Monday, August 5, 2013

Did I ever tell you about...

There are still so many good ferry stories. Here are a few.

One early summer evening on the Wheatland Ferry, a junker of a car pulls down onto the boat. From the cabin, I can tell that someone is living in the car. The stuff in the back seat is piled high, and it seemed to be a mix of clothes, food, and garbage. Before I even walked up to the car, the driver, a 50s or 60s woman, had swung the door open, and propped her leg up on the opened door. Her poor legs and ankles were horribly swollen with edema. She wasn't wearing shoes, and her feet and toes were awful as well. Plus, I saw more of a strangers mangled toenails than I will ever need to.

She was downright effervescent. Happy, breathy, enthusiastic. She used to ride the ferry as a child, and hadn't been here in a long time. Somehow she started talking about the last homeless shelter she was in, up in Wenatchee, Washington, where, even though they were super nice and helped her set up an email address and even made her up a bunch of business cards, they stole something (I was never clear on what it was) and she could barely stop badmouthing them, describing how terrible they were. So now I'm curious, because she seems an odd and interesting person. Her business cards were for her crocheting business, called "Funki or Fanci" She did have a lovely crocheted blanket in the back seat, so it was obvious she had some talent. Her email address, the only way of contacting her, was (I'm making up her name here) JaneGodsChild@....

She was with a very quiet, somber man, who seemed to be her opposite. She called him Dad, and he responded by calling her Mom. Evidently they'd met at the homeless shelter in Wenatchee. That place couldn't have been all bad! She told me how much she loved him, and was so lucky to find him, though he complained vehemently when she didn't have money for the ferry.

I took them across the river, where they only wanted to sit and watch the sunset. I reminded them of what time the ferry closed, and that I'd make sure they got across before I closed. They came across in due time, thanking me all the while. When I walked up to my car that evening, her card was in my windshield, with this note on the back:
Jenny, yeah!
Thx 4 a cool trip.
We will c u again.
xo Jane
PRAY, if this man is 4 me 4-ever! :)"


Did I ever tell you about the fishing tackle? I don't think so.

A man and woman walked across the ferry, and ran up to a truck on the other side, yelling back to me to wait, she just had to give her daughter something. She didn't come back down quickly, so I resumed hauling traffic. She sat in her daughter's truck for about 20 minutes while her male friend wandered around on shore. Eventually, her daughter drove off, and she and the man were both wandering the shore, looking down. I assumed they were rock hounding, but they never picked anything up. They walked onto the boat, asking if we had any spare fishing rods or line or hooks. I looked around the boat, since a few weeks prior, someone had left a fishing rod on board, and a coworker eventually took it home. There was nothing on board at the time. The couple got off the boat on the same side, searching the shore, they said, for stray bits of line or hooks. There was a pickup truck parked up next to my car, and they hollered down asking if the truck was mine. I said no, and they were bummed, since it appeared that there was some fishing tackle, or tools or something, in the bed of the truck. All the while, I was hauling traffic, and didn't have time to watch them closely.

After awhile, the couple walked onto the ferry and went back across to the other side. I assumed they found something to fish with, as they climbed down the bank to where a creek meets the river, a favorite fishing spot. They were there all evening, they were really patient and obviously REALLY wanted to catch a fish! After the couple had been fishing for over an hour, a good looking young man walked across the ferry and up to the pickup truck next to mine. The next time the boat was parked on that shore, he hollered down to me asking me if I saw anyone hanging out around his truck. I immediately looked behind me, and yes, the couple was still there, in plain sight, persevering in their desire for a fish. I walked up to talk to the man, and explained that the couple had seemed weird--possibly drugged from the odd mannerisms, and had commented on the fishing gear and tools in his truck. I was very angry that they'd rifled through his truck right under my nose. He couldn't tell if anything had actually been taken, but I assumed so, since it was after they were up at the truck that they suddenly "found" something to fish with. I pointed them out to him, and because I felt bad, gave him a free ride across the ferry to confront them.

As I drifted off the shore, I could hear this handsome young man with rage in his voice, as he hollered at the couple, "HEY YOU SORRY SONS OF BITCHES!"


So on my very last day working for Marion County, I was told to go down to the Buena Vista ferry and do some weed whacking. Lovely. My very last day, it's 90 degrees, and I'm going to be covered in blackberry brambles, weeds and sweat. The operator that day was a good guy, someone I really enjoyed talking to, so I probably did more of that than any actual work. Eventually though, I did get to work trying to whack back the thick, dense blackberry brambles. I had my ipod blasting and my earbuds in, more to drown out the insessent roar of the motor than anything else. Traffic was typically slow on the BV, to the point that I'd usually look up when the ferry landed near me. The ferry landed on my side, and I looked up, since out of the corner of my eye, I couldn't see any vehicles on board--maybe the operator wanted something?

What I saw made my jaw drop. Instead of a car, or even a spandex clad bicyclist, there was a man wearing tweed shorts, and a matching vest with a watch chain and fob across the front. He had an old newsboy style cap on his head. More astounding was his vehicle. He had an old fashioned, all black, penny-farthing. A penny-farthing, to refresh your memory, is one of these:

My mind? totally blown. The young, earnest looking man silently pushed his penny-farthing up the ferry ramp, nodded in my direction, then quickly mounted the velocipede and peddled away.

