On Monday night I walked home instead of taking the train. But rather than the expected trot back, head filled with MP3s and little else, languorously drenched in sweat, I saw a woman dangling from the top of a bridge.
It'd be more correct to say other people saw a woman dangling from the top of a bridge—a large crowd had gathered along the middle of the Williamsburg Bridge that spans Manhattan and Brooklyn. Like any human being, when you see a bunch of people looking up, you look up—evolution has given us that reflex so as to avoid elephant stampedes and asteroids. But there wasn't any impending doom—just a woman, dressed in ribbony red, sliding and spinning along a U-shaped expanse of cloth hung between the bridge's iron towers.
The bridge, completed in 1903, is always buzzing—trains, cars, cyclists, and comatose dudes like me to the brim. But we all stopped and looked up—most of us through the mediating eye of an LCD. I'm always surprised by how many people have a DSLR on them, as if they're anticipating a spectacle like this. The rest of us just used our phones. I don't think many people bother actually looking at strange sights anymore—much better to record it and upload later, right? "Being there" has become sort of quaint, it would seem.
The aerialist finished her act, to much clapping and many whistles, and began to slowly descend. Police arrived, of course, as I suppose you can't have people climbing hundreds of feet in the air over busy traffic zones, no matter how delightful their climbing is. They were obstructed by the crowd—to further cheers—giving the acrobat and her masked partner some time to quite literally run off into the sunset. We all cheered more!
And then it was over, we all put our headphones back in, and eagerly texted the photos around—with probably more zeal than we'd felt during the show. I tried to check into the bridge on Foursquare but I couldn't get any reception.
You can keep up with Sam Biddle, the author of this post, on Twitter or Facebook.