A Washington State Ferry Tale Experience

As a new-ish Washington State resident, I’ve recently discovered that I have options when traveling to the most menial destination. When I learned that I could either drive or take a ferry to Seattle, I was perplexed by this either/or choice. Who wants to sit inside a car when I can shave off 30 minutes and experience travel by ferry? This travel option is both intriguing, in a romantic swashbuckling fairy-tale sort of way, and a little intimidating in an unknown new experience sort of way.

Movement from one body of land to another by way of a large water-bound vessel conjures wonder and excitement, especially when you’re me and your travel amounts to planes, trains and automobiles. But yet many Washington State residents travel to and from work via ferry with the same regularity as people who live on the East Coast commute via the subway.  But we’re not talking leaving your car behind and boarding BART or Light-rail. We’re talking driving a vehicle onto a ferry and driving it off.

View once boarded the ferry parking terminal. Many remain inside their car.

The first time I traveled by ferry was when my husband and I went to Seattle. We drove to the Bainbridge Island terminal in order to take a ferry directly in to Downtown Seattle.  A safety-flag carrying attendant directed us to a line where we  would wait for the next ferry. We then joined hundreds of other vehicles into our designated lane. So seamless is the transition from parking to sailing, if you remain in your vehicle you may not even realize once the ferry has departed.

Since it’s about a 30 minute trip, riders have the option of staying inside their vehicles or vacating them to enter the main deck. After climbing two flights of stairs, I entered the main deck where I was rather taken aback by what I saw.  I was not expecting to see built in Winnebago style tables and plastic benches next to the windows along with a cafeteria complete with two people working cash registers.

 

I love how even the kiosks are adorned with artwork

The cafeteria fare consisted of canned soups heated inside institutional steel containers (the kind with the hole on top of the lid for the ladle), a popcorn and soft pretzel heated unit, an assortment of tea, hot chocolate, coffee and a plethora of overpriced convenience store-looking packaged sandwiches and snacks.

Salt to settle your motion sickness?

The workers are friendly and it’s nice to have a little cafeteria instead of vending machines. After I purchased a cup of soup I walked around the retro strictly functional interior where I observed travelers playing cards, board games brought from home or reading books.They even sell playing cards inside the cafeteria.

How cool is this the concessions store sells playing cards? Go Fish!

Some travelers bring a travel pillow and curl up on a bench to nap.  One family brought  along their lunch to dine at one of the many window booths. Best part is, every seat has a view.

Up yet another flight of stairs, the open-air deck offers breathtaking views from every vantage point.

Rows of benches where passengers can enjoy the view

 

An array of idyllic homes on Bainbridge Island

The return trip from Seattle to Bainbridge Island cost more than the reverse trip.  But unlike Bainbridge Island, Seattle offered more appealing pre-boarding concessions. Once you pay and park, depending on how much time you have prior to boarding the ferry, you can leave your car and enter a “mini-mall” just for ferry travelers. There’s a wine-bar, an espresso place, a Subway and a taqueria . It’s all so bizarre and funky but yet perfectly appropriate. An announcement alerts travelers when it’s time to board the ferry. Thanks to the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) app, I can determine whether this makes sense for me depending on my time frame.  I can view the number of spaces remaining and time it just right so that I can pay and drive on the ferry just before it departs. http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/

I imagine my ferry fascination will gradually wane over time just like everything else. The beautiful thing is unless one is traveling to a nearby island like Whidbey, transportation by ferry is not required, it’s an option. Just like taking the bus. But if I have all the time in the world and wish to take in the Washington State vibe, let the wind run through my hair while gazing down below at the chilly and often choppy waters, the ferry can be both therapeutic and enjoyable.

Approaching Seattle!

“Welcome to Sequim,” says everyone!

I recently moved from San Jose, CA; the city I grew up and lived most of my life, to Sequim Washington.

First things first:

1) It’s Sequim, pronounced  “Skwim” not Sek-wim. One syllable, not two.

2) I’ve relocated. Not retired, though Sequim does seem to attract a lot of retirees.

