EDITOR’S COLUMN | Attention ferry cutters: punishments are ‘fake’

Saturday was a beautiful day. The sun was shining and the weather warm, so, naturally, my wife and I decided to punish ourselves with one of our seasonal trips to Everett.

The drive to the Clinton ferry was pleasant, thanks to the Ragnar Relay. Racers from across the state had flooded Whidbey to finish the two-day race in Langley, and, like usual, teams had all the flair and personality for which they’re known. Less fun was the van of racers who cut in front of us about a half hour into the 90-minute ferry line. The driver, God bless him, took advantage of a no-blocking section of the line just north of town.

I’m not sure what it is about being cut that’s so offensive, but it seems few things in civilized society today warrant going to mattresses like line cutters. So began what I’ll call my weekend exercise in futility.

It started with a lesson in the state’s accountability system, the HERO program. Basically, reported violators are mailed educational materials with the objective of decreasing repeat offenses — it doesn’t call in the troops. That required taking matters into my hands. Smarting from the injustice of it all, and knowing Mr. Cut would feel better about himself if he was escorted to the back of the line, I phoned the cops. “Just get everyone down here as quick as you can,” was what I imagined saying but instead asked for advice. Call the HERO hotline, they said.

Defeat doesn’t sit well with me, however, so about 100 yards from the ticket booth I lobbied those behind me for a last-ditch mission for justice. The first car, a nice family, politely agreed to back me up while the guy behind them only took a quick look to earn a yell from his window, “Go get em’, he’s a cutter!”

That was all I needed. I relayed the ferry attendant our grievance and she dutifully responded. It was with no small satisfaction that we all watched the van directed to the outermost lane of the holding lot. Aside from the occupants promptly unloading their stuff and jumping into another van, the driver was paying his penance and all was right with the world again.

Reveling in victory, we decided to celebrate by heading up to the ferry’s recently opened sun deck. You can guess what we found. The driver. Not only was he on the boat, but he was bragging and laughing loudly with his friends that, “It was a fake punishment.” He boasted that he’d refused to go to the back of the line, so was instead directed to board the ferry last.

A fake punishment indeed.

Ferry workers really aren’t to blame. It’s the job of police to enforce traffic violations, but they can’t be everywhere all the time either. Sadly, I don’t have any revolutionary fixes to propose, only the relaying of what’s undoubtedly an all-too-common tale of woe for law-abiding ferry commuters.

If only our grief was as fake as the punishment.