July has the most fog of any month of the year at the Golden Gate Bridge. It rarely comes in on little cat’s paws. It is more like a lion that is on you before you know it. At least that’s the way it seems at night, when you’re the only one on duty in the EShop and responsible for operating the foghorns.
We kept a logbook—The Fog Log—for 45 years, recording how many hours and minutes the foghorns were on during our 24/7 shifts. The month of July averaged 161.1 hours of operation. That’s more than 6 days straight, if they ran continuously, and sometimes they do operate for days at a time.
The record for July was set in 1979. The foghorns were on for 361 hours and that was about the time that our friend, Pat, came to work in the Electric Shop at the Golden Gate Bridge.
Last week I attended a memorial service for him. He passed away two weeks ago, another notation for the month of July in the Big Logbook of the Hereafter.
One of my favorite memories of working with Pat was on a foggy morning when we were tasked with replacing the 1,000 watt lamp in the aerial beacon on top of the South Tower. It is cold, wet and slippery up there in the fog. Firm footing, a solid grip, and no sudden moves are the order of the day.
After replacing the lamp and watching it begin to flash on and off, we spent a few minutes enjoying the cool wet solitude on top of the tower. The thick wet fog dampened the noise of the traffic below and we were just two guys completely isolated from the world below. 746 feet above sea level, zero visibility, and holding steady.
I took a few photos that day and completely forgot about them until the memorial service, when one of them scrolled across the slideshow screen. There was Pat, at peace with himself and fully enjoying the moment.
P.K. was a God-fearing man and an active member of his church. Pat was a big help to me when I started at the GGB in 1999. He assisted me with navigating the rigors of shiftwork and the challenges of working on the bridge.
He’s been retired for 13 years and now he’s laid to eternal rest.
Here’s to blue skies, Pat. Save me a spot on Swing Shift for the Northern Lights.
This one’s for you.