3) I’m finding that Washington State means different things to different people. I live on the Olympic Peninsula, not in Seattle.

Sequim has over 60 small businesses within its six square block area. We have Costco, Walmart, and a few other big-box type stores and a dozen or so restaurants ranging from diners to gourmet fare. The downtown features purple park benches with matching purple trash receptacles, fresh flowers hanging in artful arrangements downtown and purple bike-shaped bike racks.  The Clallam County seat, Port Angeles is about 17 miles away and possesses a cleverly and beautifully stated slogan  “Where the Mountains Meet the Sea” The same is true here in Sequim but unlike Port Angeles, we have a smaller population, less rain and more sunny days.

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Downtown Sequim

Some observations:

1) Unlike the Bay Area, where there are clearly defined areas of affluence; there seem to be less divisions here in Sequim. Perhaps this boils down to population alone, I’m not sure. But even in what might be regarded as a more pricey area, you can still find moderate housing. For example there are pricey areas near the water but at the same time, you can find a less expensive home. In the 17 months I’ve been here, I’ve yet to come across what appears to be an undesirable area. There are good areas, even great areas, but not sketchy ones.

 2) People go out of their way to smile and say hello. I can’t pump fuel at Costco without someone greeting me and striking up a conversation.  It’s as though the residents of Sequim are more concerned with offending their neighbors by not greeting them. I can’t walk my dog in my neighborhood without a car passing me by and waving. I no longer have to aggressively speed up to change lanes on the highway. I simply turn my signal on and people let me in. It’s not Stepford, it’s Sequim. And it’s refreshing.
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Sweet couple shopping at our very uncrowded Costco

3) Here in Sequim I daily witness aesthetic beauty which has provided a contentment I’ve never quite experienced. As a runner, I’m continually mesmerized by the theater of nature as I explore new paths on new roads. Sometimes it’s a wooded forest or sometimes it’s the combination of the vast open sky and the changing colors of the trees. It’s hard to not stop in my winded tracks and gaze toward the snow-capped mountain ranges and not be overtaken by the beauty. I wonder if I will eventually grow bored of all this nature the same way I got bored of the visual appeal of Santana Row or the Winchester Mystery House.  But in talking with people who’ve lived here for years I’ve learned that the natural beauty we experience here is not the sort of thing people tire of. I guess it explains why the Sequim Facebook page is comprised almost entirely of beautiful images that people post of everyday observations. I can’t help but wonder if living among and within this environment actually contributes to a happier populous whose friendly hello’s are nothing more than a natural outflow of their contentment.

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Dungeness Park trail leading out to the water

4) I’ve heard it a number of times but “Everyone here is from somewhere else.” Translation: This isn’t a cliquey town. Sequim is a place where the residents delight to know where you’re from not so they can judge you, because they too, are from another place. And their response is always the same: Welcome to Sequim.

Why Sequim?

Sequim is located in the Northwestern region of Washington State on The Olympic Peninsula. So north, in fact that on a clear day you can look across the Strait of Juan DeFuca and see Victoria, Canada. Better news? With a Washington State Enhanced Drivers License you can drive 25 minutes West into Port Angeles and take a 90 minute ferry to Victoria and return the same day.

rain-shadow

What is unique about Sequim is it’s location in the Rainshadow of the Olympic mountain range. Sequim averages about 16 inches of rain annually and enough sun to have earned the nickname, “Sunny Sequim.” I’d read about this Rainshadow effect with mild skepticism before experiencing it for myself.  It is not unusual to enter Sequim from several nearby destinations like Port Townsend, Poulsbo, Silverdale or Bainbridge Island and find yourself reaching for the windshield wipers-to turn them off! Don’t get me wrong, we experience rain in Sequim. But just enough to keep everything green while enjoying a lot of sunny days.

