SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska
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#400: Bantering with the Boat People


June 07, 2019
Friday AM

Ketchikan, Alaska -
So I was driving up Bawden toward the intersection where Park Avenue peels off.

jpg  Dave Kiffer

You know that intersection, it's the one where there are two different Tsunami evacuation signs going in two different directions. You can either continue up hill on Bawden or head along the Park on the Creek. I suppose that either okay because you getting farther away from the docks, which would not be a good place to be in the remote event of a tsunami. 

How remote? 

Well there apparently has never been one in Tongass Narrows if the geologic record is to be believed. But hey, there's always a first time, right?

But I digress.

Anyway, I am heading up toward that intersection and I encounter a couple of "Boatpeople" standing in the middle of the street holding maps and obviously engaged in "frank exchange."

The woman looks ready to cry and the man's face is a shade of red that is not on any natural color palette. I guess that is what happens when fire engine angry meets fake tan. Anyway, it was not a good look.

Since they were standing in the middle of the street and threatening to clog traffic, I rolled down my window.

But first I guess I have to apologize for using the term "Boatpeople." The other day, someone told me it was perjorative. Which is a big word having nothing to do with perjury. It means it's a negative thing.

Anyway, I guess I should call them tourists. Or even better visitors. Or even better "Guests in Our Fair Salmon City." That seems reasonable. I wouldn't want to conflate (another big word!) them with a group of people with incredible courage who crowd on to barely floating pieces of wood in the middle of the night just hoping to live long enough to make to safety. Nope, that is not what is happening with these Boatpeople who inundate our city every day in the summer.

But I digress again.

Anyway, there is this couple standing in the middle of the road.

Me: Hi can I help you find something.

Man, rattling his maps: No, we are fine. Thank you very much. (he does not sound particularly thankful)

Woman: Yes, please.

Me: What are you looking for?

Woman: The fish ladder and the bridge.

Me (gesturing toward Park Avenue): It's just about half a block that way.

Woman: thank you.

Man says something incomprehensible, further rattles his maps and starts stomping up the hill towards Bawden. She follows him. I drive around the block and swing back to make sure the situation has calmed down. They are walking slowly up Bawden Street away from the fish ladder. Neither looks very happy. I circle back a third time, they are still climbing the hill, but I decide against saying anything else.

This was only a day or so after I was accosted by a man who wanted to go to bank. It was Memorial Day and no banks were open - as far as I knew. That seemed to make him pretty unhappy, because it was clearly my fault that no banks were open.

I tried to steer him to an ATM but that was not what he wanted. He wanted a bank. It occurred to me later that maybe he was looking to rob one of the local establishments in order to pay his liquor tab on the ship. I could almost believe that.

 At any rate, he was pretty cheesed that there was no open bank within walking distance of the cruise ship docks. Even though it was MEMORIAL DAY, a day on which most banks in most parts of America are closed.

I asked him where he was from and he replied "Tulsa, Oklahoma." I asked him if banks in Tulsa were open on Memorial Day.

He replied no.

Actually he replied @!@#$*!@#($*$!@#*(~~!#@~no.

At least I think that what he said. He had a pretty heavy accent. It sounded like he had had one too many deep fried Twinkies at the endless county fair that was his life.

Then he stomped off to find that open bank that he was clearly sure must be open somewhere on Revillagigedo Island.

I was beginning to wonder if every time I bantered with one of the boat people they were fated to go storming off. Maybe that was my superpower?

But then I had an visitor interaction that almost made up for the other two.

I had gone to get a McDonald's breakfast for my wife who opening the store early in the morning. As I was walking across the Centennial Parking Lot with my bagged Sausage McMuffin with Egg in hand, a woman shouted at me. Her accent was so thick, that I expect even Gomer Pyle would need to use Google Translate to understand it.

"Y'aaaaalllll haaaaaaavvvvvve MACDONAAAAAAAALLLLDDS Heyuh??"

"Yes Ma'am."

"Howaaaafarrrrrisssssit? CaaaaanIwaaaaaaaaaalk iyut?"

"No, Ma'am. Not really, it's a couple of miles."


"Scuse me?"

"I waaaaaad loove meeea baaaag maaaak."

"You could take a cab."

"Yaaaa think theeeeey daaaaliiiveeeeer?"

"No ma'am.


It was time to disengage, so I did.

Meanwhile, she turned to someone she was obviously traveling with.

"Haarrrrr Leeee, Theeey gotts a MACDONAAAAAALDS heyuh!"

And just a concludingl note, this is the 400th column that I written for SITNEWS in the past 15 years.  That is a-lot-a-lot-a-lot-a-lot of digressions over the years.  Thank you so very much for all your patience.



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

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