator and the bathroom and back and forth to work. Still not good, but I was thrilled to know that I’m slightly less of a slug than I originally thought. During that week I discovered interesting things. I take 25 steps every time I go from my bed to the bathroom and back. It’s 700 steps from my car to the bridge where I work. Whenever I let the dogs out into the back yard, that’s 150 steps.

After about a week, my competitive nature kicked in. If I park a little farther away at the grocery store, I’ll get more steps. If I walk down every aisle while shopping, whether I need food on that aisle or not, more steps. Before I knew it, I was averaging 6000 steps a day. And guess what. My chronic low back pain disappeared. Imagine that! Then I started marching in place while I took a shower. No, the pedometer isn’t waterproof, and even if it were, I shudder to think what I’d have to clip it to for it to count my steps. No, what I’d do is count as I marched, and then after the shower I’d sit there and shake the thing until it registered the proper number. Then I started marching in place at work, much to my coworkers’ amusement. Every half hour or so I’d do 500 steps. Then 1,000 steps. Another thing I’ve started to do is learn to stop being so darned efficient. I always try to combine my trips. For example, if I know I’m going to the kitchen anyway, I try to grab any dirty dishes I have lying about. That makes sense unless you’re trying to get extra steps. Now I tend to take a separate trip for every utensil, time permitting. I’m proud to say I’m now up to 10,000 steps a day, and my clothes are starting to fit better.

Now, when I DON’T get enough steps in a day, I don’t feel well. Or is it that I don’t feel well and therefore don’t get enough steps? I had a bad cold last week, and I was lucky if I got 1,500 steps a day, and sure enough, my clothes instantly got tighter. But I’m slowly working myself back up. It’s a process. I’m still kind of weak as a kitten, but I’m getting there.

I think the mistake many people make in exercising is thinking, deep down, that they’ll reach this magical pinnacle and they won’t have to do it anymore, so they tolerate it for as long as they can in hopes of reaching that pinnacle, and then give up when they don’t. Actually, it’s a lifelong shift, like it or not, so it’s better to make it a lifestyle adjustment that you actually enjoy and do automatically. I’m actually starting to like the journey enough to continue on it. That’s my goal, anyway.

So thanks, sis, for caring about my health enough to hurt my feelings. I love you.