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••• AMBER WONG is an environmental engineer in Seattle who writes about culture, identity, and her firsthand knowledge about risks posed by hazardous waste sites.The Short Version: Best-selling author and dating coach Lisa Copeland knows what it’s like to be a single woman over 50 — because she’s lived it.
Her private coaching sessions provide personalized dating advice exclusively for single women over 50.We spun our boats and reached for our water bottles. Water traffic was picking up as we headed west back to the boathouse. From way too close a megaphone voice boomed, “Get out of the way!“Mountain’s not out today,” she announced, nodding to the south. As we approached the Montlake Cut, two motorboats overtook us, kicking up a wake. ” I looked up in alarm as a crew team and its coach rounded the corner and bore down on us. I couldn’t flag them down so I yelled for them to stop. I wasn’t lined up with the dock, but I took a big stroke so they wouldn’t hit me broadside.Up at Gas Works Park, where grassy mounds hid tons of hazardous waste that few Seattleites knew about, people would already be spreading out blankets, ready to wait out the day.Overhead, high clouds began to blur and fade, turning blue skies even bluer, while freeway traffic rumbled across the Interstate-5 Ship Canal Bridge.I watched over my shoulder, waiting for my opening. We even got to volunteer in our hospital’s emergency room. ••• Four days later, Elizabeth and I eased our shells into the water. Nervously I snipped, “Nah, I think they’re okay.” As soon as I spoke I was sorry. Four days of talking to my husband and close friends hadn’t helped—their comments felt way off the mark, strangely off-putting.
Suddenly, just off the corner of the dock, I saw a huge splash. Waves burst from that point like an underwater depth charge, rebounding off the dock, colliding in a wild interference pattern. During one evening shift, I pressed fist-sized wads of sterile gauze on a motorcyclist’s leg as he lay moaning on a hallway gurney, then watched a doctor pull glass out of a screaming kid’s foot. Any heavy mass from 182 feet—an errant chunk of concrete, a thrown backpack or garbage bag, a one-hundred-sixty pound person—would crush like a cannonball. Earlier that morning I’d debated with myself——but the weather promised to be perfect, a promise that Seattleites are unable to resist. On the bottom deck of the I-5 Bridge, a cherry picker bucket was slowly lowering two men just below the bridge deck. In their hard hats and orange vests, I pegged them as state highway inspectors, likely testing for loose concrete. I tilted my head, visually measuring their relation to the water. With a forced laugh she said, “Well if it’s your time, it’s your time then.” I could hear the thinness in her voice. So because I was alive, physically unhurt, I was expected to stifle my rage, ignore my feelings, and cluck sympathetically about plight? Was it better for me to think of him more like a falling chunk of concrete—an object with no agency—than a suicide bomber who launches himself with intent to kill? Even if he wasn’t trying to kill us, the fact remained: he terrorized us.
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My fingers tripped lightly along the dock edge as I readied to launch. ” Elizabeth called out above the traffic din, and I nodded.
The Montlake Cut, a crucial navigation link between the fresh water of Lake Washington and the salt water of Puget Sound, is the gateway to the University of Washington’s crew training course. The moment I emerged back into sunlight, my lungs reopened. Even after eight years, rowing under bridges still spooked me.
Would knowing the jumper’s intent have sharpened or blunted the horror? As their voices grew louder, each person positing the jumper’s fate, I signaled “timeout” and interrupted. As I pushed off the dock, an involuntary glance—up at the men in the bucket, and from there, to the upper bridge deck. My internal smog cleared enough so I could see that she was troubled too.