Scary, Scary Bridge People

When I first became a bridgetender back in 2001, I assumed I wouldn’t be dealing with people very much. That was part of the appeal for me. It suits my introverted nature. I don’t really understand a lot of people, especially when they are acting unpredictably. And those are the very people I’m forced to interact with on my job.

Oh, goody.

So, in honor of Halloween, I thought I’d tell you about some of the people who have scared me over the years. Some of these are kind of funny in retrospect. Others, not so much.

  • The scariest person I’ve ever come across was the barking man. He thinks he’s a dog. But he’s no golden retriever. He thinks he’s a very large, aggressive, rabid dog. He was someone I dealt with regularly on one of my Florida bridges. He never touched me, but a couple of times he got close enough to where I felt his slobber on my face as he barked and growled. Bad dog. No treats for you.

  • Then there’s the serial rapist who got out of jail and spent his nights fishing at the end of my bridge. How do I know this? Because I used to have a side job transcribing the interviews of ex-prisoners for a study at the health department, and he mentioned my bridge by name. I heard this while sitting on that very bridge all alone, late at night, and it felt much worse because I had no idea what he looked like.

  • For some reason, people like to come by and pound on the tower door and run away. It has happened on all 9 bridges that I’ve worked on. This often makes me jump out of my skin. Especially on the graveyard shift. Fortunately, I have a strong heart.

  • But I nearly soiled myself the time that three young boys came by at three a.m. and rattled the doorknob for 15 minutes, saying, “Come on, lady, let us in!” Yes, I called the police. No, they did not show up while the scofflaws in question where still present. A few days later those same kids showed up and asked how to get a job as a bridgetender. I told them, for starters, not to act like a bunch of juvenile delinquents.

  • Young males, aged 13-25 can quite often be bad news. You never know what these guys are going to do. They climb things. They like to jump the gap of a partially opened bridge. They shout impatiently. They crawl under the gates. They do backflips into the water. They think they’re immortal, and they must be, because if anyone else behaved that stupidly, they’d probably be dead by now.

  • When people throw eggs or tomatoes or beer bottles or even, one time, a pumpkin, it sounds like a mortar shell has hit the building. This happened all the time when I worked in Florida. It has yet to happen here in Seattle, and it never happened in South Carolina, either. But I’ve never worked on a bridge that hasn’t had its window shot out at least once. (I hope I didn’t just give someone an idea.)

  • One gentleman used to like to dress up in a green satin, spaghetti strapped dress, and admire himself in the convex mirror right outside my door. For hours on end. That part didn’t bother me so much. Live and let live. What bothered me was when he’d stand in the road and start screaming incoherently. The police had to escort him off my bridge on more than one occasion, but he’d always make his way back eventually.

  • Just the other day a guy told me that I’m an idiot who doesn’t know how to do my job, and that he studied engineering at the University of Washington, and therefore was better at judging what was safe and unsafe, and when an opening should be started. He then proceeded to crawl under the gate and cross the bridge before I had even driven the locks to keep it from bouncing up.

  • One of my coworkers watched someone assemble an IKEA lamp at center span, and then walk away, leaving the lamp sitting there. He thinks of that guy whenever he turns the lamp on, as it goes perfectly with his living room décor.

  • Another guy was so upset that the pedestrian traffic gate was down and he couldn’t cross the bridge that he ripped it free, bolts and all, with his bare hands. Well, that’s one way of dealing with the situation, I suppose. Another way would be to wait your freakin’ turn.

  • People abandon rental bikes at center span all the time, too. In hopes that they’ll fall off the rising bridge and hurt someone? I have no idea. But the wheels won’t move unless you provide a credit card, and I’m here to tell you they are really heavy when I have to lift them up to carry them off the bridge. That, and the automated voice that’s telling me not to steal the bike is really annoying.

