Bridges

August 5th, 2007

So… this past week a bridge fell down in Minneapolis. That, and lots of other interesting things have happened. Usually, I feel like nothing is going on. Nothing going on tends to get in the way of saying much of anything in this space.

Bush came yesterday and poured a little pablum on the bridge scene. He said that it would be rebuilt as soon as possible. Really? One of the four main arteries out of downtown Minneapolis, we’re going to rebuild it? Who would have thought?

The death count has been amazingly low. And I feel this allows me to point out an aspect of human nature. Lets say that 200 cars were on the bridge. When it went down, almost instantly I was inundated with calls and emails. Minneapolis is not a small town. There are plenty of ways I could have died that day that didn’t involve being on that bridge. The bridge just grabs your attention. It’s not so much that we’re worried our friends will die, we’re worried that they will die in a spectacular fashion.

Lets look at a headline by the Daily Telegram, in Australia. There were a lot of headlines like this one, but I’m going to pick on it, because it has a typo. AT least seven people have died in a horror bridge collapse that sent cars and trucks tumbling into the Mississippi River in the US city of Minneapolis.

My God. What will we do without our Horror Bridge? I found that article by searching for “Minneapolis deaths daily,” trying to find how many people would have died in Minneapolis but not on the bridge that day. Just hours after the event, googling “Minneapolis bridge collapse” yielded results like a verbal arms race. Each headline trying to be more lurid than the last. Small wonder all my friends were worried. With the way the headlines sounded, the bridge was suspended above the city center, and crushed us all like the hand of God.

But the phone calls still seem overblown to me. I can’t decide if this is indicative of some aspect of our news culture. Is it born of a desire to participate in tragic media events? Do people on some level hope that someone they knew, not a close friend, but an acquaintance, has died, so that they will have a connection they can talk about? That’s a bit cynical, but I’ve always assumed that if a friend dies, I’ll hear about it. I don’t feel the need for instant corpse polling. That’s not to say that I don’t appreciate all the people who checked to see if I was doing fine. It was nice to hear from every one of you. But I’m still more worried about drunk drivers than massive structural failures.

P.S. It’s lonely out here, and the tiny burb of Minneapolis was just crushed by a falling bridge.

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