Saturday, February 12, 2011
Island Legends: the Secret Ferry
Drawing by Rick Tuel
Smart Aleck note: this column dates from 2003. Like everyone else on Vashon Island, I am sick and did not feel up to writing a new column this week, so here is a rerun that is a particular favorite of mine. Hope you enjoy it.
The story as I heard it went like this: a few years ago, one Sunday morning, a Big Important Business Man was having brunch at Sound Food. His cell phone rang. He answered it, and received a Very Important Business Call.
He needed to get to an Important Business Meeting off the island. He went up to the hostess and asked, “What's the quickest way to get off the island?” The hostess told him to head north on the road outside the restaurant until he came to the ferry dock, and then wait for the next ferry, and he should be able to get off the island in an hour or so.
The Big Important Business Man was distressed. An hour? That was much too long. He had Important Business and had to get to the mainland right away, and wasn't there a quicker way to get there than the ferry?
No, the hostess told him. The ferry was the only way off the island.
“OK,” he said. “I know how things work in places like this. Where is the secret ferry?”
“The what?” asked the hostess.
“The secret ferry,” he said, “the one only you islanders know about so you can get off the island any time you want to.”
The hostess was non-plussed. She explained that there is no secret ferry, only the public state ferries that come to the ferry docks.
The man refused to believe her. He insisted that there must be a secret ferry. She was concealing the information because we islanders were selfishly keeping it to ourselves and didn't want anyone else to know. He was too smart to be tricked, he said. He wasn't born yesterday, he said.
Finally, in exasperation, the hostess said, “OK, OK, you're right. I can't fool you. There is a secret ferry.”
He smiled in victory. “Where is it?”
So she told him how to drive down to Manzanita Beach.
He left, and did not return.
End of story.
A friend told me that story in the supermarket. She said she had heard it from the grand daughter of another friend. I called my friend, the grand mother, and asked her where she got the story. She said her son was working as a chef at Sound Food at the time of the incident, and he had told her the story.
Soon after that I ran into my friend's son and I asked him about the story. He confirmed that the story was true, although he wasn't sure if the hostess had sent the man to Manzanita or Point Robinson.
He said that for a while after that the staff at Sound Food joked about “bippies,” or “Big Important People.”
This island legend was fairly easy to track because I knew all the people in the chain of the story's telling. I wanted to track it down because when I heard it, it sounded like one of those urban legends, a fantastic story that is supposed to be true. These stories begin: “This is a true story! It happened to my cousin's step-brother's next door neighbor's dog trainer's niece...” and goes on from there.
Many of these stories circulate on the internet. I have learned to check with snopes.com before believing anything I read, because I hate to pass on rumors, libel, and outright lies.
Island legends are easier to trace than urban legends. For example, I believe it is true that the late Joe Chambers set a ferry dock to ferry dock land speed record of 9 minutes. His friends have confirmed this. He did it late at night and had his friends posted at intersections to make sure no one would turn onto the highway and get in the way. This was a few decades ago. It was a different time, the island was a different place, that place I moved to 40 years ago. It doesn't exist any more.