The idea of jumping off bridges started when I was going to Normandy Park summer camp. I must’ve been around eight years old. An older friend from camp was trying to convince me to leave the park and go with him to jump off a bridge by the canal in Normandy Isle. I remember being so tempted, wanting to do it so badly.
The temptation ended when another camper said, “Sharks are in the canal.”
I looked at the camper with a furrowed brow. The movie Jaws was still on my mind, despite having been out already for a couple of years. I decided not to leave camp.
Mr. Skeptical says, “You were looking to leave the camp your parents entrusted you to remain in, yet fear kept you there.”
I look at Mr. Skeptical sitting across from me. He’s always around when I write. All he does is criticize and insult me, but I can’t figure out how to get rid of him. He sees everything I write except when writing in italics.
“Hey, I was eight years old at the time. And besides, my fear was realistic. Bull sharks have been seen in Miami water canals and are very aggressive.”
“At such a young age, you were hoping to disobey your parents and break camp rules, but because you were afraid, you stayed in the park.” He says this while slowly shaking his head with a disgusted look.
“Well, I didn’t remain scared because a few years later, I jumped off the South Pointe Pier. Of course, I did this after seeing others jump before me. When I did, it felt awesome.”
“You didn’t get into trouble?”
“No. Back then, it was a common thing to see at South Pointe. Nobody, as far as I know, got into trouble.”
Mr. Skeptical leans back in his chair, crossing his arms. “Yeah, it’s all fun and games until somebody pokes an eye out.”
Did I mention I hate Mr. Skeptical? He’s such a jerk. “Anyway, as I got older, I eventually jumped off the bridge connecting Miami Beach to North Bay Village. That one was a lot scarier.”
“I’ll bet you only did after seeing others go first?”
“Yes, I did. And I’m not ashamed of it. Jumping off bridges can be dangerous, and it makes sense to jump after others.”
My fists clench. “You can see it as cowardly, but I see it as smart.” I stare Mr. Skeptical down. He rolls his eyes and looks away.
I continue, “Back then, the bridge connecting Miami Beach to North Bay Village had a pier with boathouses in front of it. So, it wasn’t difficult to simply jump off and swim across to the dock.
“The scariest part was hitting something. Maybe I’d land on a recently sunk boat and break my back. Maybe a pole was sticking up a few feet under the water, and I’d land on it. However, I had to put those thoughts aside. I’d try to jump in the same spot as my friend who went before me, thinking I’d avoid hitting anything close to the water’s surface.”
“I’m sure jumping off of that bridge was illegal?”
“Yes, it was, and we avoided cops.”
A few years later, during the 1980s and high school, I saw a few classmates jumping off Haulover Bridge.
Mr. Skeptical leans closer to me, looking at me directly in the eyes. “Did you really see others jump off first? Or were you trying to convince others to go first, daring them?”
“I never tried to convince anyone to jump. I did it because I wanted to, for the thrill of it. I actually thought it was kind of a stupid thing to do, but I was addicted to the adrenaline rush.”
“Oh, so now you’re Mr. Tough Guy.”
I despise when Mr. Skeptical hits on something that might have an element of truth. “Well, my Dad helped me recently get a car. It was a used 1971 Buick Skylark convertible, so maybe I did feel a little on top of the world.”
“Look at yourself in this photo. You with the grey Curley Notre Dame football cutoff, acting all cocky. I can see now how you’ve become who you are. You were a manipulative coward, trying to convince others to jump first. All great qualities.”
I’ll admit, I do look kind of cocky in the pic. But I never tried to convince anyone to jump first, and I’m done arguing with Mr. Skeptical. I’m going to ignore him.
I became curious after seeing others jump off, knowing I’d done it before, but this was Haulover, much bigger than any bridge I’d jumped in the past.
I was drinking a beer. Back in the 80s marijuana wasn’t as common as it is today. I don’t think I had tried it yet, thinking only serious drug heads smoked at the time.
Mr. Skeptical interjects, “And you were a snob, to top it off. This just keeps getting better and better.”
I sigh and take in a deep breath. I tell myself he’s just testing my patience, don’t give in. But I can’t help myself. “I now think cannabis should be legal, smartass. Stop interrupting.”
Anyone who jumps off bridges knows what I’m about to say.
For some reason, looking from the ground up to the bridge appears not so high. But when up on the bridge looking down, it seems to be 100 times higher. I truly felt this effect. It was scary.
However, two of my high school friends jumped off, swam to the side, and were able to get out of the water quickly. I had a little beer left in my can, so I swallowed it. Then, I looked at my friend holding a beer and asked, “Can you let me drink some?”
He said, “Sure.”
Like this was supposed to help, drinking before jumping off the Haulover bridge is not recommended. Another person jumped off, and I looked down, planning to land in the same spot, hopefully avoiding any object near the surface.
Two nice-looking girls walked up the bridge, adding even more pressure. I didn’t want to back out now.
It was a long drop, feeling something inside my stomach rise as I fell.
After an eternal moment, I hit the water feet first. I sank deep and quickly came up for air, swimming to the rocks on the side of the bridge. It felt spectacular, and I wanted to go again. But then the cops showed up, and everybody scattered.
Nowadays, due to a few accidents, the legal consequences of jumping off bridges are severe, so I doubt anyone jumps off anymore.
I do find that to be kind of sad.