SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


It’s A Small Town After All


August 20, 2012

(SitNews) Ketchikan, Alaska
- Although Ketchikan is roughly twice the size it was when I was growing up, it is still a small town.
jpg Dave Kiffer

I was reminded of that twice recently.

Both cases involved vehicles and both involved that small town institution, knowing too much about everyone else's business.

First, my car died Downtown. I went out one afternoon and it refused to go into gear. So I had to call a tow truck.

Unfortunately, it was in a crowded, narrow parking lot and the truck had to do some pretty fancy winching to get it out. The winching was so impressive that it drew a crowd. I bet people were even betting whether it could be done. It was, eventually.

Of course, everyone seemed to know it was my car that had gotten towed. In small towns, we just know those sorts of things.

The next day, several people asked me if I was going to sue the owners of the lot for having my car towed.

No one had me towed, I replied, I had myself towed.

But that wasn’t as good a story, so the untruth spread around. Later I ran into the owner of the lot and he was thought it was all pretty funny.

“Everyone thinks I am now enforcing the 30 minute rule,” he said. “Turnover has been much, much better!”

Well, as always, I am happy to help.

Natch, when the car got to the mechanic, he couldn’t find anything wrong!

At any rate (in this case $140 per tow!), I have stopped parking in that particular lot because – in case it happens again – I don’t want to risk such a difficult winch and tow. Natch, people think I have stopped parking in the lot because I am mad at the owner.

You really should sue, people keep telling me.

So it goes.

The other incident of Ketchikan small townism also involved a vehicle. I recently bought a motorcycle.

Whoa, I can hear you saying. A mid life crisis! What’s next, a beard?  Tats?

(Tats, BTW, is hipster speak for tattoos. You know, those body markings that were once totally counter culture, until every female under the age of 30 started “tramp stamping.” Think about it, in about 50 years there will be 75 million tattooed grandmas out there!)

Since this is a small town (which in Ketchikan’s case means only about 7,500 tattooed grannies in 2062), the word got around. Many people had opinions which they shared ranging from to “cool” to “what kind of a lunatic are you?” I have always felt that anyone who even asks the latter question doesn't know me very well. It has always been crystal clear what kind of a lunatic I am.

So, yes, I bought a motorcycle. But no beard and no tats. Yet. And I hope it is a mid life crisis, because that means I’ve still got a few good years left.

Actually, this is all Liam’s fault. Even though I am mayor and I write poetry and I play the saxophone and I have memorized every baseball statistic since 1839, I have been feeling my “cool Dad” rating dropping recently.

Perhaps, it is only because he has entered those challenging pre-teen years where suddenly Dad is more fogey than cool.

Anyway, I bought a motorcycle. Which led to the following exchange.

“Hey Dad.”


“When you are gone do I get to have your bike?”


I don’t intend to bequeath the “bike” to Liam until ALL the grandmas I know have tattoos.

Anyway, a few days ago, there was a motorcycle accident south of town. Since it seemed like everyone in town knew that I had a motorcycle, they all immediately jumped to the conclusion that I had been in a motorcycle accident. It was a case of putting 2 and 2 together and coming up with Harley 883. Even some of my own family members (the ones who are leery of motorcycles) got a little concerned.

Last time I checked, there were about 300 registered motorcycles in town. But as with all politics, apparently all motorcycle accidents are “local.”

It's the transitive property (how appropriate!). Dave has a motorcycle. There is a motorcycle accident. Therefore Dave has been in a motorcycle accident.

That afternoon, I got phone calls checking to see if I was alright. Later I got hugs from people who were happy to find out it “wasn’t me” who had made ended up in the ditch after making an unsafe pass.

As always, I am happy to oblige, especially when it involves hugs.

And I am always happy to celebrate an un-near brush with disaster.

Perhaps I should get a tat to commemorate it.

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