So how much training do the people who raise and lower Portland’s beautiful bridges get/require? Is it hard to push the button to make the bridge go up or down? How much do they make for this oh-so-taxing work? And how can I get that job? —Forrest C.
Working as a Multnomah County bridge operator requires a mastery of every facet of structural engineering, from metallurgy to fluid dynamics. Successful candidates will have extensive experience in architecture and city planning, and ideally will have worked as a first mate or higher on a merchant or military ship.
Naw, I’m just bullshitting you. According to the job description, all you really gotta do is finish 12th grade, ideally without killing anybody since there’s a background check. The listing specifically says “No experience is required!”
Perhaps that’s because “bridge operator” is one of those jobs, like “costumed sports mascot” or “local Q-and-A columnist,” that’s so sui generis you’re unlikely to find many people who’ve done it before. Even drawbridge-happy Portland has only eight full-time bridge operators.
Pay ranges from $19 to $23 hourly, which isn’t bad. Still, your implication that it’s a laid-back gig that gives you lots of time to read, knit or play Candy Crush is…largely correct. There are safety checks and maintenance tasks on the docket—and obviously, the occasional bridge lift—but operators say most shifts include plenty of downtime. There’s definitely a TV up there.
Of course, one person’s “lots of time to read” is another’s “solitary confinement,” and if you’re a gregarious, life-of-the-party type, you should be careful what you wish for. Also, the hours might be rough for some people: Operators need to be available 24/7/365. The river never sleeps!
Finally, they don’t just pull randos off the street and hand them the keys to a 150-ton drawbridge. You may not need to have been a bridge operator, but you do need a combination of education and experience that shows you’d be a competent and responsible one.
Here’s where I was going to say it doesn’t matter because there’s never an opening. But as it turns out, they’re actually looking for on-call bridge operators right now. So there you go, Forrest. The deadline is Friday, and that’s all I’m going to say: If you can’t figure out how to apply for a county job on your own, you probably shouldn’t be driving a bridge.
Questions? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.