SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska
Column: Humor

Helping Those Who Help Ourselves!



April 18, 2018
Wednesday PM

Ketchikan, Alaska -
Ketchikan residents are nothing if not helpful. We always endeavor to assist newcomers to our community. We just plain love to help people out. Whenever someone says to me "Can you help me out?" I always answer ""Absolutely. What way did you come in?"

jpg  Dave Kiffer

With than in mind, it's that time of the year when we helpfully provide a guide to those "summer people" who will be staying with us for the next few months. The people that come here to "help us" relieve the visitors of their spare change.

Ketchikan changes a bit in the summer. You may have noticed this. Things get a little busier. The weather gets worse.

No, scratch that, the weather doesn't actually get worse. It just seems worse because that awful biased "main scream media" keeps reminding us of the biggest "lie" ever. That it is actually SUMMER,  SOMEWHERE ELSE.

They show us all these pictures and videos of people frolicking in the sun, splashing at the beach, barbequing large pieces of meat on the back porch grill. Yeah, like that is actually happening. Next thing they will be telling us that JFK, Elvis and Nostradamus AREN'T actually batching it in a Vegas time share.

But I digress.

Anyway, as the calendar page flips its way to June, It becomes impossible to drive a vehicle anywhere between Totem Bite and the George Inlet Cannery, so yes, it does get a little busy around these here parts.

While we often chalk this up to the 126 million visitors who debark (that's a funny word, isn't it? sounds like something you should do to a tree or a dog), each summer day in Our Fair Salmon City, we forget that the "summer people" also are part of the mix.

Depending on which guestimate you consult, there are anywhere from seven to 7,000 people who just come to Ketchikan in the summer to work in the seasonal industries. A few of them work in the canneries. A lot more than a few work in the visitor industry. This befits a town that is now known far and wide as the "Land of 10,000 Takes."

I remember when there were exactly zero tours in Ketchikan. It was 1885. Later that year Mike Martin moved to town and immediately began the "Bald Eagle, Totem Pole and Tanzanite Express" tour.

It was very popular with the seven visitors who came to town that year. Well, it was popular with five of them anyway. The other two were cheesed off that there were (a) no igloos and (b) there wasn't a giant wall in Dixon Entrance preventing the illegal immigrants from Canada from crossing over and eventually stealing all the jobs in Iowa.

But I digress, again.

So, in order to be helpful, I was thinking (Yes, that happens at least once a year) that it would be a good idea to pass along some local wisdom to the "summer folks."Sort like we try to do with the visitors. Answer their questions. Give them some advice. Like do not stand in the middle of one of the local adult beverage dispensaries and shout "I'm so wasted." I can't tell you how many times that "summer people" do that. Is it supposed to be a pickup line? Whatever.

So without further ado, we - Nostradamus like - answer the questions that haven't even been asked. Yet.

1.  Umbrellas? No. A few days ago we had a 112 mph spot of wind. Unless you are Mary Poppins that is not a good thing.  I get that you want to stay  dry. It is a natural reaction because sometimes you can get wet and die of hypothermia around here. But you are better off covering yourselves in zip loc baggies than deploying an umbrella.

2. Smoking on the sidewalk? No.  First it is really hard to light a cigarette that is technically underwater. Plus we Alaskans really treasure our pure air and our healthy lungs. That's why 53 percent of us thought it was a "great" idea to legalize marijuana use a few years ago. Anyway, don't smoke either tobacco or pot on the streets. We aren't Seattle or Portland. Yet.

3. Wearing high heels? Generally not a good idea. We don't have those things you take for granted down south, like smooth sidewalks and unpotholed roads. On the other hand, a couple of extra inches of shoe and boot height might be a good thing as one tries to navigate those potholes and those broken sidewalks. Still you may just want to bite the bullet and run around barefoot. It works just as well. Really no one cares how tall you are. Unless you are trying to see over the lip of a particularly prodigious pothole.

4. Dining Outdoors? No. I get this is all the rage where you come from. It's like picnicking, but with table service and better wine. And it is summer after all. At least is it summer somewhere (see above). Maybe not here. Last June it rained 28 out of 30 days. Unless you like dining "al umbrella" (see above) you might want to plan for a lovely indoor repast  at one of Ketchikan's man'to  five star dining emporiums. Good luck with that.

5. Hiking in the mountains? No. You all post all over The Book of Face and Instagramcracker that you are spending your off hours hiking in the mountains around town. But we know you are stealing those sunny scenic alpine pix from the Visitor's Bureau website. They were taken on the one sunny summer day in Ketchikan[s history, Aug. 8, 1977. Plus, you really don't want to actually hike up the mountains, in the rain, unable to see through the trees, only to get to the top of a local mountain and stare out at the fog that envelopes you. It's not called "Misty Fjords" for no reason. And the fog you encounter in the woods around here isn't made up of water droplets. It is made up of mosquitos.

6. Going kayaking? This is another activity the summer folks just rave about doing. Of course, that is before they realize they are expected to work 22 1/2 hours each day to maximize their employers earning potential. Of course, it would be lovely to kayak in calm peaceful waters as the whales and dolphins swim placidly by and eagles soar above. Sure, that does happen. The last time it did was Aug. 8, 1977.

7. Going for a Sunday drive? Did I mention that 126 million people debark in Ketchikan every day? The closest you can get to a drive is to go out and sit in your car in the community "parking lot." Also known as Tongass Avenue.

8. Running for exercise? Not a good idea. All summer long you see "summer folks" out running in the afternoons and evenings after the ships have gone. Perhaps they are burning off the stress that comes from answering the same three questions all day long? "Yes we take American money. Creek Street is right over there. No, we don't have a bathroom." Some actually claim they are doing it for fitness reasons. You do have to be pretty danged fit to run into a 112 mph headwind.

9. Enjoying a day at the beach? You have to understand that "beaches" in Ketchikan are a little different than beaches elsewhere. First of all, we consider any waterfront that does not have a 3,000 foot vertical drop into the water to be a  beach. Also, sand is pretty rare around here. By rare, I mean non existent. So if your day at the beach fantasy is sun bathing on a sandless cliff and dipping your toes in the water, well knock yourselves out. Just don't land in the water because, well, because the Japanese current arrives here via the North Pole. Ice in a drink is a good thing. Ice in your swimming water, not so much.

10. Get to know the locals? Unfortunately, between the 126 million visitors and 7,000 summer people, it will not -  I regret to inform you - be possible for you to actually meet a "local." If that is something on your bucket list, I suggest you come back in October. Just be sure to bring zip loc sundress and your high-water heels.

Welcome to Ketchikan.




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Dave Kiffer is a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.

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