No power, no bathroom, no problem for Stillwater bridge operator

Mike Schmidt, a 36-year veteran of the Minnesota Department of Transportation, represented the Minnesota culture well last evening when he considered then answered MPR host Mike Mulcahy’s question about being stuck atop the Stillwater Lift Bridge on Tuesday when its electrical system shorted out.

“I did a lift at 12 o’clock for one of the big paddleboats going upstream,” he recalled for Mulcahy. “I got them through OK and hit the ‘down’ button and we went down about 12 feet and all of a sudden everything went dark.”

For eight-and-a-half hours, he was stuck in the bridge 20 feet up.

“So what did you do all that time?” Mulcahy asked.

Caution: A delightful dose of Minnesotan ahead.

“Well, not much,” he said. “I reread the newspaper again. I’ve got a little Yahtzee game that I played to try to get the high score, and other than that there’s not much you could do: get out on the deck, look around, and kind of notice how the traffic was backing up.”

It was a refreshing air of acceptance, particularly compared to the “get me out of here” reaction of Minneapolis drivers yesterday who were stuck in traffic for far less time.

  1. Listen Mike Schmidt, MnDOT employee on being stuck atop Stillwater Lift Bridge

    June 29, 2017

Mulcahy, by the way, has been in the business a long time so he’s not afraid to ask the question everyone wants to know but doesn’t want to ask.

“Do you have a bathroom up there?”

“No we don’t,” Schmidt confirmed. “You’re really stuck.”

But he had a nice view, a nice breeze, and with no traffic on the bridge below, it was a shake-free shift, he said. Yahtzee!

“You take it in stride, and do the best you can,” he said.

Permanent repairs to the bridge’s electrical system were completed early this morning. Normal bridge service resumes at 8 a.m.

(h/t: Nancy Yang)

Related: (New) St. Croix River bridge will open for traffic by Aug. 3 (Pioneer Press)

  • Gary F

    It could have been +90F outside.

    • It could have been -20. What’s your point?

      • Gary F

        A 75 degree day was a nice day, it would have really sucked if it were 90 or -20.

        • joetron2030

          Especially if it was -20 in late June!

  • Jack

    File under why one should keep a stash of snacks at work.

    • BJ

      And a 5 gallon pail?

    • Rob

      As well as a good-sized tin can and some Charmin. Jinx!

    • A spittoon from one of Stillwater’s antique shops would be a handy accessory.

  • Jack

    He could have said that his job is full of ups and downs.

  • Zachary

    That was a great interview. I was wondering if Mr. Mulcahy was going to ask that question (it was the first one I had after hearing of the stuckage).
    Having family from and around Stillwater, I know that bridge has sentimental value, but it’s replacement cannot come soon enough.

    • Rob

      Not asking that question upfront is a case of burying the lede; not asking it at all would be truly sloppy journalism. : )

      • Zachary

        I heard the interview on my ride home yesterday, and I’m sitting in my car saying to myself “ask it… ask it!”

  • Gary F

    Think if that were a millennial. Phone battery runs dead in an hour or two. They may have had to helicopter rescue him.

    • John

      you don’t know many millennials, do you?

      • >>you don’t know many millennials, do you?<<

        It's painfully obvious that he doesn't

    • Leroy

      I’m not a millennial but when we lost power the other week for 36 hours, I was bored out of my skull. I don’t believe you have to be a millennial to enjoy being surrounded by electronic doodads.

    • Kassie

      Any millennial would have a backup battery charger in that situation. I take one to work everyday as I can’t always plug my phone in and it is a long ride home without one.

    • jon
    • Al

      This millennial thinks being stuck at the top of a bridge for hours sounds like heaven. I’ll also be out on the boat for as many hours as I can finagle this weekend, too, sans electronics (save for the fish finder).

      • Kassie

        I’m thinking this guy has the best job in all of State employment, even if once ever 35 years he gets stuck for a couple hours. It would be wonderful.

        • Al

          Maybe when he retires, we could open it up so every state employee could have a week’s rotation through the bridge. #dreamjob

  • Rob

    If it’s the middle of the night and there’s no witnesses when a stuck lift bridge operator relieves himself over the side of the deck, has it really happened?

  • Kassie

    Isn’t this guy normally stuck on the bridge for 8.5 hours or so? I imagine his normal shift is 8-10 hours long and this one is just a little longer. He probably liked the overtime he was paid.