Sunday, August 22, 2010

All Aboard BC Ferries

As I write this, somewhere there is a drama playing out. Either here, on the 5:00pm sailing from Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay (or Vancouver to Victoria for the non-locals), or at the Tsawwassen terminal. Or perhaps a little in both.

As I was boarding the ferry as one of the last foot passengers, a man was heading in the opposite direction, obviously in a hurry. A BC Ferries staff person had accompanied him, and stood explaining the situation to the guy taking the boarding passes, “He may or may not be back by the time we sail,” she said, nodding towards the man. Then looking directly at him said, “You have exactly 10 minutes to be back on board. No more.” She said it with a whole lot of emphasis, trying to make sure he really understood. He took off in a mad dash. As I handed in my boarding pass, I heard the two staff people talking. “He must have been the first car on and ran up the stairs, to get up here that fast” remarked the ticket taker. All kind of interesting, as I was sure it was only about 5 minutes to sailing time, but I guess she knew her stuff.

As I walked down the gangway, I noticed the same staffer talking to another female employee at the foot of the gangway, “Yeah, his wife and child went to the washroom, and he drove on….” They were shaking their heads, seemingly more amused than really concerned. Well, I hope the cat really has nine lives, because curiosity really did kill the cat on this one… “What, he drove his car on without his family?” I asked. “Yes. His wife and child went into the terminal to use the washroom and weren’t back by the time the ferry started loading, and he just drove on.” “Seriously?” I asked, at somewhat of a loss for words. With a nod the first lady staffer went back up the gangway, presumably to watch for him. But I could sense the other lady staffer was willing to talk, and I waited.

“Happens all the time,” she said. I laughed and said, “You’re kidding.” “Nope,” she said, “if it’s time for their car to board, they just drive on and assume the rest of their party will walk on. In this case, I think it might have been a baby, so that’s not good. But you’d be amazed at what people will do sometimes.” “But his car is on the ferry, and he isn’t, “say I. “Yup, you got it,” she says, and grins.

Apologizing for being so snoopy, I thanked her for telling me about it, and wandered away wondering what would happen.

So, I offer up the following possible endings. You know, kind of like those tween mystery novels where you read the beginning, and pick the ending you most want. Let’s see:

  • A. Man runs down stairs to the car level, bolts towards the concession building, finds wife and baby standing outside the washroom looking baffled, man grabs baby, yells for his wife to run, and they fly like no one’s business back across the tarmac to the stairs, then up the stairs, then up the gangway, and get on in exactly 10 minutes, with the staffer saying, “Jeez, you really cut that close.” Likelihood: not a chance.
  • B. Same as A, but they head to the loading ramp for cars, explain desperately to the car loading team what happened, and walk on at the lower vehicle deck, just in the nick of time. Likelihood: extremely low.
  • C. Same as A/B, but they don’t get back to the ship in time, they are running, but time runs out, they barely get ½ the way back when the gangway or loading ramp (take your pick) is lifted before their eyes. Likelihood: more likely than any scenario so far.
  • D. Same as A/B/C, except as man finds his wife, the ship’s whistle sounds over her cries of disbelief. Likelihood: pretty high
  • E. Same as D, but man cannot hear the ship’s whistle over the sound of his wife’s anger and shouts of “You idiot, you idiot!!” Likelihood: extremely high.
  • F. Man runs like a madman around the concession area, looking for his wife and baby, but they are nowhere in sight. Meanwhile, wife and baby sit in the back seat of a stranger’s car, still blathering her story, hoping like hell that her husband wasn’t stupid enough to run off the ferry after the car was loaded. On board, the kind strangers utter empty assurances, “I’m sure you’ll find him.” Man is still somewhere near the concession and can be overheard muttering, “Shit. Shit, shit shit shit shit!” Likelihood: equally high
  • G. Same as F, but wife and baby have walked onto the ferry via the lower car deck, after explaining to staff what happened. No change to the part of the story where the husband is swearing his head off by the concession. Likelihood: pretty high
  • H. Same as F, but wife has climbed the stairs up to the passenger loading gangway, struggling baby weighing her down. Wife emerges from stairway 1 just after husband descends down stairway 2, missing him by a fraction of a second. Likelihood: not likely, but you never know.

This is the kind of thing where the various possibilities keep splitting off into endless variations, kind of like that quantum physics thing….

What do you think happened?

This reminds me of another ferry boarding incident about 20 years ago that would make a good story… I should write that up sometime….

PS - a ship's officer just came on the PA and said< "Your attention please, we are nearing Tsawwassen terminal..." then dead silence. A few giggles around the ship. Then he comes back on, "Just kidding folks, we are nearing Swartz Bay terminal..." LOL.


Anonymous said...

Well, whatever the outcome, this is still kind of a sad comment about the BCFerries. Poor tourist has some uniformed car boarding guy ordering to move that car -- NOW!. What's he supposed to do? Intimidated and not knowing better to simply pull aside I might very well have done the same thing.

The fact that this happens so often shouldn't be a matter for a giggle by the staff either. Instead of leaving him to do his best to track down his family on his own they might have considered a call to the the concession to have the wife paged?

Katharine said...

I think there will be a combination of some of your scenarios.

Let's say they did find each other outside the concession. Once home (after a very LONG, silent trip), the wife screams "You idiot, you idiot!!" while tossing bedding at the husband.

Then, the husband thinks "Shit. Shit, shit shit shit shit!" as he puts the bedding on the couch (which he will be sleeping on for the next week). He knows he's "in the doghouse." FOREVER. This will come up at EVERY family get-together, her mother has heard about it (God help him), and so has her best friend. He's doomed.

Wish we knew the real ending.

Roberta said...

Well Anon, I certainly neverf thought about staff intimidating someone. Was thinking of it more as a blonde moment, the kind that all of us have from time to time. Did I say giggle? I thought I said smile (or meant to say), which I interpreted as knowing that, in the end, it will all work out... Paging is a good idea though.

Katharine, I confess the dog house and the sofa had occurred to me. Hopefully it won't be that bad, and maybe they can laugh about it sooner rather than later.

Life is too short not to laugh at oneself. I don't think I would have done this same thing, but I sure have done some really ditzy things in my past... and I'm sure I will in the future.