Actually we adapted quite well. When our youngest daughter came home from her first year of college, she couldn’t find a summer job right away. Hubby suggested she brew up some coffee and see if she could sell it to people waiting in line for the morning ferry. “Just until you find something permanent.” Her company Quayside Coffee became a fixture at the south end ferry dock for nine years.
She brewed the coffee at home at about four in the morning, emptied it into pump pots and took the coffee with cream, cocoa, tea, cups and lids down to the ferry dock at about five-thirty in the morning. She had a red Radio Flyer wagon that she hauled in the back seat of the car to carry all her supplies up the hill from the dock to the end of the line of cars waiting for the next boat.
When my daughter went back to college in the fall, I took over the business because it proved way too lucrative to just drop, and I had two daughters in college. We’d determined that being outdoors in all weather in the Pacific Northwest required special clothing. We had wool pants, heavy shoes, a wool sweater and, in particularly foul weather, a raincoat under a reflective vest. Since we were the same size, we only needed one set of the coffee-lady clothes. Customers recognized the clothes and wagon in the dark and some may never have known that more than one person ran the business.
Walking in the dark, under the stars up the hill and waiting for the next customer to arrive in their car at the end of the line felt extremely peaceful. Doing the job in the rain was just miserable. We persevered. Sometimes to keep ourselves from falling asleep waiting for the next batch of customers we’d play fairy queen on a quest, imagining ourselves accompanying Frodo on his way to Mordor. After all that’s what people do under the stars.
My favorite and most memorable pastime was making up songs to tell the story of our business. My daughter a musician and sometime actress had dance steps for some of her songs. Thus, she and I became the very first opera company on Vashon Island.
Two boats alternated serving our ferry dock at that time. Usually, we had a smallish boat named the Hiyu. My favorite song of those I wrote was about the Hiyu and must be sung with a French accent.
La Bateau Hiyu
I remember the days of the Hiyu
When the boat, Ahhh, she overload
And I have my own little café
Le café a cote de la road.
The people they are stranded on the island
They have no place they can go
I serve them the coffee and laughter
From le café a cote de la rue
I love my own little café
Where I serve the coffee I brew
So I sing about selling la chocolate
From the café a cote de la rue
May God bless la bateau la Hiyu
She leave so many behind
But how can the people be angry
When they love ma petite café
When we all love ma petite cafe
La café a cote de la rue.
I think I fit in well with Vashon Weird.
Of course, life is never all singing and dancing. The business had a darker side, other than the fact that the sun was never up. I frequently killed the coffee lady. At the time, I was doing some advisory work and advocacy in the state capital. On mornings when I needed to be in Olympia, I’d pack the wagon and supplies back in the car and follow my customers onto the boat. As the coffee lady, I’d carry my garment bag up to the upper deck and into the ladies restroom. There I would transform into the social psychologist and pack the coffee lady away into the garment bag emerging in a business suit, stockings, heels, make-up and neatly coifed hair. For reasons I don’t understand the social psychologist always struggled to avoid throwing the bundle of clothing representing the coffee lady overboard.
The transformation between my two personas shocked my system somehow. The beloved coffee lady was respected and greeted warmly. Let’s face it, government officials were not happy when the social psychologist showed up to tell them what is what and that any other options were morally bankrupt. So, why did I always feel like I’d killed the coffee lady and should dispose of her remains overboard? Perhaps the social psychologist was a bit jealous of the coffee lady’s wealth and popularity.
For more Island Life humor, visit The Write Room. My story, Island Life: Mountain Lion is posted there. http://www.thewriteroomblog.com/