Marshall: “Terminal rage” takes hold of ferry commuters


This week, Islander columnist Becky Fox Marshall explores the commuter angst that’s all the rage at the Winslow ferry terminal.

To the list of rages in our modern world – road rage, air rage, work rage – you can add yet another, unique to Bainbridge Island – ramp rage.

The ramp of which I speak is the passenger ramp onto the ferry. Oh, and parking rage. The parking to which I specifically refer is the parking lot at the ferry terminal.

Maybe together these can henceforth be known as “Terminal Rage.”

Now that I’m not a Seattle ferry commuter, riding the ferry has actually become – again – a pleasant experience. And so it was with light hearts that I and three of my friends and coworkers met at the ferry terminal one Saturday afternoon to head over to the big city for dinner out and a show.

We waited near the flag pole as the ferry unloaded, seeing that a good many people formed a long line to the right of the rope that divides the ramp into one side for those intending to board, and one side for those tromping off the vessel.

Once unloaded, the go-ahead was heard on the loudspeaker and boarding began. And so we moved on down the ramp, ending up on the left side of the rope.

A fellow who had been queued up on the right took umbrage with our boarding technique and stood out from his line to dress us down. I couldn’t catch all of what he said but it boiled down to this: “So you think you’re special? Why can’t you get in line with the rest of us? Are you special?”

Passing him as he uttered his opinion, we at first thought he was a tourist trying to make friendly conversation. We turned our heads, smiling … it took a few seconds to realize he was not feeling friendly, he was actually enraged that we had apparently bucked the rules and were going to get on the boat before him.

Without breaking stride, I told him that actually, once the boat the was loading, he, too, was free to step out from the line and board from anywhere – that the full width of the loading ramp was now, in fact, his to roam at will.

Now it occurs to me that this ramp protocol is unspoken and perhaps not even agreed upon. So I should have explained to him that it was my understanding, limited though it may be, that the standing off to one side is to facilitate the efficient and unencumbered departure of ferry passengers. That once the departure has been completed, oncoming passengers are free to shed the shackles of the rope. This isn’t a ride at the Magic Kingdom, and it certainly isn’t the happiest place on earth, so that makes sense to me.
Am I wrong? If I am, I am sure I’ll hear about it.

At any rate, those who rush and those who lag behind are all slated to arrive in Seattle at the same time so I am pretty sure this qualifies as “small stuff” about which we’ve been warned not to sweat.

Of course, once we had loaded we thought of all the things we SHOULD have said – “Well, yes, actually. We are super special and wow, we can’t believe you could tell so fast! You are clearly special, as well.”

But the rage came and went without a rumble.

On the way back, the person in our party who had parked at the ferry terminal agreed to give us all rides to our cars, which were parked farther away. She warned us that she hadn’t parked “real well,” and “just might” be far enough away from the curb as to be noticeable.

Noticeable? I told her I was embarrassed to be seen getting into this car, parked as it was many feet from the curb. We piled in and noticed a piece of paper stuck under a windshield wiper. Was it a ticket?

No, it was a note expressing rage over her parking job. It yelled, in all caps, and I sort of quote, “Who the (expletive) taught you how to (expletive) park?”

This sent us into gales of laughter, especially since we couldn’t even disagree with the rage she had sparked in the anonymous note-writer. All we knew was that we all wanted to copy that piece of paper and keep a supply in our glove boxes because who hasn’t had the opportunity to use such a note?

In the end, rage is just rage. Especially when it’s Terminal Rage.

-Becky Fox Marshall is a longtime Bainbridge journalist.

11 thoughts on “Marshall: “Terminal rage” takes hold of ferry commuters

  1. I’m glad I’m not the only one to notice this rage at the terminal. I have gotten dirt looks before for loading the same way you have and have expressed the same sentiments, that there are enough seats for everyone waiting and many more. They won’t sell out.
    On another note, I will admit that I have “raged” a fair number of times at those who leave their cars on to keep cool or warm. If you are waiting for a boat, PLEASE TURN OFF THE ENGINES.

  2. I was once kicked by another passenger because I inadvertently cut in front of him while boarding. Thankfully I no longer take the Bainbridge Island Ferry, and will do everything within my power never have to commute on it again.

  3. Do you cut around the line at the grocery store? How about at the movie theater? The bank?

    Hmmm . . . I didn’t think so. So why do you think its OK to do so at the ferry terminal? Why should someone who has waited patiently in line make room for you to pass when you reach the inevitable bottleneck?

    The order in which we load the ferry is indeed a “small thing,” after all, as you’ve pointed out, there are plenty of seats for everyone. Given that, however, one wonders why you can’t politely wait your turn.

    From a practical perspective, things run much more smoothly at the ferry terminal when people simply get in line and follow the person ahead of them. The ill-mannered louts who skirt around the established line at every opportunity — and there are many such opportunities — turn an orderly progression into an unruly mob that must re-order itself at every choke-point, slowing things for everyone.

    Didn’t your mother teach you better manners?

