Ohm Sweet Ohm


This week the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge asks us to “…show us what being alone means to you.”

I used to work as an electrician on the Golden Gate Bridge and when I worked my rotating shifts I was the only one on duty in the Electric Shop (EShop) for an eight hour stretch of time. Six straight days of Day shift (7AM to 3PM) found me working by myself on weekends and holidays. Seven straight days of Swing shift (3PM to 11PM), and seven straight days of Graveyard shift (11PM to 7AM) made for a lot of solitude and reflection during the night.

People are lonely because they build walls instead of bridges.
—Joseph Fort Newton

Granted, there were other people at work in other departments during my shifts. Toll Collectors (until March of 2013), Bridge Service Operators, and Security officers also worked to keep the bridge running 24/7/365. The fact of the matter is that I spent more time working with these individuals than I did working with the rest of my fellow electricians in the EShop. [Note: Because of the shift rotations, I only worked with the other electricians four out of six days, once a month]

You could make an argument that I was alone in a crowd. However, if there was a problem with the Electronic Toll System? I responded; The boiler stopped working? I responded; A light fixture is not working in an office? I responded; It is three o’clock in the morning and a water valve is leaking at midspan? I responded.

Every day of every shift has a list of duties scheduled to be completed on that particular day. Some duties are time sensitive, e.g. operating roadway lights and navigation beacons, and some are date sensitive, e.g. checking the lights in the Plaza, replacing batteries and resetting every clock and thermostat in the facility.

The Electric Shop keeps a running logbook for every shift, on every day. It is signed by the on-duty electrician(s) and is a hand-written account of who did what & when, encompassing both scheduled and unscheduled maintenance. The logbook is a legal document, admissible in court, and the best way for information to flow from one worker to the next.


Over the years a system of highlighting important details has emerged. Any problems and actions with the Toll System are highlighted in yellow; any unscheduled maintenance performed is highlighted in orange; items that need attention are highlighted in pink; observations or requests for supplies are highlighted in either blue or green—it’s dealer’s choice on these colors.

Whenever I relieved the on-duty electrician ahead of me I would quickly scan the logbook for highlighted entries. Some shifts were like rainbows and took up more than one page, and I have had my share of those colorful days and nights. Other shifts were brief and by-the-book—and few and far between with an aging structure.

Being alone means that I am responsible, and accountable, for my actions—even though nobody is there to observe.