First time taking a second look: 71?2 months.
The above milestone is not in my daughter’s baby book, but I am three-quarters tempted to dedicate some ink to it. I find myself creating a handful of baby breakthroughs anyways. It seems the albums of our children’s lives are only interested in first words, first claps and perhaps a first wave.
Ainsley’s perspective-enhanced head tilt made its Wilson family debut a few weeks ago. She only seems to do it while in her high chair and feasting on some of those tasteless, dissolve-on-tongue-contact puffs, and usually the stare is at me.
Now, making my face appear more interesting probably is not a bad idea, but if she values any and all future allowances I am certain that is not the reason for the sideways vision. The reason behind the newfound talent is simple: It is a different take on a common look.
Perhaps there were one or two craniums curving on that night when Mother Nature attempted to drop a hint on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. It was windy up on the silver carrier, maybe a notch or two below the abusive blows that ripped off a tie rod and steel saddle two weeks later (see “The gloomy gate,” p 16), but enough to perk up the ears of Caltrans engineers walking the site. The wind was forcing the repair assembly, installed during the Labor Day weekend to stop eyebar cracking, to move around quite a bit, but the opportunity to act was waived.
When asked by a reporter why the bridge was not closed at that time, Caltrans’ chief bridge engineer Rick Land said, “Because it did not fail.”
Now I believe those that calculate designs for Caltrans are some of the best in the world—and they keep a wide eye on some of the more iconic bridges of our time. I also think the industry as a whole does an adequate job learning from past mistakes. The second takes in bridge design and construction are comparable to those in the aviation industry. Planes are certainly safer than they were 20 years ago, and when funding is not taking on the form of a debilitating disease, the same can be said for spans.
This is where my head goes off-kilter. We are two years removed from one of the worst bridge-related tragedies in the U.S., yet some decision makers are still unwilling to mobilize an aerial lift and look into the mouth of something that could have sharp teeth. If that second look had been taken perhaps Caltrans would have seen the steel-on-steel rubbing that almost rubbed out a life or two during the p.m. rush hour on the Bay Bridge.
Land’s explanation was wrong in so many ways. Something did fail on that night—Caltrans’ logic.
With the state of preparedness around one of the most active seismic zones in the country, I imagine it would not take much effort to close a lane and shine a flashlight on the fix. Perhaps a head tilt or two would follow, but I am confident another tragedy with potential could have been averted.
Land said “hindsight” a couple of times during that press conference. Hindsight can lead to fatalities, which means someone is left breaking the news to loved ones. That is when you have to look them straight in the eye.