  4. Ah, the drama…

    The only raging incident I experienced a couple of years ago was a note on the windshield which read, “Nice parking, you proud (four letter f word)!” The latter was due to the type of car, alma mater on the plates, and the writer’s assumptions.

    I’d been forced to park that way because it was the only spot left and the car to the left encroached on my space lines. With such expressed rage I’m surprised my car wasn’t keyed. Then again, if I’d walked us as they were placing the note who knows what would have really happened as I’m no shrinking violet.

  5. Well….I will admit I have left a note….

    No, that was not one of my notes on your car RV. I prefer “POS” to the “F” word when attempting to convey my message. I can still taste the soap in my mouth after all of these years for mistakenly writing the “F” word where my mother could see it.

    The POS in my instance had his front license plate touching my front license plate and had cracked my plate frame. I felt the note was actually cutting him/her some slack instead of going after them for the $15 in damages. That and it was a minivan….I hate minivans.

  6. About a year ago I was waiting for the 530p with luggage on the Seattle side. I screwed up and got in the wrong “queue.” When I realized I would not be able to drag my baggage through the turnstyle (after waiting patiently in line as we are supposed to do), I smiled apologetically, moved one lane over to the right and attempted to gain entry through the wider doorway that is used for disabled access (and people with luggage and stroller!). A “gentleman” in an expensive suit said SO WHO DIED AND MADE YOU QUEEN OF THE WORLD in a fashion reminiscent of 5th grade playground behavior. Startled, I hung back, thinking, after 17 years I have breached sacred ferry protocol!! By then I had completely screwed up my ticket and had to buy another one to get through the turnstyle. I looked for him in vain on the boat as I was determined to tell him what was what. In reflection, I’m glad I never found him as it would have only taken me to his level. Cranky, tired, frustrated and disappointed in my fellow man/woman. Lesson for me – we are all doing the best we can so cut each other some slack!

  7. I’ll throw one out…I agree, waiting in the line is the right way to do it…maybe someone has a particular area they like to sit in. Speaking of which, if you are a party of one, then why take up the 8man bench seats and give somebody the ‘stink-eye’ when a family of 6 asks if they can sit there? Parents of teens driving cars off the ferry…have you taught your kids that sharing the road with cyclists is required by law. I’m gonna start carrying a rock with me and give you my best ‘Nolan Ryan’ the next time you buzz me and honk at me…you know who you are. Rage to live, live to rage.

  8. The ferry is public transportation. Why one needs to ask permission to sit in certain unoccupied spots is beyond me.

    Meh…I’m not the sort to leave notes on cars. If you’re not there to hear my thoughts on the matter, I’ll take down the license plate number and deal with egregious offences. Otherwise, I get on with it if it’s minor. Life’s much too short to scribble profanities on a napkin to a stranger who doesn’t care what I think of them. Besides, you might end up hurt or worse.

    Regarding the ferry issue, I can appreciate the value of unspoken protocol. However, if the road truly opens up for all once everyone has disembarked, I’m not a lemming and will make my own decision irrespective of angst or looks. That being said, if logistics are impacted by this and we’re bottlenecking at the entrance, the status quo makes sense.

  9. We were loading the Walla Walla for an afternoon trip out of Seattle, and as the last car came aboard I indicated to the driver that he should drive up the ramp to to upper deck. The driver started yelling insults at me and insisted that he be allowed to park in the tunnel. I stood my ground and pointed up the ramp. The driver squealed his tires up the ramp, yelling at me the whole way. As it turned out, he had to park right at the top of the ramp. The deck hand blocked his tire, and then we let the boat go and shut the gates and departed the dock. Just as I reached the ladder to go up above I heard a loud noise and screaming. We all looked back and saw that the car from the top of the ramp with three kids in the back and the drivers wife in the front, was smashed into the gates and almost over the side. The driver was sprawled on the deck screaming in pain. We ran back to the car. The brake was off and the transmission was in neutral and the engine was running. Turns out, the driver had tried to back down the ramp so he could park where he wanted to, but because his tire was blocked,he couldn’t do it. He had jumped out of his car, leaving it in neutral,brake off,door open, and yanked the block out from under his rear tire. The car rolled back,the door caught him and squished him through the railing and he was deposited on the car deck with his leg snapped in half. There was broken bone protruding from his bloody pant leg and he was screaming that it was our fault. I pulled his car forward and secured it,the Captain pulled back into the dock and an ambulance came and took the man away. He screamed at me until he went into shock. We drove the family and car off the boat. The rest of our shift was fairly uneventful.

  10. John,
    That is a great story! If it is true, then the dude got what was coming to him. I feel sorry for the family that nearly paid for the guy’s attitude. Gotta watch out for Karma!

    It is hard to share the road with a bicycle when the cyclist is riding in the on-coming lane while exiting the ferry. I am still amazed that a bicycle hasn’t gotten clobbered pulling that manuever.

  11. Post script to the ferry story: The driver’s car door was wrenched all the way forward against the left front quarter, so the guy was more ‘sieved’ through the railing as opposed to ‘squished’.

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