What Sun-Faded Signs Don’t Say

They stood together, angled to enclose me like a pair of blonde parentheses. “We feel like we know how great you’re doing because we see you on Facebook,” said one.
“I look at all your pictures,” said the other.
I wanted to tell them the verb people use for that is “creeping,” as in, “I creep on all your pictures.” I didn’t. I wanted to tell the other one that what people see on Facebook is only the good stuff. Facebook is for graduations, job promotions, new babies, softball tournaments. Facebook is not for rehab, dropping out of school, cancer scares, incompetent bosses. It’s like a roster of all the delicious desserts you’ve gotten to eat, and none of the disappointing frozen dinners.
By way of being honest with old friends, I said, “My constant presence on social media is a reflection of my loneliness and isolation.”
This elicited light laughter. It wasn’t unsympathetic laughter. It was appreciative, and only a little uncomfortable.

My husband and I had come a long way, back from New York, for the wedding of a mutual friend. Since we moved from Seattle, our friend had bought a farm, moved her business there, and rescued a bunch of animals. Now she was getting married, having planned a big wedding, marrying her best friend of a number of years. It was a circus-themed affair, and because of who it was, we weren’t scared away by a circus-themed wedding. Maybe somewhat hesitant, but we were going anyway.
Getting to Vashon Island had included a ferry ride from West Seattle. Our morning had been gobbled up settling a monetary crisis for another friend, but we had thought we had enough time to park, walk on the ferry and be met by the shuttle bus. The Washington State Ferry system is a glorious relic of the days when government was big and had an important role in getting people and goods from place to place. People voted for that, and paid for it with their taxes. The white and green-trimmed ferries are huge, with several decks for cars and trucks and other decks for passengers. There is never enough parking at the smaller, neighborhood ferry terminals, but we followed the lead of other cars parked on the street. Though the neat, small clapboard houses near Fauntleroy Dock look just like the rest of West Seattle, the streets are painted with special striping, and the street signs erupt with multiple placards of all sizes and colors, facing the street in erratic angles. The signs we could see and read described the many times that parking was not allowed, during the week, overnight, but we felt we’d found legal parking for the day.

After a short wait in the small terminal, we bought two $5.20 tickets and walked on. We climbed the stairs to the front of the ferry to spend our short crossing as we knew we had always loved to: in the wind and sun.  It was so much as it had always been, engines thrumming, waves slapping, gulls circling that we had not so much a sense of nostalgia but one of stasis, that Seattle was unchanged and unchanging.
The gloss on our feeling of expertise dulled when we walked off the ferry and saw no shuttles anywhere. We wandered around for a bit, and the Bacon Provider called for a cab. Vashon Island isn’t really the kind of a place with cabs per se. There was just a guy you could call, his name was on the Internet, and he’d send someone to get you. Our driver refused to charge us the agreed-upon $25 fare, accepting only $15, but taking the $20 offered her anyway.
So we were late to the wedding, though we didn’t feel late, but we missed the ceremony in the mossy, wooded grove of giant Douglas firs where the beloved old dog was buried, and missed the entrance of the bride on horseback. So be it. We were greeted first by one old friend, and then another. People were happy to see us, asked after the kids. It was easy and pleasant.

The farm is wooded and lush, presided over by tall firs and carpeted in moss and ferns. There is a trim house and neat barn and the circus-themed decorations were joyous rather than jarring. There were too many people to catch up with and not enough time. I spoke to the pair of blondes, toured the property with another friend. Someone mentioned a small nugget of real gossip, but then explained to me, in a whisper, “Another time, over a beer.” It was as close as I came to a real conversation, and it ended as soon as it started.

After the trapeze act finished, the dancing began with a samba dancer wearing a tiny costume consisting of three green sequins working the room. Then, the whole barn crowd from our Seattle years reassembled outside for a group photo. After the photo, one of the blondes confronted me again, this time with the question, “So do you miss Seattle?”
Looking away I said, “Almost every day.”
“What do you miss the most?” she pressed.
I did not answer her.
Later, when we got off the ferry, our rental car was still there, but it had a parking ticket on it. Apparently one of the illegible, sun-faded signs said, “No Parking Weekends or Holidays.” The ticket was $47. We saw it and both laughed: cheap parking by New York City standards.

Parking Meters and the Window You Shouldn’t Open

The city of Seattle installed its first parking meters downtown in 1942. By the end of 2005, the city was about half-way finished switching from normal, old-fashioned stand-alone meters to high-tech kiosks.  I was quite surprised to see the same kiosks near Venice in Italy when I was there a few years ago.
The new kiosk takes coins or credit cards, which is very convenient when the kiosk actually works. Some seem to suffer from vandalism. Others seem like they don’t get enough sunlight on their solar panels to function properly.  You tell the machine how many minutes you want by hitting the “Add More Time” button or the “Max Time” button, but the machine feels a bit like it’s just not going to work every single time you use one.  Once, the “Add More Time” button was so laggy that I added way too much time and had to cancel and start over.   When a unit is really not working correctly, you get a strange error message like, “Card Unreadable,” or “Bank Unavailable.”  Every step of the process seems to take at least twice as long as it should. Worst of all, I’ve paid and had no sticker come out.  The point of the transaction is to get a sticker, which is printed with the time the parking expires.
Sometimes, when people leave before using up all the minutes they have paid for, they will stick their ticket back onto the kiosk. Once or twice I have driven to another park of the city and been able to use the rest of my time. Drivers are supposed to display the sticker on the inside of the passenger side window. 

I drive a 2002 BMW wagon, with about 130,000 miles on it. I bought it new, and I am responsible for putting essentially all of those miles on the car. Typically, my passengers have been some combination of my three children, all boys, now 20, 17 and 13, and my dogs.  This car is my favorite car ever, and even though I bitch and moan every time it needs another $1100 brake job, I love how it drives.
If you are familiar with Seattle at all, you know that it is a dependably wet and muddy place in all but the months of July, August and September. If you have experienced children, you know that they are mud magnets who climb into the car, touch every surface with their dirtiest appendage, wrestle into place and then swing their feet until arrival, depositing a maximal amount of dirt onto the door, seat-back, seat and carpet. Dogs do all of these things and also touch the windows with their open mouths.  It rains too much in Seattle to keep the outside of a car clean. And it rains too much in Seattle to keep the inside of a car clean. But life is not for keeping one’s car clean, as far as I’m concerned.
If you ever come for a ride in my car, I will not let you open the passenger window. It is not because the window will not open. It is because someone along the way opened the window with a parking sticker still attached. Down went the window with the sticker, and when it came back up, the sticker was stuck inside the door. Now when you close the window, it comes up very, very slowly, as if this time might be the very last time it is able to close. If a brake job for the BMW is $1100, how much do you think it will be to dismantle the door and get that sticker? I don’t want to find out.