Message in a bottle, yeah

May 15, 2010


As I recall, I only ever did this one time in my life when I was pretty young. I think it was in the little stream that goes through the Indiana University campus where we summered when I was little. I loved that stream, and a message in a bottle seems like something I would have done there.

Today, I was working with a much larger canvas???the Mississippi River. My office is only a few blocks from it and I met Tori for lunch at the sushi restaurant Origami in the same general direction, so I declared to my coworkers that I was taking a long lunch and set out.

I didn???t actually have a bottle so I had commandeered a small plastic jar that previously housed colored toothpicks. (We photoshoot quite a bit of food preparation at work so we actually have a pretty well-stocked pantry.) My note read:

“I am a member of a web site, which has daily missions for its members. Today I am sending a message in a bottle.??I dropped this jar in the Mississippi River at the Hennepin Avenue Bridge in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA, on May 14, 2010. Its first obstacles will have been the Upper and Lower St. Anthony Falls and U.S. Lock & Dam #1. If it made it through all that without being destroyed, please do me a favor: surf to and let me know that you found it.”

I printed it on bright yellow paper so that maybe the jar would be more noticeable in the water and perhaps thus be more likely to provoke interest should someone see it along shore. Then just because, I also included a little plastic alien. Cracker Jack it isn???t, but I was trying to do what I could to promote a response by the finder.

As it turns out, the St. Anthony Falls and Lock and Dam were not the first obstacles my little jar encountered. I biked over to Origami and as I sped around the corner from Hennepin Avenue onto Washington Avenue, the jar flew out of my shorts pocket into the road. I screeched to a halt (well, you know, as much as screeching is necessary when you were only going 12 or 13 mph to begin with) and parked my bike on the sidewalk. Trafffic on Washington was still stopped for the red light, but turning left right behind me from Hennepin was a city bus. I dashed into the road and snatched the jar back from what certainly would have been a flattening with just moments to spare. I oriented it the other way in my pocket and went on to have an enjoyable lunch.

Once at the river after lunch, it took me a few minutes to find the perfect spot from which to launch the jar. I first went to a place where steps take you right down to the water, but I quickly determined that I wouldn???t be able to throw the jar far enough to get it into water that was moving forward in a decisive manner and that it would probably just bounce along the bank for not very far. I took the photo and concluded that I had to go onto the Hennepin Avenue Bridge (in the background) and drop the jar from there.

A few minutes later I was in place about a third of the way along the bridge. I was paranoid about getting ticketed for littering, so I waited about five minutes until the gap between pedestrians was large enough that I felt I could make my pitch without anybody being very sure about what I had done or being so interested that they felt the need to stop and chat about it.

In hindsight, I should have gone further toward the middle of the bridge. The jar caught the current, but it looked like its trajectory was going to take it into the Lock and Dam to the right in the photo (more hazardous) rather than more toward the middle to the Falls (more natural). Hopefully it will make the pass through the lock with a little pleasure boat rather than a freighter. And I really hope somebody finds the jar and picks it up and responds, preferably from out of town or, better yet, out of state.

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