  • There’s a lady here that I call the suitcase lady because she has several of them. If you get too close, she curses like a sailor. I’m fairly certain she could beat me senseless if properly motivated, such is the level of her rage. I do my best to avoid her, but one day I happened to step out onto the sidewalk at the exact moment when she was passing by. I braced myself. She jumped toward me. But this time she shouted, “I got a new shirt!” I wasn’t expecting that, so I had no idea what to say. I have to admit, though, that it was a really nice shirt. Red is her color. Good for her.

  • There’s one guy who likes to cross the bridge while dribbling an imaginary basketball. He seems fairly harmless, but where is he in his mind? And what happens next?

  • By far, it’s the drug addicts that rattle me the most. I never know what their version of reality might be. What do they see when they look at me? A humble bridgetender, or the devil incarnate who must be disposed of?

People are scary, man. They don’t even need costumes.

Happy Halloween.

nosferatu

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Weird Drawbridge Stuff

Every time I think I’ve seen it all as a bridgetender, something new and surprising happens. The other day, a boat passed under my bridge, and on the bow there was a woman in a hot pink, shiny catsuit, wearing a powder blue motorcycle helmet, complete with visor. I wish I had had time to whip out my camera, but I was too busy standing there, slack-jawed.

I’ve also seen my fair share of nudity and inappropriate acts, and believe me, most of them I wish I could wash out of my brain with bleach. It seems as though the level of one’s exhibitionism is directly proportionate to one’s lack of classic beauty. I would really rather not see your thick carpet of back hair, ma’am, thankyouverymuch.

And then there are the strange things that have floated by my tower: Houses. Lengths of bridge. Airplanes. Submarine periscopes. UFOs (unidentified floating objects). I once opened for a yacht being used by Sir Paul McCartney when he did the halftime show at the super bowl in Jacksonville, Florida. (I didn’t catch a glimpse of him, though.)

Pedestrians can be quite entertaining, too. They often like to sing. And while they tackle it with enthusiasm, as a general rule they shouldn’t try out for American Idol.

Or they dance. We get a lot of dancers. One guy walked down the sidewalk dribbling an imaginary basketball. Another preached a full sermon to the geese on the canal.

People have gotten into fist fights while crossing my bridge. I’ve seen more than one marriage proposal. A sad number walk across, shouting and gesticulating when no one else is there.

I’ve also seen eagles and falcons and ospreys and alligators and nutria and harbor seals and dolphins, to name but a few of the fascinating creatures who share the planet with us. I’ve also seen more lightning strikes and rainbows and sunrises and sunsets than I can count.

I’ve seen enough bizarre traffic accidents to make me wonder if anyone puts any thought into vehicular safety anymore. I’ve also heard every obscenity known to man, and have had a wide variety of objects thrown at me. I’ve also had government snipers on my bridge when presidential nominees were making speeches nearby.

I really do have the most interesting job in the world. I’d like to say I’ve seen it all, but somehow I suspect that I haven’t. So watch this space!

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A coworker to a picture of this waterspout as it passed by the bridge. Glad I wasn’t on duty!

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My Response to Search Queries

One of the great features that I get to take advantage of because my blog is on WordPress is the “search engine terms” feature. It lets me know what questions or phrases people have used to find one of my blog posts. (Never fear, it doesn’t tell me who is searching for what or even when, so if you recognize yourself below, rest assured that I do not.)

Can I just say that there are a lot of strange people in cyberspace? Some of them are so odd, in fact, that I feel the undeniable urge to interact with them. I’ve done a post like this before. But new levels of bizarre seem to have cropped up, so I thought it was time for another one.

What follows are honest to God search engine terms in bold, my response to them, and links to the blog posts these queries probably came up with.

  • Can psychopaths have friends? Actually, I’ve gotten many queries along these lines, and they never fail to make me sad. Yes, I used to have a friend who was a psychopath, for many, many years. I thought she was my friend, but was I hers? In retrospect, no. I must have served a purpose for a good long while, but as soon as I stopped serving that purpose, as soon as I started pushing beyond the boundaries that she established, it was over.

