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Anderson finally leaves the dock

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It's where he's spent 10 hours of every weekday for 14 years, but Clinton ferry dock ticket seller Don Anderson was happy to call it quits this week, leaving the dock after a total of 30 years with the ferry system.
— image credit: Matt Johnson

Fourteen years is a long time to stand in one place. Fortunately for Don Anderson, that place has been dry and warm.

Anderson, a ticket seller for Washington State Ferries on the Clinton dock, took his last pass, his last wad of cash, and last check from ferry riders Friday, bringing to an end 30 years of working the docks on the Clinton-Mukilteo run.

The most senior employee on the Clinton dock until 2 p.m. Friday, when his last 10-hour shift ended, the 66-year-old Clinton resident has always brought a pleasant attitude with him to work. A barber in Clinton until he started working directing traffic for the ferry system three decades ago, Anderson slowly and purposely worked his way toward the most coveted job on the dock, that of ticket seller.

On Thursday, the reason was clear. As a cold rain fell on his fellow employees waving cars into this lane or that, Anderson was under the small, but comfortable roof of the ticket booth.

"On the dock, this is the place to be," he said.

That's true, but the stories aren't necessarily as good from that vantage point. Years ago while still working dock traffic, Anderson's most interesting day -- from the standpoint of a spectator -- included an overturned log truck on the ferry Kulshan and a driver who impaled his car on a gate at the park adjacent to the Mukilteo lighthouse.

Anderson's retirement this week was supposed to be quiet; he was hoping to just slip out on Friday. But then the sign announcing his retirement party went up at the South Whidbey American Legion Hall. By the end of the week, everybody was saying their last rushed hellos and goodbyes to Anderson as they paid to board the ferry.

There were still the jokes with the regulars, though. After Richard Gabelein drove a load of logs through, a driver in a pickup truck tried to catch Anderson off guard.

"Didn't Dick pay for it?" he asked with a laugh.

No such luck. But Anderson thought the joke was pretty funny.

Most days in the booth are something to enjoy, as much as anyone can enjoy work. The only bad times are during hot summer holidays when the ferry line backs up the hill and tempers are short, Anderson said. Even then, he said, he doesn't see any reason to get hot under the collar.

"It's kinda ridiculous not to be pleasant," he said.

That's saying a lot, especially coming from a guy who has been getting out of bed at 3 a.m. for about half his life. As his shift wore down Thursday, Anderson said he has a few plans for retirement, including travelling with his wife, fishing and hunting. Tops on the list, he said, will be getting up when he wants to on week days.

"The main thing is not punching the alarm at 3 a.m.," he said.

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