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Photos taken in Bell Hill, a  Sequim subdivision that overlooks Sequim Bay

Another remarkable feature of Sequim is its astonishing natural beauty. It’s not uncommon to see cars pulling over so that amateur photographers like me can ambitiously try to capture the perfect scene. Whether it’s a sunrise, a deer, a rainbow or snow-capped mountain; many Sequim residents strive to be Ansel Adams with a smartphone. The Sequim Facebook page demonstrates this by the abundance of photos residents often  posts usually followed with several Likes. Think about it, what city-themed Facebook page exists almost entirely of jaw-droppingly gorgeous photos posted by its residents? There’s a certain amount of contentment derived from not only viewing such photos, but reading comments like, “Aren’t we lucky to live in such a beautiful place?” Indeed.

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Railroad Bridge Park which runs along the Olympic Discovery Trail

The Five Worst Emails (that I’m no longer sending!)

One of my favorite LinkedIn writers is Jeff Haden who recently posted a blog by Dr. Travis Bradbury. It was called Five Emails You Send Every Day. Dr. Bradbury nailed it! He inspired me to create my own list albeit while simultaneously incorporating some of his brilliant thoughts.

Email success amounts to certainty my written communication is received in the spirit intended. Ironically the less words I use, the greater likelihood I have of ensuring that. When it comes to writing bad emails, I have the misfortune of being able to speak more authoritatively than I’m proud to say since I have penned a number of them and have experienced the fallout.

As the result of many forehead slaps, I present The Five Worst Emails That I’m no Longer Sending:

1) Replying with overly brief responses. Brevity is my friend most of the time except when responding to someone else’s long-winded email. As much as I’d like to reply “Confirmed,” I have found that doing so can be misinterpreted as rudeness. Simply appending my brief remark with  “Thanks for taking the time to share this” has the effect of acknowledging the verbosity while taking advantage of the luxury of being succinct.

2) Reply All. I have one rule: Only do so when express permission is requested by the Sender. This almost never happens, therefore it’s rarely warranted. Expressing “Thanks!” to a group message is rarely worth the bother.

 

3) Reply All Without Permission, aka Reply All’s Evil Sibling. This is the email that you send to one person without anticipating the recipient will forward your email to a group of others without your permission.  Now a potentially hastily and sloppy communication is out there for all to see and scrutinize despite your having intended it for one person only. There’s nothing worse than reading your own privately intended communication with your colleagues cc’d because someone was too lazy to paraphrase.

4) Embellishing the written word. This includes bold font, or scripted font, emoticons, or worst of all varying font colors. Say what you have to say and be succinct. Fancy or flashing fonts-detract from the message. And although the author of the famous quote is attributed to many, the message is relevant and timeless, “If I had more time I would have written a shorter letter.”

5) Urgent Emails. Isn’t that an oxymoron? If it’s urgent, pick up the phone or text the message. Nothing worse than finally opening email at the end of a busy day only to discover you missed you missed the emergency.

Do Actions Follow Feelings or do Feelings Follow Actions?

I’ve just finished Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People” and must publicly thank my favorite sales trainer, Jeffrey Gitomer for the recommendation. I only wish I’d have read Dale Carnegie when I was younger. I attended a sales rally years ago with my former company where Jeffrey Gitomer stated that if you only read one sales book, to read that one.

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Jeffrey Gitomer and me

As I read more of Dale Carnegie’s books, I find that he frequently quotes Dr. William James, philosopher and psychologist. Mr. Carnegie cites one particular quote in “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living” that has such positive implications:

William James said “Action seems to follow feeling, but really action and feeling seem to go together; and by regulating the action, which is under the more direct control of the will, we can indirectly regulate the feeling, which is not.”

Dale Carnegie summarized James’ quote “In other words William James tells us that we cannot instantly change our emotions ‘just by making up our minds to’–but we can change our actions. And that when we change our actions we change our feelings.”

Although this may initially seem somewhat counter-intuitive, there is considerable wisdom lurking within the above statements by both men.  They’re not touting the popular “Change your thoughts change your reality” wisdom. What they are saying is that we can much more easily control our actions than our feelings.  By effecting our actions, even if simply going through the motions, we can practically conjure up the anticipated feeling.

