Cell phone would have solved problems of the ferryboat caper

Had my pen name been O. Henry, I couldn’t have dreamed up a more convoluted plot than the ferryboat caper.

And, had I been looking for an advertising gimmick on the value of cell phones, I might have won the Clio award by telling the true story about the whole mixed-up affair.

This mishmash happened recently when I went to renew a friendship with a former Grand Junction resident whom I hadn’t seen in 40 or so years.

Carol Dart Seuferer of Berkeley, the daughter of former Grand Junction residents Betty (Morse) Dart and the late Don Dart, was a small child in Grand Junction during World War II and had visited relatives there occasionally after she left. I grew up in Grand Junction with her mother, who lives in Orange, Calif., and her two aunts, the late Ellen Harding of Littleton and the late Mary Dameron of Fresno, Calif.

When Carol called my Marin County, Calif., home to see if we could get together, we agreed to meet at the Larkspur Ferry about 15 miles away and go to San Francisco for lunch.

I thought we had agreed to meet for the 10:10 a.m. ferry, but Carol thought we were meeting for the 9:15 a.m. ferry. Our only concessions to the fact that we hadn’t seen each other for many years was that she said she would be driving a purplish brown car and I told her I would be wearing a black-and-white tweed belted cape.

I had placed her cell phone number on the counter near an entrance, planning to pick it up as I left. But something distracted me, and I left without it. After driving one block, I remembered I didn’t have her cell number and hadn’t given her mine. I was a bit worried about traffic along heavily used Highway 101. On normal days, the drive to the ferry takes about 15 minutes, but the highway is capricious, and it once took me 45 minutes to drive nine miles in backed-up traffic. So, I reasoned that I had never before needed the cell to check on a friend.

I have often taken the 10:10 a.m. ferry and have always been able to find a spot in the parking lot. But gasoline prices and expensive San Francisco parking lots had evidently changed many minds. The lot was full before 9:45 a.m., with a sign indicating that additional cars should park at the Airporter lot.

At least there was parking available, except that the lower part of that lot, a good two blocks away, was also full. That meant driving up a narrow graveled road to the top of a hill, carefully picking my way back down, crossing busy Sir Frances Drake Boulevard, and fighting outgoing cars as I walked up the road to the ferry.

It was now 10 a.m., the ferry was loading, and nobody gave me a second glance. I caught sight of a woman who appeared to be looking for someone and tentatively called “Carol?” a couple of times. When she stared at me as if I were approaching her for a handout, I decided it wasn’t Carol.

I asked the ferry attendant how long I had. Because of the parking situation, he said the ferry was delaying departure. I had several minutes. He agreed to page Carol over the loudspeaker.

Carol was paged, but nobody responded, so the attendant told me to either get off so they could close the gates or take the 30-minute ride to San Francisco. I decided to get off and wait for the next ferry, 45 minutes later.

As I waited at the entrance, another employee came up and asked if I was looking for someone. When I said I was, he said hesitantly: “Now I’m not saying it was your friend, but there was a lady here for the 9:15 who told me she was meeting someone she hadn’t seen in 40 years.” He had no idea where she had gone.

By this time I was doubly annoyed at myself for leaving Carol’s cell phone number behind and the fact that I hadn’t bothered to give her my cell number. I waited for a few minutes after the 10:10 ferry had taken off, then walked back to the departure gate, where a woman talking to the same attendant offered her cell phone. I had to admit to her that I had a cell phone but didn’t have a number to call.

Then I raced over to the Airporter lot to pick up my car. Of course, when I got inside my door 20 minutes later, the message center was flashing with two calls from Carol. I first called her cell, got no answer, then her house, then re-called the cell phone. This time, Carol answered. She had boarded the 9:10 ferry at Larkspur, hadn’t seen anybody who was wearing a black-and-white cape, was afraid she had missed me, debarked the boat and drove to San Francisco to meet the ferry there. She was still wandering around the San Francisco ferry area trying to decide what to do.

Plan A hadn’t worked so we settled on a Plan B: She would return to Marin County, I would drive back to the ferry, and we would meet in the nearby mall parking lot. I remembered to give her my cell number, but when I left my house a second time, I once more left hers on the counter. At least, I reasoned, she could call me.

This time the plan worked. I stood beside my car in the area where we had agreed to meet, waited 10 or 15 minutes, and saw a car which fitted her description at the same time she saw my cape.

We found a restaurant. Never mind that it wasn’t the glamorous, touristy city restaurant that we had envisioned. Finally, two long-time friends — now almost complete strangers — had managed to find each other, and we spent the next two hours renewing memories.

Mary Louise Giblin Henderson is a former political reporter for The Daily Sentinel who now lives in California.


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