On Suicide Watch

October 17, 2006

Teensy bit embarrassing. I was up in Hessle again recently for a meeting at the offices of Tribal, suppliers of our student records system.

As I may have mentioned before, Hessle is chiefly famous for being one end of the very beautiful Humber Bridge, and it is my wont whenever possible to visit the bridge if I am in the vicinity. So it happened that I awoke from my Humber slumber at about six o’clock in the morning and, it being a dry day, decided to hoof it down to the bridge to watch the sun come up across the estuary. The bridge is long and it takes about fifteen minutes from the end to the halfway point, but I had plenty of time before having to return to the hotel for breakfast so I stopped and pondered the meaning of life whilst watching the river flow by.

One interesting effect of the elevated roadway on the bridge deck, I observed, is that as the headlight beams of the passing traffic pass through the pillars of the safety barrier, they cast bars of light along the handrail of the bridge which move in the opposite direction; like a Star Wars ray gun firing pulses of light. Quite mesmeric.

There was not much company on the bridge in terms of pedestrians, although a few cyclists passed by now and then. It occurred to me to wonder if they were ever inclined surreptitiously to check the time on their watches when they saw someone standing on the parapet like I was, in case they later saw a report on the evening news about someone jumping off. “I saw him at six forty-five, and he looked fine then, officer.”

Any road up, time passed and it was time to get back for breakfast so I started out for the shore. One of the lanes southbound was closed for maintenance I noticed, and as I began to stroll back, a Land Rover drew up with its orange lights flashing. It was quite light by now so I imagined the crew were turning up for work. They got out and, shrugging into hi-viz vests, crossed towards me.

“Morning,” they hailed.

“Good morning,” I replied, thinking what jolly friendly chaps these northern workmen were. Not like the surly bruisers that fix the roads down south.

“Are you alright?” This was bellowed across the increasing traffic in the remaining lane and accompanied by an interrogative thumbs up sign. How civil!

“Fine thanks,” I rejoined. “Hoping to see the sunrise, but I suppose I’m a bit early!”

“Ok,” came the reply. But rather than proceeding with some work, they just stood watching me, and it began to dawn on me (no pun intended) that they had come specially to see me.

“Have you come to check on me?” I shouted over the passing cars.

“Yes.” Oh dear.

It was true. They were the suicide squad. I must have been seen on CCTV leaning on the railing in a contemplative state and they had been scrambled to come and talk me down. I did feel a charlie! As I slunk back off the bridge, I wondered if in future I should contact the bridge staff in advance to let them know that I wanted to walk across but not actually jump to my doom. But then I suppose they can’t really take that at face value can they?

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