WSF's Gift to Bremerton (and the Ensuing Power Trip)

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View from the Wally this morning.

When the Bainbridge run was my usual path to downtown in the '80s, the Walla Walla was where it was at. Along with the Spokane, we had the two best boats in the system. I can still remember the classic upholstery, the Herman Miller-inspired tables, etc. Every once in a while we'd get dealt the Hyak, which was always met with a collective groan.

Times have changed. Sort of. I've moved on to cheaper pastures. $4 doesn't get you across the water. Bainbrige riders are still treated to the cream of the WSF crop (Wenatchee, Puyallup, Tacoma). But, I still pine for the Walla Walla, which may not be good enough for the Island anymore, but is always a welcomed sight to the rest of us. Last week WSF threw us all a bone.

Just as the sun started coming out in force, the Bremerton run was given a boat on which riders can not only stretch their legs, but take in some rays. When I was a Bainbridge rider, I took for granted the fact that every boat we ever had featured a huge upper deck. Half the boats on the Bremerton run (I'm looking at you, Kaleetan) don't have the upper deck. So, those of us craving a bit of air on the 60-minute ride huddle up front. Don't get used to it. We lose her after July 26.

It's during these sunny days aboard the Walla Walla's assignment to Bremerton that demonstrates (just one example) what happens when ferry employees get on a power trip.

When you board the Wally, you're immediately presented with two options: hit the main cabin, or take the stairs up to the top (see pic). At least you're SUPPOSED to have two options.

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The steps.

The last time Wally was running this route, I noticed there was a chain drawn across the steps when I walked on, and the able-bodied crew member was using it as a lean. This seemed strange. In more than 20 years on the boat, I'd never seen this before. But it kept happening. Only with this ONE employee.

So, I asked (and I'm paraphrasing the conversation here):

ME: Can I go upstairs?

HER: These steps are closed?

ME: Why?

Other WSF Employee: Would you like me to get the captain?

HER: When I leave it open, it clogs up and holds up the flow of people getting onto the boat. People stop and think about whether or not they want to go upstairs. (Apparently the “keep it moving” gesture would take her away from her chatting and leaning.)

ME: Um, okay.

I take a seat, and I realize: IT'S WINTER. IT'S RAINING. NOBODY'S GOING UPSTAIRS. THIS IS NOTHING MORE THAN A POWER TRIP.

I go back to the hard-working duo.

ME: I think I'll take you up on your offer. I would like to talk to the captain.

But guess what? They wouldn't get the captain. The best they could come up with was a mate of some sort. I explained to him that this was the only ferry employee in the history in 20 years that I've ever seen closing off these steps. Why was she doing it? This is all power trip, etc.

His response: If that's the way she wants to do it, I'm going to support her.

Wonderful.

OK, so here we are in July. It's beautiful, and we've got Wally lookin' out for us. As expected, the same WSF employee closes off the steps. And, of course, when she's not there, the steps are open, people go upstairs. And there are no problems.

Well, at least not with loading the boat. Wi-fi doesn't work upstairs. But, that's another story altogether.

 
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