Ovaries, Tubes and Tits... Oh, My!
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On the lighter side...
Obsessed with death and morbid fascination? Watch this.
Part 1: Jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge
"I watched a man leap off the bridge on my way into work today." That's how my husband started off his conversation when he called me from the television station where he works in San Francisco.
"Oh, my God. Did you... do anything?" I asked.
"Yeah. I kept driving. I can't stop on the bridge. It would create an accident. Anyway, it was on the left (east) side. It's always on the left side." That's the northbound side of the road. Mark was heading south into the city.
"Why always on the left?" In my inexperienced suicide mind, I thought, gee, maybe they want to see the view of the city as they drop. Even after living here most of my 43 years, I forgot the west side was for bikes and the east side for pedestrians.
"What did you see?"
"A guy climbed up on the rail, he held onto the cables for a moment, some people rushed over to him and then he jumped," he said matter-of-factly. "I watched him leap off just as I was driving by."
Neither of us could think what to say for a moment.
"Shit. Well, I hope you have a better day than that guy."
"What? Obviously, he was having a really crappy day!" I worry about my husband and his extremely stressful job. I worry about the long drive he makes into the city every day; more than 100 miles of commuting time. But I hope his days don't get so stressed and weighed by too many pressures that he should end up like that guy and the countless others who dive off the Golden Gate Bridge every year.
"Did people stop their cars?"
"Did they at least slow down?"
"Yeah, mostly on the northbound side, but I was passing by just as gravity took him and any traffic stayed behind me." I couldn't believe I was hearing relief in my husband's voice. Relief because this guy's crappy day didn't create any delays on his way to work. Who is the callous one now, eh?
I was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, I've driven across the Golden Gate Bridge for years (I've actually only walked half way across when I was in high school), but I've never seen anyone jump off the bridge. Not that I want to. No, I don't want to. And yet... I wonder if my eyes would track their fall until the jumper's body smacked the water far below.
I remember hearing the bodies of people slamming into glass after jumping from the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City after the 9-11 terrorist attack. The sound was gruesomely graphic in that documentary filmed by a movie crew that happened to be following New York firefighters that day.
We watched the news throughout that dark day and we were surprised the video actually showed people jumping to their deaths from those skyscrapers to escape the raging fires that would engulf them if they remained. I felt sick to my stomach watching it. Yet, I knew the people who remained in those burning offices would end up as, to use a term my firefighter friends use, "crispy critters." That is until their bodies were crushed and pulverized under the weight of falling concrete.
Granted, the Golden Gate Bridge has a spectacular view of San Francisco and surrounding areas, but I've never thought that would be a way I'd want to go. The surprisingly long fall would be just enough time to think you shouldn't have jumped. And then, splat! But then what? You die frustrated so any of your ghost energy hangs around frustrated, unhappy, unsatisfied and cold. Hey, it's windy on the bridge which is why locals don't usually walk across unless friends and relatives are visiting from out of town. Only the die-hard bicyclists cross the bridge over to the Marin Headlands or down into Sausalito and such.
I could just see myself sitting there, shivering, listening to other jumpers kvetch (yiddish for complain) about their lives, bitching about their parents or something shitty an ex-lover did to them. Or nowadays, snivelling about their failed business. That would be hell. You wouldn't be able to get away from them and their incessant complaining. You'd just sit there, down on the massive cement platforms below the bridge, watching all the sailboats, happy wind surfers and cruise ships drifting by and think, maybe this wasn't one of my best ideas.
Then, of course, my mom would come visit the location from which I jumped and bitch and yell at me for screwing up her life. That's if she didn't decide to join me by jumping after having gone through too much shit in her life (a lot of death and disease). Then, I'd never hear the end of it if her frustrated spirit followed me around our cement platform for eternity. Still, at least my dad would have some peace and quiet having been left behind. Ah, but only after she yelled at him one last time and blamed him for their misfortune and for her just having hurt her hand after hitting the steel rail while she was expressing her anger at her shmuck of a daughter.
Sorry, I just leapt (excuse my bad taste) into my land of "what if." And before any of you think I'm a cold-hearted bitch and don't care about death, suicide, etc., you need to know two things. First, I've worked in politics and news where everyone pokes fun at ridiculously painful and sad moments. It's the only method of avoiding insanity (and jumping off the bridge) when you witness the horrible things that can happen; things that generally are edited from the news before stories are filtered to the public.
Remember the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake that rocked San Francisco neighborhoods, bridges and overpasses just before the Oakland A's were to play in the third game of the World Series? I was working at a television station in San Francisco at the time. Even though we watched a driver smash down into a gaping hole in the Bay Bridge when part of the top deck fell down onto the deck below, I remember someone commenting on the driver's "floor it" approach to making it over that missing stretch of roadway.
"Hey look, they think they're trying out for a part on Dukes of Hazard!" And yes, everyone laughed because it looked like a stunt driver's blooper when the weight of the car's engine thrust the car down into the hole as soon as the roadway disappeared. So, I ask you, were we the bad ones? Or should the guy, a tourist, who happened to be on the bridge during the quake and video-taping the scenery as his party crossed the bridge be ashamed for going to every station in the city trying to sell his video. Some stations turned him down --they don't pay for news -- and others lowballed his offer. He walked through the newsroom looking pissed off when he didn't get the excessive amount he desired.
Second, I have a sister who died. Therefore, I know what it is like to lose someone. She had just turned age 19, I was only 12. She was a passenger in a friend's car. More on that another time.
The closest I've come to bridge suicide is having known one woman who jumped. She had a shitty life... raped by her father, a runaway who took up drugs and sold her body to survive. She made her way into a halfway home and seemed to be changing her life around for the better. Still, it would appear the demons of her past took hold of her mind and spirit until she felt she had no other option than to jump off the bridge.
"The Bridge" Opening Sequence
But she, and this most recent man, would not become a story on the evening news. "All the stations have an agreement they won't cover those stories," Mark told me. The stations won't make it a way for anyone to gain notoriety from their death. I'm surprised YouTube allows these videos. Do a search and you'll see (morbid curiosity, that's right). The video I posted here is the opening to a documentary that aired a few years ago about the jumpers from the Golden Gate Bridge.
So what does jumping off the bridge have to do with ovaries, tubes and tits, you ask? Please go to "Part 2."
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