    If you’re making this query, dear reader, my first instinct is to tell you to find a better friend. Psychopaths, by their very nature, cannot and do not truly care about you. You deserve more. Set your sights higher. See also: My Friend the Psychopath.

  • Is it bad to change your favorite color? Well, I’ve done it. And the world didn’t come to an end. So I’d say no. A better question might be, “Why do I care if it’s bad to change my favorite color?” See also: Changing My Favorite Color.

  • Gas gauge empty pee, gas gauge montana pee. Okay, there’s a story behind this query. There has to be. And I’d love to hear it. But it probably sent you to a post about my trip through Montana when I was moving from Florida to Seattle.

  • Can you get addicted to acupuncture? Yes, I once wrote a blog post called Addicted to Acupuncture, but I didn’t mean literal addiction. I just liked the way that title rolled off my tongue. I apologize if this caused any confusion. I absolutely love acupuncture and highly recommend it. I can’t imagine how an actual addiction would be possible under these circumstances, but then, I’m no doctor.

  • Where are the best location for the drawbridge and why? Er… over a river? Where you need a lower bridge but taller vessels must still transit the waterway? I’m really not sure what you’re getting at, and I doubt any posts of mine were much help. This one must have just sent you to my blog in general. I hope someone was able to answer your question for you.

  • Why is he picking a fight with me? I have no idea. If he does it often, though, you may want to move on. This kind of thing can go downhill quickly. Take care of you. Good luck. See also: How to Become a Battered Woman.

  • Why are drawbridges so scary? I am sorry you feel that way. You’re not alone, though. I’m sad to say that quite a few people are frightened by them.

    The most common reason I’ve heard is that when you’re going across them, you can feel them move and bounce. But trust me, you do NOT want a rigid bridge. Rigid bridges can lead to disaster. We learned this with Tacoma’s Galloping Gertie. You really do want a bridge to be able to move and flex within reason, so it can adjust to shifting weights and winds and temperatures. If you don’t allow for that, the bridge will find a way, just like Gertie did.

    Other people are afraid of the open grating that many bridges have, as opposed to solid asphalt or concrete. This is to reduce weight and wind drag when they are up in the air. I used to be afraid of these grates, too, but trust me, they will support your weight. Buses and semi trucks cross over them all the time. If they can support that, they can hold up your car, your bike, and/or you. Just don’t look down. You’ll be okay.

    Other people are afraid that the bridge will open up while they are crossing it. There are a whole lot of safety systems in place that you aren’t aware of to prevent that. And most bridgetenders take their jobs very seriously. Do people get hurt on drawbridges? Yes, it happens. You can do a lot of very common sense things to make sure it doesn’t happen to you. First of all, DO NOT wear headphones or ear buds when crossing a drawbridge. You want to be able to hear the warning gongs that signal that a bridge is about to open. And if you see a red light, stop. If you see a gate go down, do not try to run past it or crawl under it.

    I’m sorry you are stressing out over this. I just suggest you stay safely outside the gates when a bridge is opening and enjoy the show! If you allow yourself to become fascinated with drawbridges, they won’t seem nearly as scary.

    This is another query that probably just sent you to my blog in general, but I’d also like to invite you to join my Drawbridge Lovers Facebook Page.

  • Construction man cement porn. Okay, I have no freakin’ clue why this brought you to me. And I’m not sure I want you to stay. Maybe you stumbled upon my post about Gender Specific Jobs? I don’t know. But I’m kind of worried about you.

  • Drawbridge jokes. If you know any, I’d sure love to hear them. But I got nothin’. Something about this job having its ups and downs? Yeah. I’ve never heard that one before.

  • Weird face. I sure hope this didn’t bring you to me because of my face. That would be crushing. But perhaps you stumbled upon my post about Uncanny Valley. That one has some weird pictures. It gives me the shivers just thinking about it.

  • How to hate alcohol. It just so happens that Why I Hate Alcohol is one of my most visited posts by far. It seems that there are quite a few people out there who hate it, and for very good reason. I think if everyone did, the world would be a much nicer place.

