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.

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)