My grumbles with the WSF reservation system | Reporter’s notebook

Reflecting on the WSF ferry reservation system.

I’ve only left the island once since I came to San Juan in May.

When I did, and arrived by car back at the Anacortes ferry terminal, the attendant told me the price with a smile. My eyes widened and my mouth sputtered a shrieking “What?!” before I quickly handed her the funds, averting my eyes as to not direct my outrage at her.

The shock of a $65 ticket to get back home was enough to deter me from leaving the island again. Ever.

Since then I’ve sold my car and adopted a bicycle. Although I no longer have the convenience of a car for off-island road trips, I’ve gained the privilege of never having to pay that ghastly price again. I can travel between islands for free, and to and from the mainland for a mere $12.

Although the new ferry reservation system doesn’t affect me really at all, I decided to register for an account just for the fun of it, and to determine whether the new system will be as easy as WSF claims.

The first problem arose when it was time to come up with a password. Despite the generation I belong to, I’m not technology savvy (for some reason old people always ask me to help them with computer problems and even when I try to tell them that I probably know just as little as they do, they insist upon my help, leaving us both frustrated), and I’m no good at cracking codes.

If I could have the same password I’ve had since I was 13, I would. But WSF wouldn’t let me. It said, “too short,” “not strong enough.”

I needed non-alphabetical orders of letters, some capitalized and some not. I begrudgingly typed in “I don’t want to do this” with some cache of numbers. I swore I was going to have to submit some unique hieroglyphic symbol or my fingerprint to gain access, but the computer was finally satisfied.

Then it required an address (uhm, I live on a boat). My mind immediately went to that place of disdain. To get a bank account, a post office box, or a state license you need a physical address. As a world traveler and now Salish Sea sailor, I don’t have the type of address these organizations are looking for. I’m not a vagrant, I just don’t live permanently in a house, and I don’t want to.

I typed in my office address. Crisis averted.

Next requirement was a phone number. Easy, my cellphone.

Nope, not easy. A home phone or work phone was necessary.

First question, does anyone even have a land-line anymore? Why would WSF need to call me? And if they did need to call to let me know about a change in schedule, I’m probably on my way to the ferry, not at home or at work to get their call. I type in the office phone number just so I can move on.

Then I’m asked if I want email or mobile alerts. I don’t want any alerts, but I see this is required. I chose mobile, as I don’t have a smartphone and couldn’t receive email in case of delays if I were en route. I enter my cell number and that’s that.

Then I pick my security question and chose the answers (probably the easiest part of the ordeal), and click “I agree to the terms and conditions.” I haven’t read them, but at this point I just want this whole ordeal to be over with (who reads those things anyway).

I activate my account, hope I’ve written my uncrackable password down somewhere, and breathe a sigh of relief that I never have to use this system.

However, I’m biased. I don’t use Facebook because the interface changes too often, my blogs have never taken off because I refuse to use social media as a marketing tool, and it took me weeks to actually take the time and sign up for a Paypal account when I had to deal with some online transactions.

At the end of the day, I live under a rock and this system wasn’t designed for people like me who resist signing up for anything, but for you it might just be the answer to your long-ferry-line woes.