    Unfortunately, there’s no one who will be able to convince you not to like alcohol if you do, in fact, like it. The fact that you’re making this query leads me to believe you are ready to make a change, though. I wish you the best of luck.

  • Anorexic women with breast implants. Okay, I did write a post about Valeria Lukyanova who is the poster child for this. But I hope you didn’t just go there to “admire” the picture of her. My post was a cautionary tale. This woman is not healthy, and I hope you don’t want to emulate her.

  • Hoop skirt pee, and/or six inch heels. I wrote about the first topic because I was genuinely curious about how this maneuver was pulled off. But it seems to have drawn quite a few fetishists to my blog. I’m quite sure they leave very disappointed. And I think the photograph of the heels in another post (in which I was trying to explain how self-destructive humans can be) is the most viewed photo in my whole blog. That kind of makes me sad, because the post is informative, but I bet it’s rarely read. I wasn’t really trying to please pervs. Oh well.

  • Graffiti is like dogs peeing on lamp posts. I do tend to agree. But I have to say, some graffiti definitely approaches the level of art. And I think I said as much in my post entitled Sliz. It’s a shame these artists choose to destroy other people’s property instead of using their power for good.

So welcome to my blog, you fascinating, quirky people! Hope you’ll come back soon.

Welcome

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Melatonin Dreams

My dreams are strange at the best of times, but when I take Melatonin to help me sleep, I seem to descend into a Seuss-like subbasement of my subconscious, a place where only Salvador Dali would feel at home.

One time I dreamed that there were several giraffes walking on water, headed straight toward my drawbridge. I was afraid I wouldn’t get the bridge opened on time, but I did. As a matter of fact, I opened it so quickly that it flew apart and came crashing down, tons of concrete and steel missing me by inches. And yet the giraffes ambled on, without so much as a fare-thee-well. They must have been late for a very important date. The nerve of some water-walking mammals.

Dreams like that make me avoid Melatonin. I only take it as a last resort, when I’m so desperate to sleep that any warped delusion is superior to tossing and turning. It never fails to knock me out. It just leaves my unconscious mind to fend for itself.

But I can’t really blame the Melatonin, can I? I mean, it didn’t put that imagery in my brain. It had to have been there all along. The Melatonin simply sets it free.

And that makes me wonder what else is lurking in my mental warehouse. I bet there are creatures in there that I have yet to encounter. Beings with magical powers that I hope are used for good, not evil. People and things that are capable of walking on Escher’s staircases. Floating islands of thought, drifting in a psychedelic sea of creativity.

It kind of makes me feel as though I’m carrying around, deep within me, a savory stew of untapped potential. It’s strange to think that there are places in my head where I have never been, where the rules of physics are merely suggestions, and anything could happen.

How exciting! How scary.

19 Salvador Dali Mysterious Mouth Appearing in the Back of My Nurse, 1941

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Just the Right Amount of Strange

Have you ever met someone and clicked with them instantly because they’re the same kind of weird that you are? Isn’t it great? It’s such a relief to feel understood and accepted.

Recently someone pointed out to me that there’s really no such thing as normal. Good point. I’ve never known anyone who hasn’t felt at least a little bit “out there”.

Personally, I’d find it rather creepy if we were all alike. The implication would be that we had no free will or independent thought. I can think of no better definition of hell.

That’s why I’m instantly repulsed by people who tell me that the only way to get to heaven is by subscribing to a specific creed. That sure doesn’t sound like heaven to me. I don’t want to agree with everyone all the time. I don’t want to check my brains and my personality at the door. I would die of boredom. You keep your Stepford Wife Heaven to yourself. I’ll have no part of it.

I like to let my freak flag fly, and enjoy having it fly with plenty of crazy company!

