Henry Lopez, a bridge tender responsible for the Brorein Street drawbridge in downtown Tampa raised and lowered the bridge for the first time in his 51-year career yesterday.
“I was hired in 1968 but I’ve never had to actually operate the equipment before,” says Cooper. “It was a pretty exciting day. Honestly, I’d have to say the most exciting day ever. I have literally nothing to compare it to.”
Todd Schlurmer, owner of an obnoxiously large sailboat, was navigating his ridiculously extravagant craft up the Hillsborough River from Davis Island when he came to the bridge that was in the lowered position so cars could drive over it. “I’d never been sailing that way before and I had no reason to yesterday, but the law says when someone who can afford to own a boat wants to do something or go somewhere, poor people scrabbling around have to stop what they’re doing and accommodate us, so open the goddamn bridge for me already,” says Schlurmer.
This was confirmed by Tampa Boat Commissioner Bradley Yeats, “Mr. Schlurmer is correct. That’s exactly how the law is written, verbatim.”
There was a momentary panic as Schlurmer’s boat approached the bridge. “We weren’t sure what to do,” says Yeats. “Nobody could remember the last time that bridge was raised. I’ve only had this job since 2005 and always assumed the drawbridges were on a computer or something. Nope! We started looking up phone numbers for engineers and fire rescue personnel and other city employees who might know how to respond. The last thing we ever want is to momentarily inconvenience a wealthy person joyriding around on his yacht in the middle of a workday. But Henry was there in the control tower and ready to spring into action. Thank heaven for good ol’ Henry!”
Lopez says he doesn’t understand the panic. “I’m up here every day. I’ve been up here every day since I got the job,” he says. “I was fully trained the morning I started. There’s not that much to it really; one button says ‘UP’ the other one says ‘DOWN’ and you just push ‘em, depending on what you want the bridge to do. That, and looking out the window are pretty much all there is to it. Mr. Cooper, my supervisor went to lunch and said he’d be back that afternoon but he never returned. I guess he’s been busy and forgot. At any rate, I’ve been up here ever since.”
When informed that David Cooper retired from his job with the city in 1974 and died in 1990, Lopez replied, “Well, who the hell do I complain to that I haven’t been getting paid?!?”
“Henry is one lucky son of a bitch, getting all this attention,” commented Leon Glatwater, the bridge tender responsible for the operation of the Columbus Drive drawbridge, who has never raised or lowered his bridge. “But I guess he deserves it, considering how busy he is.”
Mr. Schlurmer is somewhat appreciative of Lopez’s efforts. “Thanks for doing your job, I guess,” he says. “Next time raise it faster and keep it up longer.”