Editor’s Column: What I don’t like about Washington State Ferries

People soon learn to take things for granted, so Islanders seldom give a second thought to the Washington State ferry system.

People soon learn to take things for granted, so Islanders seldom give a second thought to the Washington State ferry system.

Day after day, hour after hour, year after year, the ferries are there to take us to and from the mainland. If you’ve been on a long trip you feel like you’re home as soon as you drive aboard, even before the propeller starts turning.

As for the sometimes-maligned ferry workers, they’re almost always pleasant, even when standing in the wind-driven rain and a car stops and the driver yells at him or her for letting someone else go first. Some legislators complain about ferry workers’ union wages, but they’re just making a living, and it’s not warm and cozy with leather chairs and chandeliers like it is in Olympia. One of my often-proposed but always-ignored ideas is to get rid of the Washington State Senate. We can use the money to help run the ferry system.

But enough of this positive talk. The ferry system is our unofficial state whipping person, so I do have something to complain about, and that’s the recycle bins. There are bins for cans, bottles, trash and newspapers. It’s the newspaper bins that bother me. Scribbled in black marker on many are these words which I tried to memorize last night: Ferry Workers Only, Do Not Open.

I don’t know if it’s a system-wide policy, but the words can be found on the newspaper recycling bins on the Clinton-to-Mukilteo run. I don’t like being told that I can’t fish a newspaper out of the recycling bin. For years I did it without feeling guilty because there was no policy etched in black marker against it. It was a treasure hunt. At times you’d find an entire copy of the now-defunct Seattle P-I, sections still together, barely read, and at other times you’d pull out a week-old Living section of a coffee-stained Everett Herald. But at least it was something to read and it didn’t cost a cent.

Ever since someone decided only ferry workers have access to the used newspapers, I’ve been resentful and have grown disrespectful and criminal. I can’t resist the call of the bin. I furtively look around. Not seeing a ferry worker I plunge an arm into the bin and grab whatever I can and then quickly walk away, trying to look innocent. No time to be selective. I hate it when I get the Marketplace.

Perhaps the policy was put into effect to keep ferry users from scattering the same papers all over the boat trip after trip. Or perhaps pressure was put on the ferry system by the powerful Seattle Times publisher, what’s-his-name, who didn’t want people reading his paper for free. Or perhaps ferry workers want first dibs on the free newspapers. But it’s a bad policy, one that restricts the right of every American to read whatever they can find in the garbage.

Time to quite complaining. I’ve got a ferry to catch.