Yesterday, I picked up my parents at the Bainbridge Island ferry dock. They flew in from California, and walked on the boat in Seattle. They are home for the holidays. We had a nice dinner together at our house.
The ferry is such a familiar part of life for us that I rarely think about how it will sound to someone in the midwest. I've been riding the boat all of my life, literally. That's me, on the right, in the photo, with my brother and sister; the boats (and I) have changed a lot since then! My parents built a cabin on the island before I was born, where we used to spend our summers. They remodeled it about 20 years ago, sold their house in town, and now it's their main home.
We "catch the boat," "run for the boat," "hop on the boat," and occasionally, "miss the boat." Tonight, we are going to catch the boat in our car, which is called "driving on." "Are you going to walk across, or drive on?," we ask our guests from the city before they come, so we will know how to plan. If they are driving, we will add an hour to the departure time of their boat, in order to calculate their time of arrival; or we will leave our house at the time they get on the boat in the city, in order to be at the terminal to pick up walk-ons when they walk off.
Living with a ferry system means having ferry schedules close at hand - in your car, in your purse, on the refrigerator door, in your wallet - for easy reference, at all times. And to save money, it means buying a commuter pass every month. There are auto passes and passenger passes. Fares are collected both ways for autos, and only one way for walk-on and auto passengers. Are you still with me?
In summer, there is a fare surcharge (a rate hike), and if you are driving on, you can easily miss the boat (this is called "an overload,") and then you must wait in line, sometimes for hours. Missing the boat is not fun, unless you are creative and very patient. If you leave your car on the dock to go and have a latte, a beer or a snack nearby, you must return no later than 20 minutes before the next boat is scheduled to depart, or you may be left behind on the dock...an inconvenience and a big embarassment.
You wouldn't want to lock yourself out of your car in this situation. I once made the mistake of locking my car keys in the car on the ferry dock in Seattle. Fortunately, a very kind Washington State Trooper rescued them (and me), and didn't make me feel like any more of an idiot than I already felt.
We are driving on the boat today, to go to dinner with Smileygirl and Tom, before hearing "Handel's Messiah" performed by the Seattle Symphony and Chorale. I'm very excited to dress up, eat a lovely French meal (trout almondine, anyone?) and listen to the music with Gregg and David. This will be my first time hearing the "Messiah" in person.