Wednesday, August 2, 2006

We're a pretty friendly bunch around here, but if there is one thing that gets the goat of most Bowen Islanders, it's the folks that jump into the ferry line up ahead of others.

We have a pretty straightforward ferry loading scheme: you line up. There is a slight glitch however in that elegance in that the lineup happens on Bowen Trunk Road, and there are several gaps in the line due to restrictions such as not blocking fire hydrants, fire lanes and driveways. But the municipality has helpfully painted cross hatching on the road where you are not allowed to park. Despite that, there is sometimes confusion when, coming around the corner from Miller Road, you might pull into the ferry lineup without checking whether the traffic is lined up above you on the hill. This often happens, especially to visitors.

(You can see what I mean in the Google Maps image of the crossroads.)

And it happened this afternoon. As I was riding up Bowen Trunk Road on my bike, I saw a grey Mercedes pull into the lineup when there was clearly an overload - the traffic was backed way up the hill and it was the first sailing after dangerous cargo - 5:00pm on a Wednesday - so it was bound to be full. This car pulled up behind a black Mercedes convertible just above the General Store. Both were parked in the cross hatched areas.

Helpfully, I went over to the driver of the grey car and filled him in on the etiquette and told him there would probably be an overload, so he might want to get up to the top of the line to be fair. He asked if that applied to his friend ahead of him, called Fred, who also arrived late. I said it did. He thanked me and got out to talk to Fred.

I went to the Ruddy Potato, did some shopping and came out, only to see that neither the grey car or the black one had moved. I returned and asked him if he was going to move and he said no. I said it would be the polite and neighbourly thing to do and he thanked me again and simply sat at the wheel of his car looking ahead. I asked Fred the same thing. Fred's wife started making some noises about how they didn't know that was the rule and just as I was about to give them a chance to make good on their mistake Fred barked at me "We're NOT moving."

And they didn't.

And the ferry was overloaded.

Now, my guess is that these three people were embarrassed. They probably felt embarrassed then ashamed when I returned and saw that they hadn't moved even when they knew they were being unfair to others. I can understand that. I've felt that way before. But when offered a clear way to make amends, to do the right thing, they refused. I wonder if it compounded their suffering? I wonder if folks confronted them on the ferry and then later on if they thought about what it means NOT to do the right and fair thing when you know so clearly what it is?

I hope they aren't Islanders. If they were visitors, I can appreciate that it was an honest mistake and that they weren't resourceful enough to deal with politely. I mean, what's in it for them if some Bowen Islanders miss their boat to town because they snuck in? But if they were Islanders, it shows a kind of frightened contempt for their neighbours.

If you are coming to visit us on Bowen Island, remember, please check the line up above the crossroads. If there are no cars up there, you can line up down in the Cove. If there are cars there, you can line up on the hill. And don't take it personally when one of us points out the rules. If you've made an honest mistake, we're very forgiving and friendly people. We'll all thank you for taking the chance to do the right thing.