Newbies on the Ferry
It seems many of you are unfamiliar with our sea-faring ways and the things you will encounter on the ferry (i.e. tourists; what are they and why won’t they get out of my way?} so I think it’s time to produce a primer for you landlubbers.
You’ll no doubt notice some dogs in the terminal. No, these are not the ferry mascots; these are specially trained canines there to sniff out explosives…in your crotch. Anyway, that’s where they head every time I approach. Feel free to pet these guys or rub their bellies. You can say things like “Who’s a good bomb sniffer? Yes, you are, yes you are.” And their handlers enjoy it, too.
After a few moments, the PA system will announce that the boat is docking. Then it will announce the boat is docked. Then it will announce the doors are opening. Then it will announce to hurry up because they’re late and they have to get the boat back in the harbor now. The funny thing is, back in olden times, before they rebuilt the ferry terminal, they never used the PA system to tell us anything. Now that the terminal is big glass box and we can see everything, they start announcing everything that’s going on in plain sight.
While waiting for the boat you’ll notice some people squeezing their way pass you to get up to the doors before they open. Don’t mind them. These people are in a great hurry to get to work and are going to swim ahead.
Once they do open the doors, you’ll shuffle onto the boat. You’ll no doubt have the urge to jokingly “moo.” Boy, we haven’t heard that before. Ha! It’s a slow moving crush to get to the gangplanks and you’ll probably get bored along the way, so this might be a good time to read your newspaper, make some calls on your cell phones, or re-program your iPod.
It’s quite a commute and you’ll want to make sure you pack enough belongings to make the voyage. You’ll find one of those wheelie things perfect to drag behind you. And they hardly ever get in the way in a crowded rush hour situation.
When getting on the boat, make sure you pick a really good seat because that will be your seat for the rest of your life. Ferry folk are very much creatures of habit and it’ll take an iceberg strike to get them to change places. The tricky part about your seat selection is that there are four different types of boats running these days and each one has a completely different layout. You have the classic (Kennedy class), new (Barberi class), newest (Molinari class) and the dinky night boats (Austin class), but they only run overnight and if you’re on it, it probably means you’re too drunk or tired to remember where you sat last time.
Now, the Kennedy is the sole boat left running from the 1960s fleet it served. Why do they keep it around? Because the newer boats breakdown with the frequency of pigeon droppings in the terminal (we’ll discuss the number of pigeons and the frequency of their droppings at a later date). We love the Kennedy with its big wooden benches and life jackets under every seat and outside deck. You feel safe and buoyant. You really feel like you’re on a ship. The Barberi boats, well, they look like a floating bus depots. And the Molinari boats? Yikes! I mean, it’s like they bought seats by the yard at “Building Supplies R Us” and shoved them onto a sea-worthy maze. Anyway, you might like to get a window seat. Oh, wait, both the Barberi and Molinari class have you sitting with your back to the window. Well, no matter, I’m sure you’ve seen the harbor before.
As you may be aware, every other mode of mass transportation in New York City (subway, bus, train and cable tram) bans eating and drinking. On the ferry, they are selling us pretzels and beer. It’s a twenty-minute booze cruise everyday! They don’t call it the saloon deck for nothing!
Once the boat is underway, feel free to read, nap, gawk, eat breakfast, zone out, type away on your laptop, catch up on your portable DVD player, sell NYC souvenirs, gather up beer and soda cans, join a commuting clique or wander around the decks preaching. It’s smooth sailing for you now, literally. There are no traffic jams and no bottlenecks. The boats aren’t delayed by snow, flooding, ice or the guy up ahead making a left turn. The only things that can slow the boats are fog, tide surges, high winds, waiting for the snack food guys with the shopping carts to get on and off and the occasional unattended package.
Well, there you have it, just a few of the things you need to know concerning your waterlogged commute. So, welcome aboard, people and bon voyage! Just sit back and enjoy the trip. But not there, that’s my seat.