Constant Change

“May you live in interesting times.” —Purported Chinese curse

As many of my regular readers know, I work rotating shifts on the Golden Gate Bridge. Three days ago I finished working seven days of Swing shift (3pm — 11pm) and now I am on six days of Day shift (7am — 3pm). This time next week I start seven days of Graveyard shift (11pm — 7am).

Sometimes I feel like I am on a treadmill, continuously in motion and going nowhere fast. Other times, such as this week, I feel like the Luckiest Man Alive because I am allowed to go places and do things that few people have the opportunity to do.

Monday night at 10pm a Sergeant stood watch on the sidewalk while I went down a ladder on the the West side of the bridge and replaced a lamp in a Channel Marker light fixture at Mid-span. The night air was calm and the view East towards San Francisco was as beautiful as ever. The bright ribbon of city lights was masked by the lower lateral bracing of the bridge.

night bridge_Snapseed

San Francisco Lights
© Allan G. Smorra, All Rights Reserved

Replacing the lamp was easy enough and now three 116 watt lights mark the center of the West side of the bridge for ships entering the Golden Gate Strait.

Channel Marker © Allan G. Smorra, All Rights Reserved

Interior of Channel Marker Light Fixture
© Allan G. Smorra, All Rights Reserved

Before I climbed through thirty feet of black sky I took a quick look at the moon in the patchy overcast sky. I felt as one with the men who built this magnificent bridge — halfway between Heaven and Hell, suspended in the black arms of night.

Winter Moon © Allan G. Smorra, All Rights Reserved

Winter Moon
© Allan G. Smorra, All Rights Reserved

This afternoon, as a counterpoint to my last night of Swing shift, I got to take a walk in the fog on the Stairway To Heaven, the Main Cable. The elevator in the East Tower had a problem and two people were stuck and could not get down to the sidewalk level. When this happens, a member of the Electric Shop takes the Elevator repairman (Otis, my man!) up the cable from Mid-span.

It is a half-mile hike along a three-foot diameter cable that rises 20.5 degrees and today we got to do it in the fog. Walking from 246 feet above Sea Level at Mid-span to 746 feet at the top of the tower, we did our Cardio workout on Company time.

Walking in a Foggy Wonderland this afternoon

Walking in a Foggy Wonderland
© Allan G. Smorra, All Rights Reserved

We broke through the fog and into the sunlight at the six hundred foot level and the rest of our climb was in the sunshine. I found it easy to imagine that we were on the rim of a bowl of milk as I looked at the top of the white fog pouring into San Francisco Bay. The fog dampens the noise of the vehicles on the roadway and I know what it sounds like to be a bird on the coast of Northern California.

I will be retiring in 53 days, but who is counting? I will definitely miss this All Access Pass that I currently enjoy. The places that I go and the things that currently I do will get me arrested in the future.

Savor the moment; Be present; Practice an Attitude of Gratitude — these are more than words to me today, they are Channel Markers for my next journey in life.

Stay tuned and I will take you along for the ride.

  27 comments for “Constant Change

  1. February 20, 2014 at 7:09 PM

    Holy wow, this amazing! You really are privileged. 🙂 I really like your post as a whole as what you wrote takes us along with you. The visual of being a bird flying over the Northern Coast is awesome and I think I can say heartfelt. I can’t imagine walking up that thing for so long and so high! Looking at a few of your later posts I was thinking that we are so lucky that you are willing to share these unique experiences with us, something most of us will never get to experience. Really incredible, thank you.

    I’ve only been to San Francisco twice and drove up along the coast by myself in my uncle’s car. It was foggy at times. Even with this little bit of experience your post has taken me back to that great journey, thanks.

    And congratulations on retiring! Will you hold a retirement photo shoot/slash celebration at your favorite point on the bridge?

    Props to you!!!


    • February 21, 2014 at 1:03 AM

      Hi eLPy,

      I’m glad that my post brought back fond memories for you of your visit to Northern California. It is a magical place. Someone once said that when you visit San Francisco for the first time it becomes your second home.

      It is a joy for me to share photos and stories about my experiences as a bridge electrician. I never imagined living a life this interesting and doing the things that come along each workday.

      I don’t have any particular plans to take any special photos on my last day. I got some pictures this last Day shift when we were up on the Main Cable and that might be my last trip up there.

      Thank you for your comments, Allan

      Sent from my iPhone



      • February 21, 2014 at 12:15 PM

        Have you considered writing a memoir during your retirement? I’m sure a lot of people would be interested given what a an amazing structure this is? If you’ve already done this I apologize but if not…hey hey!


        • February 21, 2014 at 12:45 PM

          I started one last year. Look at the menu bar at the top of my blog page and select Fingerprints. Enjoy.

          Sent from my iPhone



          • February 21, 2014 at 9:09 PM

            My bad! I will do so. 😉


          • February 21, 2014 at 9:22 PM

            No sweat, there is a lot to look at on the various pages.


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