After a fine evening in West Seattle with friends, I found myself on the Fauntleroy dock awaiting the 10:20 p.m. ferry to Vashon. Wind howling, sea spray biting, it really was a dark and stormy night, a Deadliest Catch flashback kind of night. On the earlier crossing, I actually paid attention to the safety announcements and the locations of the evacuation assembly stations–not that it likely mattered. With a water surface temperature of 45oF (7.2o C) and gale force winds, Puget Sound treaders of water can sing about one verse of “My Heart Will Go On” before discovering the location of Davy Jones’ locker.
As the Captain masterfully positioned the ferry into the slip, a family of five extracted themselves and heaps of luggage from a Yellow Cab on the dock. Mom, Dad, infant and two wee ones struggled to clear the turnstiles. I offered to help carry some things. They said, “No thank you, we’ve got it.” That was not entirely true as I saw it, so I waited a few minutes, and offered again, “Seriously I don’t mind grabbing some of this and helping you board.” The polite Dad, smiled under the burden of his carry-ons and my persistence, and reiterated his earlier response, all while balancing a baby carrier, over-sized roller suitcase, diaper bag and Duffel. I acquiesced, and retreated to the passenger cabin.
The roller coaster return crossing went off without a hitch. I had time to settle my account with the man of upstairs, reflect on a few fond memories and be at peace with the world. When I finally reached the other side (which was thankfully Vashon and not an appointment with the Ghost Whisperer), I was grateful for skilled crews and Maritime standards.
Heading back to the car deck, the family of five and I made our return appearances to exit the ship. And again, they did not want my help. (I just had to give it one more try.) Behind us, an armada of vehicles sat quietly as keen observers of our inclement, on-deck pantomime.
The barrier net on the lower deck (on a much calmer day) keeping pedestrians at bay and out of the bay.
Shivering in the final minutes of the tie-up, I began to feel a warming sensation on the back of my neck, no doubt from the piercing eyes of auto passengers judging the man who seemingly made no attempt to help the overloaded family of five. Carrying nary an item, he apparently was prepared to leave the ferry hands-free and conscience-free. I could hear it now, “Oh look Vern, there’s Tom, see in the goofy cap. I can’t believe he’s not helping that poor family with all of their belongings.” (Oh yeah, my ears were burning.)
Of course, I was wearing my favorite winter cap, an unmistakable design inspired by the Mackinaw and woodsman alike. My natty red and black plaid headgear was well known, albeit a chapeau no one else on the island would be caught dead in. I base this supposition simply on the amount of chiding I endure, “Hey Tom, Elmer Fudd called and he wants his hat back.”
The family and luggage found refuge in a parked SUV, and I proceeded down the dock and up to Parking Lot Hill, a hill graded to mimic the incline of the Great Pyramid of Cheops. Now drenched, cold and breathing like a Lab fresh from a fetch, I collapsed into the relative comfort of my truck. As I waited for the heater to kick in and the foggy windows to clear, I had a small epiphany.
Drivers and passengers in toasty warm, climate-controlled cars with heated seats, who do not offer a man a ride up a steep hill on a wet, wintry cold night, have little or no room to judge said man on the car deck of a ferry.
With that, I leave you words from wiser men, and photos of more dapper hat wearers.
“Judge a tree from its fruit, not from its leaves”
Euripides (Greek playwright)
“If you judge, investigate” –Seneca (Roman philosopher)
And for the record, I saw and wore the hats first.