Waiting for the Glue to Dry

CalTrans — the mighty California Department of Transportation, home of lighted cones, and hard hats, and workers  in reflective vests  — promised that the Bay Bridge would be up and running by this morning at 5:00 a.m.  That it isn’t ready yet — because they found a crack up there and have to fix it before they let us loose on the bridge — is one of those great moments in steel and glue that, secretly, many people completely love.  Me included.

I mean, look — sure, there are 250,000 people who’d like to get their cars across that bridge today so they can go to the airport, or to work, or to visit someone who’s sick.  But there are another million or so of us who, like the public informaton officer for CalTrans, are riveted by and can barely contain our excitement at, well, the rivets they’re sticking into all that steel so the whole damned thing doesn’t come falling down into the bay.

Who, exactly, loves this stuff?  First, and most obviously, are those who never really grew out of their early devotion to all things construction-related, the people whose very favorite Christmas present was a battery operated crane that they could use to lift pretend girders over the prone body of their father, who’d had a leetle too much to drink at Christmas dinner.  For this group, the sight of all that steel being lifted onto the bridge, and the heroic repair effort that’s being undertaken is Christmas Day, only a lot bigger.

The second group are those of us who drive over that bridge — those of us who aren’t engineers, I mean — who really can’t believe the thing works, and stays up, and is so beautiful while it’s at it.  I’m in that group.

My feeling is that if they need a little more time for the glue to dry on the crack, well, they should have it.  Because I secretly think every time I go over the bridge, “Man, I hope this thing stays up.”  And anything they can do to keep it working, well, I’m happy to let them do it.

But wait!!!  I just checked the website.  They managed to fix it and it’s open!!  Yay caltrans.


14 thoughts on “Waiting for the Glue to Dry

  1. They make it sound so easy don’t they:

    “While the bridge is closed, a 300-foot-long section of the original East Span will be cut and moved out of the way, 150-feet above Yerba Buena Island (YBI). A new double-deck section will then be slid into place, connecting the bridge with a new half-mile-long detour connecting the East Span to the YBI Tunnel.”

    Amazing, sounds as easy as the meccano construction toy which surely it is not!

  2. When I look at the Bridge (I have a poster of it in my living room) I always think about the gargoyle they put on it when they repaired it after the big earthquake. Big engineering marvels always make me think about how they are sure it will stay up. You only have to view the video of the Tacoma narrows bridge twisting itself into bits to know that if they say they need to repair a crack, you should let them fix it and quite kvetching about how darned inconvenient it is. How inconvenient would it be if the thing fell into the Bay while you were on it?

  3. I’ve always had a phobia about bridges. I used to shut my eyes going over a one-lane wooden bridge that spanned the little canyon where the tracks ran in the town where I grew up in Massachusetts. I lived in the Bay Area in ’89, and I’ll tell you what that did nothing for my fear of bridges except to reinforce it!

  4. litlove, he is indeed! And so would Mr. Litlove be, don’t you think?

    Ms DD — Oh, I know! The sight of that span sort of swinging there like a hinge that should not have been a hinge, was not confidence-inspiring.

    MS. HMH — I went to high school outside of Tacoma, and that happens to be my favorite bridge, and bridge screw up of all time. Plus, what better way to teach about oscillation than to show that black and white movie! xoxo

  5. When I was young, I was terrified of bridges. Our big caravan of a family drove everywhere, which encompassed quite a number of bridges — whenever we went over one, I had to lay down on the floor of the family van and close my eyes until we were on the other side. Now I just try to breathe.

    My husband is a construction surveyor, and works on a great many bridges in Western Mass. Funny world.

  6. Marie — me too! I always, always believed I’d be the one in the car that plunged over the guardrails and fell through the cracks. yikes. I love it that your husband is in charge of making sure things hold up. xo

    litlove, I am very glad to hear that. Give him my love.

  7. Glad it is fixed now. We ran into those signs on 101 and 280: “I-80 BAY BRIDGE CLOSED” on the Labor Day weekend on our way up north to Point Reyes. California is even more beautiful when you have a measly 3 days to spend there before flying back again.

  8. bloglily ~ Everything about this post – the subject matter, the tone, the pacing of the words – sent me running for my copy of Joan Didion’s “The White Album” and her chapter on the “secular communion” of driving in LA: CALTRANS, “going surface”, and that peculiar construction used to describe roads, e.g. “THE 510”, or “THE Santa Monica”.

    “The White Album” came out while I was still living in the Bay Area, and there couldn’t have been a better guide to some of the mysteries of California living.

    I have a friend who has a son who has a friend who nearly had driven onto the 35-W bridge in Minneapolis when it collapsed. That’s as close as I want to come. All bridge crews get carte blanche, in my opinion ;^)

  9. Is it possible for one to be in the first group, having not one iota of understanding as to how it works, but being glad someone else does, loving to watch it all in action, and finding it all fascinating (in her younger days, she may have been the one bossing her younger brother around and telling him exactly how to play with the crane he was given for Christmas that was far more exciting than the doll she received)?

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