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In Praise of the Codex Seraphinianus

The Codex Seraphinianus, created by Luigi Serafini and published in 1981, could very well be the panacea for all the major struggles in my life. It’s a manuscript written in a strange, made up language with an even stranger alphabet, and what accompanies it are some of the most disturbing and/or delightful illustrations you will ever see. I wish I could afford a copy of this fascinating publication. I’m sure I’d spend half my waking life lost in the weird world it describes.

The reason this book appeals to me so much is that I seem to spend a lot of time trying really hard to make sense out of the nonsensical. I want everything to be explainable. I want there to be answers to all my questions. I am desperate to have all things fit into neat little boxes.

This book challenges that belief system, and flies in the face of any attempt to categorize things as black or white, right or wrong, fact or fiction. This book lives in the gray areas that we all would prefer to avoid. It defies logic. Or, rather, it invents a logic of its own, one that appeals greatly to the Daliesque world in which our subconscious resides.

The strangest thing about this codex is that the more you look at it, the more it seems to add up. It almost appears to hypnotize you. It causes you to suspend your disbelief to such a degree that you begin to flirt with the idea that you’re losing your mind. But only for a second. Or two.

If anyone out there is wondering what to get me for Christmas, now you know.

Codex

Suspicious Package

I was walking to the south end of my bridge to do some much-needed maintenance when I came upon a large shopping bag, apparently stuffed full of clothing. It was right in the middle of the sidewalk and no one was in sight. I wasn’t about to go rooting around in this bag. After all, I once wrote about a hand grenade being found on a bridge. You just never know.

After alerting my supervisor, I spoke to the 911 operator and described the package. They said they would send someone out right away. This was good news, because not only would I like to keep my bridge, but this package was, coincidentally, only about 20 feet from my new (to me) car. That’ll ruin your whole day.

It was a little awkward. I didn’t want to leave this bag unattended. We get a lot of pedestrian traffic. So I stayed there, but at a safe distance.

But what is a safe distance, anyway? Close enough to keep the public away from the bag, but far enough not to be maimed for life if it exploded was what I was shooting for. I also didn’t want to stand so far away that I looked like a paranoid dope when it turned out to be just a bag of clothes as I strongly suspected it would. I spent an unbelievably long time pondering the sweet spot of distances until the officer arrived on the scene.

He reassured me that I’d done the right thing by calling. One cannot be too cautious in this day and age. He then inspected the bag from all angles, and asked if I had heard any sounds or seen any wires. No and no. So he then extended his baton to its full length and gingerly used it to pull out the first layer of stuff, which turned out to be a towel. I held my breath.

The bag’s contents included a beach towel, a jacket, and a very nice ballpoint pen. That seems like kind of a strange combination, but I guess we’ll never know the whole story. At least I know more of the story than all the joggers and bicyclers that hurried past. If they sensed my adrenaline dump, they definitely had no idea of its cause.

Just another day on the drawbridge. Move along. Nothing to see here. Your tax dollars at work.

Boom

Alternate Realities

As a bridgetender I get ample opportunity to observe people. I sit up here in my not-exactly-ivory tower, watching them come and go. Most of them don’t even know I exist. That can be lonely, but it also gives me a certain amount of power, and it’s power that I haven’t earned, so I’ve never quite gotten used to it.

People will say the most intimate things as they walk down the sidewalk. I’m not intentionally eaves dropping, but voices do carry. They’ll also do the most bizarre things when they think they’re all alone, so during the early morning part of my shifts on Saturdays and Sundays in particular, when traffic is light and most people are sleeping in or sleeping it off, I’ve seen some quite interesting things.

The other day I saw a guy who appeared to be dancing down the sidewalk. As he got closer I realized that he wasn’t dancing. He was playing imaginary basketball. His dribbling and his overhead passes were particularly graceful. His layups needed some work. He seemed harmless enough, so I let him play on.

