I used to work with someone whose anxiety came out in the form of OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). On really bad nights, she’d actually walk up to the bridge on the roadway, on the dotted yellow line, because to her way of thinking, encountering a 4,000 pound vehicle was vastly preferable to walking on the germs of the sidewalk, or stepping on the places where tires had touched the roadway (because, she reasoned, most tires had gone over road kill at some point).
I felt sorry for her. I really did. It must be exhausting to live under the weight of such stress. Her world was full of illogical rules that she absolutely had to follow, or disaster would surely strike. For example, under no circumstances could she wear her glasses into the bathroom. And all her dirty dishes must soak in bleach for at least 12 hours.
I also worked with someone who was a compulsive hoarder, which is also considered by many to be part of the OCD spectrum. To see the way he lived was heartbreaking. I’d say 90 percent of his home was full of garbage and useless junk. And he’d come to work and just take the place over. He wasn’t comfortable unless he was surrounded by possessions. In fairness, though, he’d take all his stuff with him at the end of his shift. That must have been tiring, too.
It was always scary to see him walk into the roadway to retrieve something that had fallen off a passing vehicle. It didn’t have to be anything of value. It just had to exist. If it existed, he had to have it. That bridge had the cleanest roadway on the face of the earth, despite what the OCD lady thought.
Actually, that’s probably not true, because for some reason I’ve worked with quite a few bridgetenders who were OCD and/or hoarders in my career, so there are probably quite a few picked-over bridges out there. I have no idea why these types of individuals are attracted to this job, but it seems to be very much the case.
Maybe it’s because as a bridgetender you tend to have more control over your environment than you do in a lot of other jobs. You work alone. You have your own way of doing things within a narrow field of requirements. And the job is, for the most part, predictable. (Except, of course, when it isn’t. But those are stories for other days.)
And maybe there’s another way of looking at this. You actually want bridgetenders to be all about the rules. The safety of the traveling public depends upon bridgetenders not cutting corners or getting too complacent. And if you have an anxiety disorder and yet still have to earn a living, it’s probably better for all concerned that you work alone.
I’ve never met a bridgetender who wasn’t unique in one way or another. The same could definitely be said about me. As the saying goes, it takes all kinds to make a world.