The Giant Squid under the Tacoma Narrows Bridge

Is that all there is? Is that all there is? If that’s all there is, my friend, then let’s keep dancing.

I have never encountered the giant squid reputed to live in the waters beneath the Tacoma Narrows Bridge -- though I have crossed the bridge on many occasions on land on my way to visit family on the peninsula. 

One can only wonder what would happen if the car were to go off the bridge, which it almost never does. 

Fingers crossed. 

That is why for many years I insisted on cars with hand crank windows and not one of these current electrical monstrosities that I unfortunately now possess. You are a sitting duck in that water if you can’t roll down the window to get out of the car, and I know Volkswagens — they are the province of smart people on a budget, albeit the utmost in crappy electronics. 

But then again, if you managed to get out of the car and into the fifty-degree water with no serious flotation device, say, a dinghy, you would pretty much succumb to hypothermia before the Coast Guard could get to you. So why not listen to the radio in the car while you expire? It's more fun.

And while you are listening to the radio on your way to a watery eternity, feel free to tune in to the work of one of your local PNW bloggers — my piece “Tuesday Night Munchies" is being featured in an upcoming horror podcast on The Ugly Radio I will keep you posted on which installment.

At this point, it is a tossup between the kinetic energy of an ocean hitting your skull and the otherwordly roundness of the giant squid’s dinner-plate-sized eye as it pulls you down in the chill murky depths of the Puget Sound into its beak. Now you are the filet mignon.

But how did you get here?

Let me tell how it might happen if you were me. 

I was sitting in this not-so-fine bar in Gig Harbor after looking at a boat that I just didn’t feel right about, then the traffic set in, and I needed to not be in it. 

It is always a mistake to be a kind-of pretty woman and sit at the bar, even at my age, evidently. It is an invitation to whoever’s there to come over and help themselves, and it doesn’t always end right. One night in Portland I had to listen to this guy talk about being the unfortunate recipient of about ten rescue rabbits after his girlfriend left him and didn’t take the rabbits. He was too soft-hearted to do anything but live in a hopping pile of mayhem and took the opportunity of a nice lady sitting at the bar to try to offload a rabbit or two. I didn’t bite, but two more drinks, man, and I would have had a rabbit. And then some. 

So I was fending off this old Navy guy in Gig Harbor and having another drink on me then a drink on him it appears, and I know better. It is time to not have that drink, or I’ll have to sit in the car for quite some time before going back home to Tacoma. 

The bartender looks on sympathetically, though I can tell he’s rooting for the local. Miracles can happen. They often do when sloppy amounts of alcohol are involved. 

Realistically, this would be a coffee date the next morning on the sofa, all things considered, but I am not going there. I am considering all things like that. 

Am I okay to drive?

I am okay to drive with that Navy guy in his truck in the parking lot watching for signs of weakness. I am okay to drive around the block and sit there. 

But once I get in the car, I realize that I didn’t really have that much to drink, and haven’t I been driving for forty years? It is mostly muscle memory, and we all know it. 

Except for that eighteen-wheeler that won’t get off my tail. Flashing the lights for me to go faster. I am not going to fall for it. I am not going to go faster. I am not going to go in the other lane, the one with all the fishies. 

Things don’t go quite the way I plan. 

Don’t we all envision how we are going to handle a water escape? 

So you go off the bridge and are able to get your bearings after the airbags go off. Every second you delay, the car will sink closer to the ocean floor five hundred feet down. Volkswagen probably has a lot of safety features that will protect you if you end up in the Tacoma Narrows, but windows that open are evidently not one of them. So once the airbag goes off, and you are in a state of shocked reality about the fall, you would begin figuring out those safety features as the car lollygags about for three minutes then begins to descend. Let’s say you are able to disengage the seat belt but the window only opens halfway, then won’t go back up. 

You know what you should be doing. You should be taking a giant gulp of air and checking the relative position of the bubbles as they float toward the atmosphere. The sky is that way.

You should begin pedaling upward. Your lungs should feel crushed. All you should want to do is release the breath you’ve got and get a new one that, at this point, you know isn’t air. You are about to pass out and probably will, you know. Even if you reach the surface where you can swim, you’ve got an hour before the fifty-degree water kills you with hypothermia.

But why not give yourself a chance and fight? 

But why bother fighting? The ecstasy of drowning can start to tempt you to be all right about it. To relish these last few minutes rather than being small like the small safe person who has slid into this predicament of ludicrous powerlessness.


That is the thing. Think.

I am in a car. 

It is a Volkswagen with the window half open and the water coming in, only it doesn’t look like a Volkswagen. It looks like a 1977 Cadillac sedan, chocolate brown, the kind of car my father used to drive. 

Come to think of it, it is the car my father used to drive. And my father is in the back seat.

“How you doing?”

Dad’s been dead twelve years. He must have died in a car or something, and clearly he stayed alive in the water. 



The water is coming in very fast.

“I need to get out of this car.”



“It’s cold out there.”

Come to think of it, it is cold out there.  

I feel guilty about leaving Dad, but I know he is just an hallucination. The real Dad died a decade ago, and we are at peace about it. 

I am really getting out of this car. That is what would be happening if my normal luck had held and I didn’t have all this water coming in. 

Next time, I am springing for the BMW. Then that Navy guy wouldn’t have had a chance. 

I don’t really see the resident of the deep. I must be so intent on getting to the surface that the propelling shadow doesn’t “read” as anything substantial. 

Eye of Giant Squid Retouched

My legs are starting to seize up, and I can’t stand the water on my face. I close my eyes to keep it out. This is not just my nerves reacting to the water temperature. It is, in fact, the spines of the giant squid biting into my flesh as it wraps itself around me in those murky depths. The eye, the single eye, that signals to me that there is no grace period here. It was not an almost. It is. And it is now. 

So do not underestimate the dangers of Gig Harbor. While boring, it also full of middling bars — perhaps reasonably so. Why not get drunk in a boring suburb? 

And be sure it is not raining when you leave the bar and get in your car to come home to Tacoma, especially not in a place that rains three-quarters of the time.

And make sure that the eighteen-wheelers roaring down Highway 16 don’t get on your tail, flash their lights at you, and honk to get you to go fast enough to match the weltanshauung of their amphetamines — too fast for your silly Volkswagen after all that house gin and too much overrated shtick from a crapped out old Navy guy. 

Perhaps you should have gone home with the crapped out Navy guy who chatted you up instead of the giant squid whose embracement will be your last. That is the real lesson here. 

Or maybe not have gone to look at that boat. Which doesn’t make sense to anyone who’s had a boat. 

Now I am filled with regret, and I can’t stand regret. It goes against the very grain of what I am, and that is an effective human being who would not have gotten in water in a brand new car. 

And would have made it in that fifty-degree channel. Would have been able to last. 

We all say. 

The Navy guy would perhaps honor that sentiment while watching the local news and seeing my picture up there as the lady who met with the interesting death AND I WAS RIGHT THERE!

© Joann L. Farias 2023