I still have more stories. The baby raccoons,  my last day and the combines, and more. Eventually, I'll tell them all.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Big News

It's finally happened. After over two years working on the ferries, I have found a job in Land Use again. For over a year, I had stopped looking for work, needing the benefits and proximity that the ferries allowed, to be closer to my step-dad as he went downhill and passed away in December. As soon as I returned to work in January, I began my job search with a vengeance. I had several interviews in the last 6 months that surprised me and raised my hopes, but no job offers. Finally, last Tuesday, I interviewed for a position with a county in the Portland area. They were looking for an associate planner for a 6 month position. The interview went so well, and by Wednesday afternoon, they had called to offer me a job! I'm so excited. The job has great potential to turn permanent, and even if it doesn't, it puts Land Use at the top of my resume, gets me off the ferry, and will change my life for the better. 

That led me to the question of what to do with my blog. When I was writing regularly, I really enjoyed it. In the last few months, I've had so many random and interesting occurrences on the boat. Strange or funny people, goofy conversations, gorgeous sunsets. I've wanted to share them with you. It's almost as if I'm out of practice. 

I don't want my blog to end. I've still got ferry stories I'm going to share. And honestly, I like writing, and hopefully you like reading what I write. I have no idea what I'll write about. Goofy things do happen in government offices, you know... We'll see. 

For now, I had a wonderfully goofy experience last night, and I wrote it up as soon as I could. I only wish I could have snapped a secret picture of the guy to share with you. 


Yesterday evening around 8, as as dusk was just beginning to wash the colors out of the world, I looked up to see a very ugly car pull onto the boat. It was bright orange. As I glanced at it again, I realized it had been custom painted OSU Beavers orange. 

I was distracted enough by the color of the car that as I walked toward it to take toll, I almost missed the best part. The woman in the drivers seat was dressed normally. The husband, in the passenger seat, was not. First I noticed something gold around his head. It had leaves, and I noticed some small wings off each side of the headband. Then his outfit came into focus. While he was seated, I could see his loose top that looked like it could have been made from a sheet. It was pinned at each shoulder with scroll and heart shaped pins. 

I took their toll with a smile, saying nothing, and walked back into the cabin. When I turned back, he was standing outside the car, his dress was gathered at the waist and fell to knee length. He wore, as all Oregonians do, Birkenstock sandals (I'm kidding, we all wear keens now). He and his wife both stretched, then swapped positions, so that he would drive and she was the passenger. As he walked around the ugly orange car, it almost seemed that he walked so lightly, there must have been wings to hold him aloft. His arms swung freely, almost as if they were wings, or as if they wanted to reach out and touch and see everything. 

He made me grin and i felt charmed by his surprise appearance. Was he Cupid? Eros? I think there must be some mythological being with wings on the sides of the head. Who? I much prefer thinking of him as a ethereal being, rather than a mere mortal with a milquetoast wife who wouldn't dress up for the costume party. 

Monday, June 17, 2013

Guest blogger, Captain Bruce!

I know I haven't written in months. Michael died, and life got hard. Then I was transferred to the Wheatland ferry, and honestly, it's often hard for me to find pleasure here. It's very different from the BV. 

To start out anew, I'm letting my coworker, Bruce, share a story. He told me about this one afternoon when I got to work, and I was laughing so hard I asked him to write it up for me to share. Here's his tale:

It was towards the end of my shift on a stifling, hot spring day. I take toll from all of the cars before I can shut the gate and drive the ferry across the river. It’s a matter of a few short minutes, since we run a maximum of nine cars per load. That’s three lanes of three cars each.
I was working my way to the end of the middle lane – a bright yellow jeep with no doors. Usually I take toll from the driver, but in this case I was on the passenger side and the passenger – a slightly rotund young man – was handing me the couple of dollars in fare. He seemed adamant about telling me that “she” – apparently the driver – “worked hard for this money.”
At first I didn’t get it. The passenger repeated that “She worked hard for that money.”
Under the impression that this was one of those tests where the customer uses humor to test your compassion for their great monetary sacrifice on your behalf, I deftly parried with “I work hard for this money, too;” i.e. ‘I validate your sacrifice through my own blood, sweat and tears.’
Not to be upstaged – clearly I wasn’t getting it – both passenger and driver reiterated that the driver worked hard for this money, adding that “she” – the driver – worked as a stripper. I eyed the driver – a long, thin young girl with multiple piercings and peach-fuzz on her recently shaven head.
“Uh huh,” I said. Okay.” There didn’t seem to be a way to end the conversation on a high enough note to satisfy the couple. Clearly they were looking for some response closer to incredulousness than I felt I could muster. I was meant to be impressed. And yet – I confess – I was not.
I took the dollars from the passenger and turned around – directly behind me – to the driver in the next lane, who was handing me a five dollar bill.
As I peeled off the ones just given to me by the stripper and her friend, I watched the face of the femaledriver I was now serving melt into a sort of slack disgust. Her hands reluctantly reached for the money as a kind of grunt/groan gurgled from her throat. Clearly she had also been a party to the conversation with the denizens of the jeep.
I finished taking toll and retreated to the wheelhouse of the ferry, raising the gate. As the engines’ props reversed and began to dig into the algae-green water of the river, I reached for one of the many bottles of hand-sanitizer scattered about me.
Yes, these are the moments I cherish.