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OFF THE RECORD: Things would be different if I ran WSF
It's a familiar scenario. You're lined up for the ferry, only four or five cars away from the ticket booth. No problem, you'll make the boat. But as the cars in the other two lanes swoosh past with smug smiles, you don't budge.
The seconds tick by, turning into minutes. The guy in front of me raises both arms in frustration while the driver behind me looks equally steamed. Finally, there's visible activity between the driver of the immobilized car and the ticket seller. The reason for the delay is soon revealed as the ticket seller hands over all the fixin's for a credit card transaction to the cashless driver.
Great -- we're not moving while some yahoo goes further into debt.
As the cars begin to creep closer to the ticket booth I spy the culprit's license plate. "I hope you charged that guy double!" I say to the ticket seller. "Plus, not only did he use a credit card, he's from California!"
I know, tossing in that California bit is a cheap shot -- the guy can't help it if he's geographically challenged. But every once in a while it just pops out.
At any rate, all this got me to thinking about MY IDEAL FERRY and what I'd like to see if I was Queen of the Sea. In the meantime, we can only dream.
- EXPRESS LANE: This is a no-brainer. Only drivers with commuter ferry tickets, checks written in advance or cash are allowed in this lane. There has to be some reward for having your act together before heading off to the boat. (I often wonder -- are all those people unaware that they have to pay to get off the island?) Drivers who are using a credit card or haven't yet figured out how to make out a check, read the paper, drink coffee, apply makeup and talk on their cell phone while they navigate their way to the ticket booth are relegated to the SLOW LANES. Multi-tasking is where it's at when you're wending your way to the booth.
- "I DRIVE A STICK" SIGNS: I drive an automatic, so most of the time this doesn't affect me. But on the rare occasions when I'm forced to drive another family vehicle that has a stick shift, it scares the heck out of me. Being a non-stick driver except on the flats, I break out in a sweat if the deckhand directs me to the ramp where I know I'll be in an upward position with vehicles stacked up behind me. And when it does happen, I do the big boo-boo and disobey the deckhand, resulting in deserved dirty looks and a few harsh words. So why not have a bright, visible sign on the left side of the windshield that reads "I DRIVE A STICK SO DON'T PUT ME ON THE RAMP!" So what if the deckhand thinks you're a weenie? If you're a frequent ferry user, he/she knows pretty much everything about you and your level of driving skills anyway.
- ON-BOARD ATM: OK, I know I whined about people heading off the island who don't have their act together. Well, I'm generally good to go until I get on the boat. That's when I realize I have no cash and I've had no coffee (my rationalization is that if I'd stopped at the ATM and bought a latte I'd miss my intended boat). And even though I'm not a big fan of the Compass Cafe's finest roast, sometimes I'm desperate for a jolt of java early in the morning. That's where the ATM comes in, especially since borrowing from fellow passengers is getting tough as the cast of characters becomes less and less familiar. Plus, people would have more money to spend on board, boosting sales in the cafe.
- FOOD: It's true that Washington State Ferries is thinking about upgrading its food fare on the ferries in order to increase revenues (they're also raising fares by about 5 percent in June). Well, I don't have any major complaints about the food, as generally I don't eat it. But there are times when I'm forced to buy coffee or a carton of yogurt. So if I had just one request, it would be for better coffee. I happen to think Starbucks is an OK coffee, and the ferries have been offering it for a number of years. But something goofy must be going on inside those big metal urns, as it doesn't taste a bit like the stuff they sell in their stores. And yes, I'm still praying for the return of my beloved Rold Gold pretzels. I know they're out there.
- RESTROOMS: If there's any way the women's restrooms can be a little more inviting, I'll pay an attendant a quarter to do so! I realize it will never be like the ladies lounges at the downtown Nordstrom or The Bon, but a few bucks spent spiffing up these lavatories would be greatly appreciated. The men's rooms? I don't know, as I've never ventured into one. But I'm sure they're equally bland.
Sue Frause can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.