To cite only a few examples of this I will reflect on my own experiences. I’ve been a runner for most of my life but it’s so easy to come up with excuses not to run. If I think about it too much, I’ll never run. But if I simply change into my running attire and lace up my shoes, I’m a lot more inclined to actually do it. Why? Because every time I go through those motions, my body remembers and responds. My desire to complete the task increases. I’m not sure how or why this metamorphosis takes place but it would seem that my mindset transitions as a result of my actions. Did my thoughts cause me to feel like running? No way. Did the action of suiting up? Maybe not directly, but as William James suggests, perhaps indirectly.

But this wisdom is not only limited to exercise, it can also be directed in other areas of life. Like helping one cope with depression and grief. Years ago I heard radio talk show therapist Dr. Laura Schlessinger counsel a caller who was having difficulty moving beyond the death of a loved one, Dr. Laura’s advice was to begin engaging in an activity focused on others by volunteering at a senior center or at a homeless shelter. Dr. Laura knew that if this woman went through the motions of a positive action focused on others, she would gradually immerse herself in the activity. Focusing on the activity would help remove the focus on herself and her own sadness. Notice Dr.Laura didn’t tell her to think happy thoughts so that she would feel better, but rather the exact reverse. If she engaged in the positive action, the desired mental state would follow.

When I wake up in the morning I have my coffee then shower. After completing those two tasks I’m much more enthusiastic about starting my day than when I was languishing in my bed.  This strategy even works when I’m in a bad mood. In an effort to bring myself out of the bad mood, I’ll intentionally go through the same motions I would normally undergo when I’m feeling happy. I’ll greet people with a friendly “Good morning,” I’ll smile when I don’t necessarily feel like doing so. This is not being insincere, it’s simply drawing on previous behaviors in an effort to conjure up an improved frame of mind. Then almost in response, my mood will have shifted.

I imagine there is a scientific explanation-perhaps it’s simply that our habits have trained our brains how to respond.  And I’m not suggesting this is a foolproof method for curing all of our woes. But it is a practical technique worthy of implementation.  Two great thinkers, Dr. William James and Dale Carnegie recognized that actions precede feelings many decades ago. I’m glad they did because in my experience, it’s a lot easier to modify our actions than it is to modify or change our thoughts.

Applying the Principles of Dale Carnegie to Help Maximize Problem-solving

I’ve heard about Dale Carnegie my whole life since my dad, a retired real estate broker, frequently referred to him. In “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living” I was particularly struck by the simplicity of Chapter 5. It  deals with worrying about “problems.”  Dale Carnegie’s instructions for tackling problems are succinctly asked:

1)  What is the problem?

2) What is the cause of the problem?

3) What are the possible solutions to the problem?

4) What solution do you suggest?

Mr. Carnegie no doubt intended for this check-list to be used to help deal with worry and anxiety. But the more I thought about it, the more I discovered that this approach can also be preventatively applied before burdening others with so called “problems.” When bringing forth any kind of problem-either to my manager, to my spouse, to my children or my pastor; addressing these 4 questions ensures a more positive outcome.

If I were a manager, I think I would appreciate if an employee addressed these questions before coming to me with their issues. Why? Because simply identifying a problem is easy. To a manager, however, it can be perceived as complaining or worse “whining.” The employee who complains without offering  a solution, risks the possibility of becoming a reminder of the problem.  Who wants to be associated with what’s wrong with the company? But to identify a problem; explain what you believe to be its cause; identify some potential solutions and then to finally offer the best solution can actually help management solve the problem.

Additionally, the complaining-only approach risks that management will impose their own solution. Remember, it’s the job of managers to resolve problems in the workplace lest the problem interfere with productivity.  But management doesn’t always have the insight that an employee most affected by the problem has and to entrust them to operate with the necessary facts to come up with the best solution is risky.  Their “solution” could be as undesirable or worse than the problem.  An employee who offers suggestions to the problem, at minimum helps management come up with the best fix and can thereby can be seen as a problem solver.

This checklist to problem solving is useful in all areas of life.  To go through the effort of bringing forth a problem should always have a positive solution appended to it.   To do otherwise can be construed as complaining.