I went up on the bridge yesterday. The RFK Bridge, sometimes still referred to by its old name, the Triborough. I thought the official name was the RFK/Triborough but I seem to be wrong about that. I may have drawn that conclusion from the renaming of the Queensboro Bridge to the Ed Koch/Queensboro, assuming the renaming of the old Triborough would follow suit.

I have a history with that bridge. I am responsible for the presence of a crisis counseling/suicide prevention telephone on the pedestrian part of the span. I badgered the MTA about this for 9 years before it finally was installed. My name should be on that phone. Here is how it looks today.

I’ll take a pass on telling the full story of this accomplishment, opting instead for the insane follow-up incident that nearly got me locked up.

At the time this phone was put in place I was being filmed for a documentary, a project that seems to have vanished with Covid.

I brought the filmmaker up here to explain how and why I got this phone installed. While making these comments I opened and closed the door to the cabinet several times. I did not pick up the phone, since I knew that would automatically connect to a live person. But I thought that simply opening and closing the cabinet to show there was a phone within seemed like a harmless flourish.

I was wrong. It turned out every time I opened that cabinet door it set off an alarm at the precinct or the bridge authority or wherever. When that alarm went up multiple times they interpreted it to mean someone was distressed enough to consider making a call but couldn’t make themself do it. That was how the police interpreted it.

The next thing I knew we were surrounded by NYPD, all of whom thought I must be suicidal. The filmmaker defended me, saying I was the person who got that phone installed. I was the opposite of suicidal.

Still, questions had to be answered, and I answered them perfectly in line with the filmmaker’s comments. We never agreed to get our stories straight, we just did. This, I later learned, almost certainly spared me a mandatory 3-night stay at Bellevue for observation. Authorities really do not mess around with the suicidal, and I’ve read accounts of the humilition many people experience when authorities even think you might be having dark thoughts. Pro tip: If you’re having dark thoughts, and you value your freedom, don’t call 988 or any of these crisis prevention lines. They will find you and lock you up against your will.

Aside from my phone still being present I also noticed a curious series of new signs, too small to be directed at cars and trucks but also not plentiful enough for me to detect a pattern or what they might signify. Each one starts with “278I”, I assume a reference to Interstate 278, but the other numbers are Greek to me.

And, as I just added the photo I realize I captured an image of one that is obscured by a graffiti sticker. MIKERAZ? Woman in a space helmet. I thought I got a photo of a non-graffitied sign. Oh well. The brain can get congested and confused on that bridge. You’re so close to vehicular traffic that you feel like you’re in it. The fumes are no fun either.

The small signs have to mean something or they would not be there. I’ll look for this meaning, which I’m certain reaches into metaphysical and conspiratorial realms.

I also wanted to see if the netting had been installed. I think I would have heard about it if it had but I needed something distracting to do this day so I went to see if netting had been put in place to prevent suicides from happening. I have no doubt it is a very dangerous environment up there. Bicyclists are not supposed to ride at all on the bridge but every posted sign announcing this rule is just something else for bicyclists to ignore. They race along this narrow path, often making physical contact with me and I’m sure others.

But it is the upper path that creates the greatest risk. Should two bikes going opposite direction collide it is not far-fetched in the slightest to imagine one or both parties being pitched over the edge and into the Hell Gate far below.

The netting came up in discussion when my phone was installed, and a respected community elected representative proposed buiding netting similar to what went up at the George Washington Bridge. I don’t remember now if the GWB netting went up around the same as this discussion took place about the RFK but whatever the case no nettting ever went up. I suspect it was a victim of Covid, and that maybe the matter will rise again.

I feel a stillness on that bridge. Someone jumped late last year, and survived the fall but was pronounced dead at the hospital. There is a myth about jumping like this, the myth being that you pass out before landing and you feel no pain. In fact you do not pass out and you feel pain like no other. Your spine snaps and your nervous system goes apeshit on you, electrocuting you as you take in sea water and drown. It’s a fucking miserable way to go.

But it seems so easy.

I was and remain skeptical of the netting at the GWB. All it does is create other options for people determined to end themselves.

It is somewhat strange that the mapping app I use makes it look like I stopped crossing the bridge when it reached the point of being over the water. In fact I walked all the way to where the fence stops and you take in the nauseating view straight down into the churning embroil of the Hell Gate. In the past I’ve walked the full span, to Randall’s Island and back, but always with a distinct feeling of nausea and dread that an accident could send someone flying over the edge to certain death.

There was not a single other pedestrian or bicyclist up there during my trek. Plenty of cars and trucks down below but no one but me on the walkways.