Three Cheers for Stupidity?

Recently Katie Herzog, a writer for The Stranger, a favorite publication of mine, posted a photograph of a man climbing the wide open Ballard Drawbridge here in Seattle. Fortunately this is not something that happens every day, so yes, I agree it was noteworthy. But here’s where Ms. Herzog and I part company. She said, “Kudos mystery climber! Way to make the morning commute a little more fun.”

I’ve been opening drawbridges for almost 16 years. That photograph made me sick to my stomach. Someone tried this with me once, but I realized it rather quickly and aborted the opening, which caused a 2000 ton gravel barge quite a bit of panic, but prevented injury and potentially loss of life. My adrenaline pumped for several hours after that, and I literally went home and vomited.

I suggest that anyone who thinks that this little jaunt was “fun” should Google “Drawbridge” and “Death” some time. People have died on drawbridges. They are millions of pounds of lurching, shuddering concrete and steel that seem to bring out the worst in thrill-seekers. Not a day goes by when at least one fool climbs under the gates when I’m just about to open the span.

If “mystery climber” had fallen, he would have splattered all over the pavement. We’d be scraping him off the sidewalk with a shovel. Would that have made your commute more fun?

People wonder why the bridgetender didn’t see this guy. He was on the opposite side of the span from the operating tower. We do have cameras, but they can only see so much. The bridgetender would never have continued the opening if he had been aware this was happening. Not in a million years. Safety is our number one concern. Killing someone is not something that would be easy to live with. Personally, I don’t think I’d ever recover from that. And despite the fact that it was this climber’s choice to be a total idiot, if it happened on my watch I’d probably lose my job, and therefore my house and my car and… on and on.

As writers, we have a certain amount of influence, and therefore a great deal of responsibility to the public. Encouraging life threatening (and job threatening) behavior is a breach of that trust. I hope the Stranger’s post won’t entice anyone else to copy the mystery climber, or we might see a senseless tragedy.

Stay safe, people. Be smart.

Update: Whoa. Was wondering why my blog was getting so many visits. The Stranger responded to my tirade! http://www.thestranger.com/slog/2017/08/23/25370933/drawbridge-operator-takes-issue-with-the-strangers-coverage-of-a-drawbridge-incident

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One of my coworkers taped a Go-Pro to the rising Fremont Bridge recently. As you can see, it’s a long way down, and the bridge is only halfway open.

I’m proud to announce that my book is now available in paperback, kindle, and deluxe color edition! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

5 thoughts on “Three Cheers for Stupidity?

  1. Angiportus

    If you can’t abort the lifting process in time, just let Darwin do his thing. I’m glad that you do what’s usual to keep people safe, but still–in times like these, don’t risk your livelihood.

    1. Well, my actions didn’t risk my livelihood. It’s the actions of the fool that do. If someone dies, even if it’s not my fault, Odds are the public will want a human sacrifice, and that would most likely be me. Scary, knowing your job is in the hands of random thrill-seekers.

  2. On a recent rush hour opening of the Fremont bridge I saw the bridge tender coming out and straining to see across the bridge to make sure the deck was clear of traffic. And chances are the dumbass who climbed wait till it was well on the way up before starting the climb. Yeah would NOT have been could for anyone if there was a splat!

  3. Pingback: Viral Days – The View from a Drawbridge

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