Saturday, September 25, 2004

'Cross the Mersey

Today will be dubbed "Surreal Ferry Day." I rode a total of three ferries in four crossings. Let me tell you the story:

Actually, it's not a story, because most of the elements of literature are missing (i.e. character development, central conflict that gets solved, witty dialogue). All it really possesses are a beginning, a middle and an end. The story (not really a story) opens at the ass-crack of dawn, since Jeff is really anal about getting to the ferry really early to be sure that we get a spot. So, it's 6:00 in the morning and he's bugging me to speed up and I'm refusing because it's early in the morning and I'm feeling obstinate, plus, any time I deliberately speed because I'm late, I get a ticket. Immediately following this interaction a huge think fog falls down on us and it's all I can do to see the lane lines. Jeff - almost as immediately - admits that the fog must be punishment for trying to get me to speed. There's a reason that I like him. :-) So, slowly, we make our way to the complete other end of the island, where everything else about that ferry ride is fairly normal. Once we're on the peninsula, we drive to a different ferry and get in line to pay for our passage. The line isn't moving well since there is only one checkpoint and this, of course, is causing Jeff's knee to bounce like crazy. I should insert here that I was taking Jeff to orientation for a 9-day kayak trip that he was leading for teenage boys in rehab. He really wanted to be there on time and rightfully so. As we are sitting on the side of the road, waiting, we see a guy pull up to a checkpoint in a golf cart. "This is not a good sign," bemoans Jeff. I pooh-pooh him as a nattering nabob of negativism (was there ever a time in American politics when this phrase WAS taken seriously?). Of course, right at that moment, the guy walks up to our car to inform us that the ferry that was going to be leaving in the next half hour was fogged in and would not be leaving for another 2 or 3 hours. Now it was my turn to admit karmic responsibility. So, we walked on the beach for awhile and found a cute little seafood place for some food. (Finally had the Ivar's, Mom. It was OK. Nothing like Malnati's in Lawndale, though.) When we finally got onto that ferry, a guy is on the passenger deck giving a full-on harp recital, with commentary and all. He was a regular Bobby Short.

So, I drop Jeff off after deciphering some terrible directions (50 feet was actually 10 feet; landmarks were simply not there; forks in the road were actually intersections). Then, as I'm headed to my third and final ferry, I realize that although I work in a used book store and although I rarely go anywhere without a book, just in case, and that this habit has been present since I was 7 or 8 years old, I have no book for hours of ferrying that I have yet to do. Panic and self-flaggelation ensue, but karma gives me a present in the form of a used book store. It is also surreal. It's got a full section of well-displayed metaphysical instruction books from multiple decades, shelves upon shelves of vintage Playboys, several racks of 1940's pulp fiction with steamy cover art and the kooky woman who talks to herself about how funny the movie BIG is while I'm looking around. I find a pristine copy of SNOW CRASH, which I've been meaning to read again, anyway, and I'm out the door.

I guess the third ferry is fairly uneventful, except for the guy that wore a full-on Saturday-night-at-the-club-in-a-shiny-black-mock-turtleneck and hit on me because apparently, walking by him twice while looking for a seat indicated interest. Also, apparently, pick-up lines are too strenuous for him because after exchanging basic Hi-how-are-you conversation, his line was, "What's your name?" all Joey-like. I smiled and walked away.

The fourth and final ferry ride back to Orcas was the most eventful. As I'm pulling off I-5 at my exit, I've got 20 minutes until the ferry leaves. Normally, I wouldn't even consider it since the ferry landing is 17 miles away. However, Jeff and I accomplished just such a feat last weekend, so I think I'll give it a shot. But, traffic going that direction is actually gridlocked at the light at the base of the exit, so I give up quickly, knowing that a Target is nearby and that I have a new apartment to equip. After a satisfying trip to Target, I head out to catch the 8:35 ferry. Although this ferry is very heavily used, again, only one checkpoint is being used, and I don't even reach it until after the boat is supposed to leave, although that does not seem to matter since the boat does not leave. After I pay, a woman puts a piece of paper under my windshield wiper after asking me which island I'm going to and directs me to lane 5. THIS IS THE LAST INSTRUCTION I RECEIVE ALL NIGHT! Normally, the attendants act like ushers in church during communion, dismissing lane after lane of cars when it's time to board the ferry, then on the boat they point you to your spot. So, at 9:20, I see cars starting to move and everyone disappears from where they were hanging out in the parking lot. However, my lane doesn't move. Finally, the guy in front of me pulls out of our lane (ack! rules!) and heads toward the ferry. I figure he's getting out of line, because he and his wife had been calling for one of the teenagers that belonged in the car and never came back. A guy behind me gets out of his car and walks up to my window to tell me that I should follow the other guy because the other cars are all empty. "That's the way it works," he adds at the end. So, I look around and half the cars are abandoned. I still have no explanation for that. So I hustle and I am the third to last car on the boat. I get a half-hearted point from the attendant and that's that. As a side surreal moment, at Shaw Island, an attendant got on the intercom and yelled "Willie Smith! We're at Shaw Island! You need to wake up and get off the ferry! We will not be coming back!" He then wished Willie a good weekend a few minutes later, so I guess we can assume that Willie did make it home. So, I read my book and when it's time for Orcas Island, I get in the car and prepare to go. The same thing happens as before. The people in front of me aren't going anywhere and many of the cars are empty. Well, my heart is beating fast. They start announcing again that this boat will not be returning to Anacortes and I am in a full-fledged panic because there are still 5 cars in front of me and no one has come back to check. The woman behind yells at me to turn my engine off and I realize that I have to do something. So I squeeze out of the car (of course, they had made me park right next to the big junker truck) and sprint for the front of the boat, waving my arms like an idiot. My father would have been proud. Luckily, the guys were very cool and acknowledged that things had been screwy in the parking lot. So, the announcer comes back on the intercom, reads off the cars that are in front of me and we all wait. While waiting for everyone to come and move their cars, even the announcer apologizes and tries to explain that the ferry normally runs much more smoothly. Finally, the guy in the grey, no, silver Civic wagon shows up and I can finally start my 45 minute drive to the other end of the island and home.

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