My realization: I know so little about Washington or Tacoma in context.
Back in school when we learned about structural vibration and resonance, we watched a short clip of Galloping Gertie, a bridge that collapsed in a 1940 windstorm. It was a dramatic bridge failure.
"I haven't had a question about that before," said the toll-taker. I don't know much about the history, except that the one to the north there was built to replace Galloping Gertie, and this one here's been open about six years and I've worked here since then."
I nodded at the reference to the replaced bridge, but still did not connect it to my actual location. The Tacoma Narrows Bridge today is two bridges--the one built in the 1950s to replace the collapsed bridge, and a second added in 2007 to help with traffic flow.
Galloping Gertie bridge's structural collapse was sort of Titanic-like. Awe-inspiring man-made construction, first of its kind is a gigantic failure laying at the bottom of a body of water.
When I saw the video in high school, the state of Washington and its bridges were so far away, and the Mackinaw bridge was built structurally sound because of the engineering lessons learned--all was still right with the world (read: me and any bridge I might cross over were safe).
I never expected to find myself actually on the Tacoma Narrows bridge that had replaced the most epic bridge failure ever captured on film.
Even when I actually drove over it, I still did not realize where I was or connect it to it's historical context.
A bridge in Washington collapsed only a few days before I arrived in the state.
And I drove over Galloping Gertie.
The things you never imagined you would connect to your own life outside of science class...wild.