On the contrary, shouting man seemed a danger to himself and others. He was disheveled and sucking on a marijuana pipe as he walked along, screaming and gesticulating aggressively. I was tempted to let him be as well, until he straddled the railing into oncoming traffic. That made me call 911. They showed up rather quickly, tested his drugs, talked to him a while, and sent him on his not-so-merry way. That’s the thing about Seattle. The city seems to allow obviously disturbed people to roam free instead of getting them the help that they desperately need. That’s something I haven’t gotten accustomed to. I feel sorry for all the ragged dirty people I see on street corners, talking earnestly to themselves.

There’s another gentleman who is very clean cut, and for all appearances is a functional member of society. That is, until he reaches the informational placard at the top of one of my bridges. It’s tilted sort of like a podium, and he appears to use it as such. He’ll stand there, thumping it with his hands, and speaking loudly and earnestly to the river. There’s no one else around to hear him except me. Sometimes I wonder if he really is a preacher practicing his sermon. He’s too far away for me to hear what he’s saying. Eventually he’ll hop on his bike and ride away.

For the most part I’m a live and let live kind of girl. As long as they are not inviting potential disaster on me, the public, themselves or the bridge, I just kind of shake my head and let them do their unique things. I think all of us, to a certain extent, live in our own little worlds. The majority of us are just a little more adept at keeping it to ourselves.

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[Image credit: differencebetween.info]

A Real Stand-Up Guy

I know this guy with severe ADHD who is extremely socially awkward. In fact, most people consider him rather weird. He doesn’t pick up on social cues. He doesn’t get when he takes a joke too far. He doesn’t see when he’s making people uncomfortable. And he can’t tell when people are embarrassed for him.

He has this really strange view of women. I think in his mind we all wear gloves and pillbox hats and are so fragile that we must be wrapped in gauze padding in order to function. He means well, but it puts people off.

Because of this, people stand him up all the time. A bunch of people even stood him up at his own wedding. How rude is that? (Fortunately the bride showed up.)

I could go on and on about how heartless and cruel people can be, and how it’s a horrible thing when you take advantage of someone who is socially weaker than you are. But the fact is that he’s an adult and needs to take responsibility for his own life. So my advice to him (which he won’t take) is to stop considering people his friends when they treat him like crap. Even he can see when that happens. He just doesn’t think he deserves better. What a shame. What a waste.

The bottom line is that water rises to its own level. In other words, if you allow people to treat you like shit, a lot of them will do so. Set boundaries. Certain behavior should be a deal-breaker when it comes to friendships. Go for quality, not quantity. You’ll be much happier.

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Swamplandia

I’ll be the first to admit that I have entirely too much time on my hands. My imagination can sometimes take me to very strange places. Anyone who knows me well tends to shake his or her head and smile weakly at me when forced aboard one of my flights of fancy. This is one of those flights, so fasten your seatbelts.

Have you ever thought about how lucky we are to have the sun for reasons other than unrelenting heat? Because of the sun, the natural order of things it that everything tends to become dryer, not wetter. Imagine living in a world where we somehow still had warmth, but where soggy was the natural state. No one outside of Seattle can probably fully comprehend this concept.

In that type of environment, everywhere would be swampy. It would be hard to construct anything because the ground would be unstable. Everything would be slippery and slimy, and the air would be thick with the smell of mold and rot. We’d be more apt to move about by boat than by car.

People couldn’t wear clothing because it would become increasingly damp and heavy and you’d have a permanent case of raisin-finger, only all over your body. We’d probably have to evolve to have feathers and a thick layer of blubber just to stay warm and dry. Our mindset would have to be completely different to avoid going insane. The drip, drip, drip alone would probably do my head in.

Land on higher ground would be at a premium, and rich people would avoid the waterfront properties rather than flock to them as they do today. We would still wage war over oil, unfortunately, because that would probably be the only thing that would burn well, and people’s ability to have fire would be the key to their survival. Fire tenders would be esteemed members of society.

Isn’t it amazing how much we take natural law for granted? Aren’t you glad you’re dry? We really do have a lot to be grateful for.

Swamp

Swamp, by JJcanvas on deviantART