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too peurile for the payoff

December 1, 2010

He will ask, “So we might miss a boat?”  You will look at him in disbelief, “We will miss a boat.  We will miss many boats.”  Trying to make him understand how bad it could be, and how lucky he is that you ever made it on a ferry enough times to go to college, move to San Francisco, and meet him.  You are mad at him for even thinking that you would make this ferry.

_____

If you’ve never lived on an island where riding a ferry was the only way off then you’ve never lived on an island.  If there is one thing islanders know about it’s the agony and the ecstasy of making the boat.  For many people, and I’ve never experienced this but it must be true, the trip home from the airport or the mall or the concert is just that, a half hour drive, and you’re there, but for the vague possibility of traffic or an accident.  For an islander it is these things, but in the background always waiting in the wings is the ferry.

First and foremost will you make it?  “It” of course is a basically arbitrary half-hour increment that means nothing until suddenly it means everything, and you’ll hear people saying things like, “We need to be on the ten,” or “Do you think we can make the 2:30?” With the kind of gravity usually reserved for questions about asteroids passing near the Earth.

There are two things that stand in the way of ‘making it’ the first being time itself.  Sometimes you simply miss it, the light was red, the car in front of you was driven by that universally hated creature ‘the tourist’, you couldn’t find your good black skirt or whatever.  The second possibility is that there are many many other people trying to make it, and even though you were there in plenty of time and would have made it under normal circumstances you have missed it, and that is it.  Either way, the gate is down and you’re depressed.

Of course, once you have not made it, like anytime the thing you fear most has come to pass, you feel that weight of dread lift from your chest.  At least now you know.  You have missed it.  You’ll be on the next one.  You better be on the next one.  How many cars do they take again?  Where’s the cut-off?  The totem pole right?  You might make it.  You definitely might make it.  You will not make it.  You will never make it on the ferry.  You will miss many many boats, and will occasionally find yourself shivering in the lot at 5am, feeling silly, looking for the boat.

When I was in high school L and I were driving home from a concert in Seattle.  The midnight boat, we had to make it.  We did 90 the whole way back.  Ignoring a car stopped at a red light in the ferry lane we swerved around went through the green, and were the last car on the boat.  As it pulled away from the dock we started laughing and then inextricably burst into tears.  We had made it.  We had made it.  It hardly makes sense then that upon disembarking we drove straight to the salon where she worked, let ourselves in with her key, and each did 20 minutes in the tanning bed.  Except that it was our time, and except for the ferry, we would do with it as we pleased.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Kent McMillan permalink
    December 9, 2010 7:15 am

    … and you’ll hear people saying things like, “We need to be on the ten,” or “Do you think we can make the 2:30?” with the kind of gravity usually reserved for questions about asteroids passing near the Earth.

    Okay, that was pretty good even if asteroid humor is so … easy.

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