Nonfiction Observations Seattle

Bridges, Frustration, and Coping.

The longest floating bridge in the world is in Seattle. It is 7,710 feet (2,350 meters) long and spans beautiful Lake Washington. Locals call it the “520 bridge” and, in its current incarnation, only cars may use the bridge.

Yesterday, the Washington State Department of Transportation hosted the grand opening of the new 520 bridge. On the bridge were several food trucks, booths with information related to the engineering and construction of the bridge, and equipment and heavy machinery used in its creation.

To get to the event from Seattle, people had to take shuttle buses that originated at the University of Washington campus. The buses drove about three miles on the old bridge and delivered the crowds to the start of the new bridge.

Tens of thousands of people took the opportunity to walk across the bridge and enjoy the surrounding views that, prior to then, one could only enjoy by car.

In the early afternoon hundreds of people got in line to get back to Seattle. A young man wearing an orange vest carried a sign that read “End of the Line Here”. He folded the line back and forth to compress hundreds of people into a narrow area while we awaited the shuttle buses.

Behind us were two women who appeared to be in their 60s. One wore a visor that pushed her short white hair out of her face. The other had a greying bob.

“This is ridiculous!” Visor exclaimed. “This isn’t organized at all! We’ve been waiting in line for over 30 minutes and I don’t see any buses coming!”

“I know!” Grey Bob agreed. “We haven’t moved at all. This is terrible. This is ruining the entire event!”

Thin white clouds were streaked across the bright blue sky. A refreshing breeze swept around us. Mt. Rainier stood in the distance, a lenticular cloud atop its peak like a floating hat.

“OH MY GOD we’re actually moving!” Grey Bob squealed as the line shuffled forward. “We might actually get off this bridge!”

“I’m not going to be that optimistic,” Visor replied. “I’m going to wait until we actually get to UW before I say that.”

Shimmering white light danced on the dark blue ripples of Lake Washington. As the clouds dissolved under the sunlight the snow-capped peaks of the Cascade Mountains revealed themselves. A media helicopter, less than 100 feet above us, drifted past.

“HELP US!” Visor screamed at the helicopter.

When we could no longer hear the helicopter, Grey Bob sighed, “It’s been over 45 minutes. This is unacceptable.”

“If I have to wait in line any longer, I’m going to jump over the side of the bridge and kill myself,” Visor squawked.

Grey Bob laughed before commenting, “The barriers aren’t that high. Someone could really jump over. It wouldn’t be that hard.”

“Oh yeah, you’re right,” Visor said, her voice non-plussed. “That’s not good.”

At around 55 minutes the line was no longer still. We walked in quick strides towards five buses. Two of them faced West to go to UW. Three of them faced East.

“All the buses are gonna go to Seattle,” the event planner shouted at us. “Get on any bus on the other side of the barrier. All the buses will go West.”

I smiled as I watched my father scramble over the barrier—while not a spring chicken, he is still spry—and my husband and I made a point of scurrying away from Grey Bob and Visor. The three of us got on a bus facing East.

Nearly 100 of us packed into the bus. My father sat to my right. A woman in her 50s wearing a bicycle jersey sat to my left. My husband gave up his seat in an act of chivalry for her. He stood near the rear exit of the bus.

The bus headed East towards the fancy-pants neighborhoods of Medina and Hunts Point. Once the bus was off the bridge, it passed an exit. Then another.

“WHAT?” Bicycle Jersey exclaimed. She leaned forward and barked at her friend, an older woman with glasses reading a newspaper, “Why is the bus driver not turning around? Doesn’t the driver know that we’re supposed to go to SEATTLE?”

Someone pulled the wire to signal the bus to stop. People snickered.

The bus slowed to a halt at an intersection with several other shuttle buses. It did not move for nearly 15 minutes.

“This is so disorganized,” Bicycle Jersey said. “This is not worth it. This has ruined the entire day for me.” Her right thumb scrolled through an article by Nick Kristof: “When Whites Just Don’t Get It”.

The bus then crept north towards Kirkland.

“WHAT?!” Bicycle Jersey shouted. “Why are we going to Kirkland? We’ve been on this bus for over half an hour! We should’ve gotten on a bus that was going the other way. They’re already back home.”

“I never take the bus,” a woman standing over my dad said to no one in particular. “I’m never doing this ever again. Unless it’s a shuttle bus at a really nice wedding. And I mean a REALLY nice wedding.”

A young man with facial stubble near my husband hugged a pole. “We’re almost out of water. We’re going to die on this bus.”

“It’s like we’re hostages on this bus,” Bicycle Jersey spat.

The bus stopped at the Kirkland Park and Ride, but not at the curb.

“He better not make us get off this bus,” Bicycle Jersey said.

One man got off the bus.

“Did we come all the way here just for that one guy?” Bicycle Jersey continued. “What about the rest of us?”

The bus rolled back down the hill and stopped at an intersection.

“WHY WON’T THE DRIVER GET BACK ON 520?” Bicycle Jersey shouted. “TURN RIGHT HERE.”

“We’ve been on this bus for almost an hour,” Facial Stubble announced.

When the light turned green, the bus turned right and we were back on 520.

“We’ve been on this bus for almost an hour,” Facial Stubble announced again.

The bus rolled past the line of people waiting for buses. It was nearly a mile long now.

“DON’T GET ON A BUS HEADING EAST,” Bicycle Jersey shouted at them. None of the windows of the bus were open. The bus was going over 40 miles an hour.

“We’ve been on this bus for an hour now,” Facial Stubble said. “This is the worst mistake of my life.”

Some people have to wait over an hour every day just to get food and water.

I’m going to guess that you ate breakfast this morning. I’m also going to guess that you’re going home. Because you didn’t have to work today.

You’re not showing any overt signs of dehydration. Shut up. You’re not going to die.

The only person holding you hostage right now is you. Your bitterness isn’t going to make us get back to Seattle faster.

If you are joking about suicide because you’ve been waiting in line outside on a beautiful day for 45 minutes, how do you deal with actual stress?

Maybe you sustained a brain injury in your frontal lobe and that’s why you have low frustration tolerance.

Maybe your prefrontal cortex hasn’t fully developed yet. That process isn’t complete until your mid-20s, at which point you’ll hopefully have better impulse control.

Maybe no one ever taught you emotion regulation and distress tolerance skills. So maybe this is a skills deficit.

Maybe you’re having a rough time in life right now. Maybe a relationship you value is ending. Maybe someone you care about is sick and dying. Maybe, under different circumstances, you’d exercise more patience.

Maybe you’re a victim of specific operant conditioning: Maybe you’ve learned that people only pay attention to you and value what you say when you’re expressing snark or distress. And that people will only take you seriously the louder you talk.

My dad shrugged.

“We just had bad luck today.”