Friday, April 15, 2011

Bridge Club

I like to keep abreast of the latest developments involving our beloved celebrities, so I always scan the fronts of the gossip rags at the Try 'N' Save.  Why, just the other day, I learned that Mariah Carey does not care to know what time it is, and will not wear a watch.  She's probably not alone, judging from the American propensity for showing up late, if at all.  

I guess when you're Mariah Carey, you can show up whenever you want to.  It's sort of like being the bride, to be a big shot like that.  The bride can be as late as she wants to her own wedding, and who's going to start the marryin' without her being up at the altar?  Same with the star of the show.  No Mariah Carey concert can begin without Ms Carey ready to sing.  The guy who plays the saxophone: he'd better be there on time or else!

But it was sort of interesting to have digested this information about Mariah's disinterest in what time of day it is and then go watch the show on Maryland Public TV about the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.  For those who read this and have never been to Maryland, if you will please check the map to the left, you'll notice a jagged tear that almost separates us into two states. That's the Chesapeake Bay, and until 1952, the only ways to get from one side of it to the other were either to poke along on a ferry or drive through Delaware, the state that invented radar traps.  So, they built a bridge in 1952.  Approximately fifteen minutes after the bridge was open, a car bearing a load of revelers, a cooler full of National Bohemian beer and three fried chickens broke down at the toll plaza, causing a traffic backup which has lasted to this very day!  Amazing, but true!  

And I could also talk about how, in 1967, the voters of Maryland realized that there needed to be another bridge, the better to get truckloads of corn moving east to west and carloads of teenagers moving west to east to their destinations more rapidly.  The voters voted and mandated that another bridge be built, but not parallel to the existing bridge.  The voters voted to have the other bridge be further north, to allow residents of North East Maryland easier access to the fabled bingo parlors of Upper Delaware.  One look at the picture to the right will show how that mandate was carried out to the very letter. 

The takeaway from the show about building the bridge was that the steel sections were built in other places and brought to the site of the bridge on giant barges, and were then riveted into place.  All of this assembly had to be built to within 1/2 of an inch so that it would all fit together correctly.  They did not have the luxury of saying, "Ah, that's close enough."  And unlike most home repair projects, you can't just hammer a 60' bridge section into a 59' 9" opening.

And the riveters: three men made up a crew.  One guy heated the rivets over an open flame, and then, when the rivets were glowing hot like cherries, he would grab them one at a time with tongs and toss them to a guy who caught them in what looked like a leather bag the size of a lunch sack.  That guy would tong the rivet over to the dude working the riveter, the giant air gun that hammered the rivets in place.  A wild job - and remember, this all took place a couple of hundred feet in the air.  

Which is a place where you have to be sort of exact.  But the world needs all types of people: technically-inclined folks to build the bridges, Mariah Carey-types to sing the National Anthem at the ribbon cutting ceremonies, and you and me to drive over the new bridge and shell out the toll money.  All types.  Hop in!

No comments: