Slog News & Arts

Line Out

Music & Nightlife

« I Secretly Love the Fascist Fu... | All Hail Darren D. Misklashuva... »

Friday, September 28, 2007

Asssignment: Yell at the Ducks

posted by on September 28 at 9:35 AM

Jessica, a young Seattle woman, can’t stand the Ducks.

Jessica spent this summer cursing the Ducks under her breath as she waited for her bus near Westlake Center. It’s not just the passengers’ quacking that pisses her off, but also the way the Ducks’ tour guides casually comment on the Seattleites they pass, noting how they dress, what they’re eating, which bus they’re waiting for. Jessica wanted someone with a louder and more obnoxious voice to shout back at the Ducks.

I met Jessica on the corner of 4th and Pike on a sunny Sunday afternoon. She’d bought me a foot-long yellow bull horn at Daiso, the Japanese superstore in the basement of Westlake Center. She handed it to me, and we scanned the street for the next Duck. We waited about five minutes before the first one appeared. As the Duck began to approach us, something snapped. Well, someone. Jessica went batshit.


“Your families don’t look like they’re having very much fun!” she yelled at the tourists. Then she looked at me and said, “Aren’t you going to yell!? That’s why you’re here! To help me yell!”

I did not share Jessica’s anger. To me, the Ducks are a minor annoyance; a kitschy Seattle tourist attraction I’ve never recommended to guests. They don’t make my blood boil. Jessica tried to make me angry. She sang the “Low Rider” song that blasts from every passing Duck. I had to agree with her; the song was irritating. Then she started to feed me some lines. She recommended, “Stop looking at us! You’re not in Disneyland!”, which I shouted. I followed up with, “Show us your boobs!”


Yelling into the Daiso bull horn made me look a bit like a raving downtown schizophrenic.


As I began to practice my yell, people across the street stared at me with anxiety. Fifteen minutes later two Ducks appeared simultaneously. They were driving fast! I yelled “stop looking at us!” and the crowd on the bus cheered. I don’t think they understood I was trying to be a jerk. Jessica bristled. We waited for more Ducks. Finally another one came and I yelled the same command. The tour guide on the bus called back to me and said “You don’t need to salute me sir, I’m just a boat captain…at ease.”

I thought it was a pretty good quip for such short notice and I wondered if he’d been tipped off by other Ducks’ drivers. Of course, Jessica didn’t appreciate it.

We took a couple pictures of the passengers. One lady looked shocked.

Here’s an embarrassingly unfunny video we made:

Seattle’s eleven Ducks, which travel the Space Needle, Pioneer Square, and Fremont, have been in operation since 1998. The ducks operate all year long, although the company cuts back on days in the Winter. Right now ducks depart from the Space Needle six to eight times a day, seven days a week.

After the assignment I did some research on the company. According to the P-I, a Seattle duck sank in Lake Union in 2001 after passengers were evacuated. This was just two years after a duck owned by another company sank in Hot Springs Arkansas, killing 13 of the 20 on board. The U.S. Coast Guard wrote in a report that the boat took just 30 SECONDS to sink after the captain realized it was in distress. Just like that. Plop.

I called the company to see whether they had anything to say about either sinking. Ten minutes later, I was talking to Brian Tracey, the owner of the Seattle Ride the Ducks.

Tracey told me the Seattle boats share little mechanically with the duck that sank in Arkansas. He was also quick to insist that the Seattle boats have been modified since the Lake Union sinking. “They’re even bullet proof!” he told me.

I told him about my assignment. Tracey laughed. He offered to meet with Jessica and told me he was surprised that she—and by extension, all the citizens of Seattle—didn’t enjoy interacting with the ducks.

“Most people in Seattle love the ducks,” he told me. “Some people even dance on the street when they go by.” His cluelessness was adorable.

Tracey told me he thought a ride on the ducks would make Jessica a convert (uhhh no). When I told him I wasn’t sure if she’d be interested, Tracey told me, “some women are just pissed off at everything and can’t stand people having fun.”

Steven Blum
Public Intern

RSS icon Comments


Whoa, spell check.

Posted by Mr. Poe | September 28, 2007 9:40 AM

I fucking HATE the goddamn ducks (and by extension, their operators, passengers, and this deluded Brian Tracey asshole). I would sink them all myself if I had the proper tools. Your next assignment should be to test Tracey's claim that the ducks are bulletproof - you wouldn't have to do anything, just stand there and watch me shoot at them. I feel nothing but empathy for this Jessica gal. I feel nothing but contempt for these asshat "boat captains" who mock me to amuse some fat midwestern tourists.

Posted by Hernandez | September 28, 2007 9:45 AM

Best closing line ever.

Posted by seattle98104 | September 28, 2007 9:48 AM

ditto #3


Posted by monkey | September 28, 2007 9:51 AM

Jessica is kinda hot. I'd yell shit from her bullhorn any day.

Posted by Mike in MO | September 28, 2007 9:51 AM

I, too, hate the ducks. Whenever they pass me on the street and do some sort of stupid cheer, they get the scowl and usually, a finger.

The worst is when they make appearances by Gasworks Park. Gee, thanks for ruining my day, duck.

Of course, I'm anti-monorail and Space Needle, too, so I must be crazy

Posted by another hater | September 28, 2007 9:51 AM

Screaming at Ducks. Hysterical. I love the public intern.

Posted by Michigan Matt | September 28, 2007 9:51 AM

Wait a minute. What's this Japanese superstore?

Posted by Gitai | September 28, 2007 9:52 AM

Having actually been forced to ride a Duck when my father visited a few years back (he's completely into the whole wacky tourist schtick, having worked in the hospitality industry in SF, LA & Tahoe most of his adult life), it really wasn't that bad - probably much less obnoxious from inside the Duck than from outside.

The drivers are personable, high-energy, full-to-bursting with the sort of mundane trivia and anecdotes you'd expect. But on the other hand, the trip into Lake Union is sort of a nice extra feature (although I can do that any day of the week myself), and clearly the out-of-towners get a big kick out of the experience, regardless of whether they purchase those stupid "quackers" (we didn't.)

Besides, apparently these things exist in just about every major city in the U.S. adjacent to a large body of water, so I've little doubt there are lots and lots of Jessica's out there across the country; maybe they should go online and start a virtual support group or something.

Posted by COMTE | September 28, 2007 9:52 AM

“some women are just pissed off at everything and can’t stand people having fun.”

True. Take Charles Mudede for example.

Posted by no dope | September 28, 2007 9:52 AM

What's the big deal with the freakin' Ducks? People who hate the ducks with such venom are typical, boring, hipster-cynical asses who deserve to be mocked at every turn. Lighten the hell up. You're really not that cool.

Posted by Eat it, Haters | September 28, 2007 9:53 AM

BTW. How is something that has no windows bullet proof?

Posted by seattle98104 | September 28, 2007 9:54 AM

the ducks dont play the huskies until next week.

Posted by SeMe | September 28, 2007 9:55 AM

@11 - I'm certainly not a hipster or a cynic. The damn things just rub me the wrong way, for whatever reason. Maybe some repressed duck-related childhood trauma or something.

Posted by Hernandez | September 28, 2007 9:57 AM
Posted by maria | September 28, 2007 9:59 AM

She may be pissed at everything and can't stand others having fun, but she's hot!

Posted by I Heart Jessica | September 28, 2007 10:01 AM

I LOVE the ducks! And it always brightens my day to see them. I wave. I enjoy the quacking and think it benefits the city to have tourists see more than Pike Place Market.

Posted by mirror | September 28, 2007 10:04 AM

Public intern, you are awesome. Are you available for out of town projects? I need help painting my all-ages venue.

Posted by Kevin | September 28, 2007 10:04 AM

Yeah...I couldn't care less about the Ducks. But, to get worked up about them, as though it's something one SHOULD care about? Reminds me of how the right-wing lather themselves into a tizzy over shit that doesn't have any bearing over their lives.

If you "hate" the ducks? You probably need to chill out and prioritize your life a bit.

Posted by Timothy | September 28, 2007 10:08 AM

this just kind of highlights the ridiculousness of the duck haters-

a bunch of people having fun in an amphibious vehicle drive by...

someone with a loudspeaker is poised and ready to defend against the high energy tourist vibe..

he cries out for freedom! for an end to oppression! for an end to the invasion!!!

"stop looking at us"

Can't we think of something else to protest?

Posted by Cale | September 28, 2007 10:11 AM

They have Ducks in Philadelphia too, you know: nowhere is safe anymore.

Posted by BB | September 28, 2007 10:15 AM


I second the call for spell check.

Public Intern, spelling is not one of your strengths and you should probably remember that.

Literacy is cool, kids.

Posted by B | September 28, 2007 10:15 AM

Le Canard Non!

Posted by Eightway | September 28, 2007 10:17 AM

Love the ducks. I usually wave at the tourists, just for shits and giggles. I have also mooned the ducks on a number of occasions. The tourists always get a kick out of that.

What kind of person is bothered so much that they actively hate the duck?

Get a fucking life.

Some people are just never happy.

Posted by Rotten666 | September 28, 2007 10:20 AM

well, when they go by, you only see them at that time. and since it's the same part of the tour, you always hear the same song. it can be a little annoying.

in addition, they treat seattleites like we are animals in a zoo... or maybe a wildlife refuge. only, at a wildlife refuge the jeep isn't usually blaring loud music and commenting on a loudspeaker about the animals clothing.

unfortunately, this slog might just encourage more people to ride the ducks... to see jessica.

Posted by infrequent | September 28, 2007 10:21 AM

This is fine work, Blum! Fine work!

I love that the photo below the "Show us your boobs" line is almost of cubist representation of a) a bullhorned young man and b) the response from the object of his desire. Time and space collapsed, etc. Charles, you do better at this kind of thing. Take it away.

Posted by MvB | September 28, 2007 10:25 AM

Once I saw Brian Tracey doing a location shoot at Westlake when he was co-host of Evening Magazine. When they took a break, the co-host and the crew made him go get the coffee.

Posted by pox | September 28, 2007 10:31 AM

Where do you find these pretty Barbie and Ken people?

Lives obsessing with trivia - no wonder the Fascist Takeover is under way as we post ... the next war, two already in the killing every day phase, in planning. Most freedoms in the tank.

Cutie Intern male, cannon fodder, will die in a war. Cutie girl/lady will have her womb ruled by the state.

Oh, but tourist revenue, the GREENEST dollars we earn, are to be mocked.

Geez - Louise. I love the ducks. Creative, recycled vehicles, looks like something Dan would drive on the beach, loaded with his kids and the editorial twits who allow stuff like this to be published at the Stranger.

Parting thought -And it is New Your or Chicago rude - not Seattle style at all - to yell at people who are guests in your city.

Posted by Marty | September 28, 2007 10:32 AM

I work in the tourist industry now and the ducks annoy me slightly less when i realized tourism is important to the Seattle area, beyond what I imagined.

Still though, do they have to play the music so loud?

Posted by Bellevue Ave | September 28, 2007 10:33 AM

I think this is my favorite Public Intern job yet.

Oh, and @10 - FTW!

Posted by genevieve | September 28, 2007 10:38 AM

YEAH PUBLIC INTERN!!!! I work near Westlake and I HATE the ducks, and hell I HATE all the FUCKING tourists that are downtown!!! (Ever notice how many red staters we get in Seattle?)

Here is something fun to do though. A SUV from Idaho with an older couple (Bush/Cheney bumper stickers included) pulled up beside me and asked for a nice little bar to go to on a Friday night. I suggested the Eagle hoping beyond hope it was a red hanky night.

I hate the Ducks, and I hate tourists!! GRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!

Posted by Cato the Younger Younger | September 28, 2007 10:39 AM

Public Intern you are so totally cute. Could you come to my next party and just stand and model in a pair of small, tight cutoffs?

Posted by John | September 28, 2007 10:39 AM

Second that: Jessica's hot, I'd yodel into her bullhorn any day.

Oh, and a p.s.- I enjoyed flipping off a crowded Duck last summer. Geez, I hate those things too!

*&^%-ing Ducks!

Posted by Dr_Awesome | September 28, 2007 10:41 AM

If either Jessica or Pretty Fag Intern delivered a moon or two in public - they would both be happier

The dates and proposals from Duck riders and cars passing and folks on the side walks - many takers for instant sexual frenzy

Far more interesting story as well

If his bare ass matches his smooth Irish looking face - I can get ten takers right here in my office in ten minutes, complete with gag, wine, weed, beer, lube and good porn, even A LOT OF money. Will screen out Duck riders and drivers.

Signed, Nasty IS More Fun

Posted by adam and partner named steve | September 28, 2007 10:43 AM

I used to live on 5th and Denny, and multiple times a day I would have to hear the drivers of the ducks go by and say "HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!" followed by some asinine song. Worse than dealing with the monorail going by all the time.

Posted by Dylan | September 28, 2007 10:45 AM

As always, great blogings, Steve.

I hope they never hire you for anything more than Public Intern, because nobody could ever do this like you do. I'm sorry to say I hope they never promote you - because We. Need. You.

Posted by Sam | September 28, 2007 10:45 AM

I love the ducks too, even if they get lousy gas mileage.

Posted by Will in Seattle | September 28, 2007 10:49 AM

One of the worst slams anybody made against our town came from a talented Katrina refugee temporarily camped out in Hot Springs. Commenting on being taunted by the Duck driver, she says, "Now the town attracts people by offering them tours of the historical arttractions it has taken such pains to preserve. Another apparent pasttime is the of broadccasting remarks about people on the street over a headset PA system. I learned this today, when walking home from the post office, a tour guide pointed at me and announced to his truck-full of patrons, "Look! A hippie!" Then, adressing me, he said, "The sixties are over, I promise!" The tourists laughed upraoriously.

But he was wrong. The sixties aren't over in Hot Springs. They haven't even happened yet."

Makes me want to yell at the Ducks, too!

Posted by Rebecca | September 28, 2007 10:49 AM

Today's world is almost setup to ensure that everything you type is spell-checked. Even as I type this comment, words like "embarresing" are underlined in red. How do you Strangers manage so frequently to post articles with misspelled words?

Posted by Raindog | September 28, 2007 10:53 AM

I fucking hate the ducks, also. I work in the hospitality industry here, and refer guests to tours all the time, but I would never in a million years send someone to the ducks. They are obnoxious, and usually get the finger from me too.

I love that the owner said they were bullet-proof. Why is this? Because people shot at them in the past? I think so.

Posted by Will | September 28, 2007 10:53 AM

The ducks are mainly just annoying when the drivers put in practice things like the Village People music and the quacking kazoos. If drivers had their way I'm guessing they probably wouldn't play YMCA, but they are required to do so.

I do like the fact that the vehicles are windowless. At a recent bike-related event (no, not Critical Mass), the bike riders and the duck driver (and some duck riders) were able to talk to each other about what was going on. In this day and age of most people enclosed in their A/C-filled high speed metal bubble, it's nice to see type of interaction.

I do like that some of the drivers dish out some good trivia about the neighborhoods that they're passing through. Some of you hipsters could do well to learn about your community beyond the bars.

I don't like how the drivers oversell some of the sights. There's an interesting landmark near me which is only cool looking if you are right in front of it. But some of the Ducks pause at an intersection over two blocks away and point out the site to the riders. You can watch them all extend their necks to get a glimpse of it. That's when I become embarrassed about the ducks.

Posted by stinkbug | September 28, 2007 10:58 AM

I hate the people who hate the Duck-haters.

A Duck once stopped while I was weeding in my front yard, and the whole entrourage shouted in unison, "Looking good!" It made me feel dirty.

Posted by Randy | September 28, 2007 11:08 AM

One time I was having a pretty bad day and was leaned over getting ready to get on my bike. During a quite lull in the traffic I heard a booming voice imply that I was some kind of phony for wearing the clothes I wear and riding the bike I ride. It was a duck and it was filled with strangers who were laughing at me. My bad day had just gotten a little worse.

I also want to mention that tourists spew out a year's worth of carbon in order to fly here in a jet from whatever godforsaken piece of the heartland they came from. Which is not green.

It doesn't surprise me that the owner of that outfit talks like a misogynist frat boy. Or that the other frat boys coming to their defense are too dumb to come up with any better argument "you hate fun" and "get a life."

Posted by elenchos | September 28, 2007 11:10 AM

I think a water gun attack might be in order -- get twenty or thirty people to gather at one duck-plagued corner, and then when the duck comes by... let 'em have it.

Posted by Dan Savage | September 28, 2007 11:15 AM

I think Brian Tracey's last quote about women is baggage from his experience co-hosting Evening Magazine with Penny LeGate.

Posted by Joe M | September 28, 2007 11:18 AM

I consider myself a wry cynic, yet I never understand how it's supposed to be sophisticated to hate everything. You have to be one wretch of a human being to hate something as benign as the ducks. Kinda like the person I met who hated Thanksgiving. How bad does life have to be so that you hate Thanksgiving?

BTW, I run at Myrtle Edwards Park and the Ducks have twice played the Rocky theme music as they drive by me. Is is embarrassing? Sure, let's just say I'm not the most athletic-looking of persons. But instead of mouthing vitriol back, I wave. And I've gotten a loud cheer both times.

Posted by D. | September 28, 2007 11:21 AM

@44 - Dan, that's an amazing plan! Westlake Park is a great spot - you can buy squirt guns at the nearby Bartell's on 4th and Pike. Who's with me?

Posted by Hernandez | September 28, 2007 11:22 AM

I don't care about the duck (I live is San Franisco), but the Public Intern is cute and that's all that matters

Posted by Michael | September 28, 2007 11:27 AM

I'm with you. It's so lucky that "fuck" and "duck" rhyme.

Posted by Amanada | September 28, 2007 11:32 AM

best summertime meal is a pulled pork sandwich from the Rowdy Cowgirl on Stone Way, out on the grass with a PBR. The "duck" comes by every few minutes and you can give them a big fat Thumbs Down while slowly shaking your head No as they ride by. fucking PERFECT!

Posted by PGC | September 28, 2007 11:32 AM
51 stole my artwork and are now selling t-shirts?!? I don't care if you give my artwork away just don't profit off of it that's not cool, in fact it's copyright infringement.

Posted by Marshall | September 28, 2007 11:36 AM

I'm with #32, Public Intern is pretty cute for a "raving downtown schizophrenic"!

Posted by Mickymse | September 28, 2007 11:46 AM

A friend of mine posted a really funny experience he had with the Duck last year:

Posted by susan | September 28, 2007 11:50 AM

Oh my God -- this is the BEST public intern job ever! Steven Blum, I want to buy you a drink -- or an entire night out on the town -- for this one.

Posted by Nandor | September 28, 2007 11:55 AM

When I worked on Stone Way in a shop with floor to ceiling windows the ducks were the bane of my life, mostly due to their tour guides constant commentary about what I was doing . I realize that for the poor, sheltered souls riding the ducks, gawking at us city-folk with our fancy ways must be as exciting as it gets, but do they have to be so loud about it?

Posted by Kb | September 28, 2007 11:56 AM

Wait, Brian Tracey is still alive? I'd always assumed he died in a tragic biplane accident over the scenic Skagit Valley.

Posted by ducksuck | September 28, 2007 12:04 PM

Wow. Attention whore much? Jeez.

BTW, they are claimed to be bulletproof because the vehicles are WWII surplus (DUKW)

Posted by hmm | September 28, 2007 12:12 PM

I do believe they could turn down the music. The songs can be annoying, but so are a lot of things in the city. But that’s what a city is, Full of everything you love AND hate whether you like it or not. Maybe the country life is better for you.

The drivers of the ducks should not belittle people in front of the tourists, especially if you are just trying to work. So I can see why people loathe the ducks.

But comments like # 43 “tourists spew out a year's worth of carbon in order to fly here in a jet” is fucking ridiculous. I guess we will have to ground all planes from now on to stay “green”. Though tourists can be annoying, and produce even more annoying things like the Ducks, They bring Seattle serious $$$.

Posted by fuckaduck | September 28, 2007 12:24 PM

Tourists do bring dollars. Just not green dollars. It is not ridiculous to utterly demolish the claim that tourism is a green industry.

It is ridiculous to use what amounts to a diversity argument to justify something that is crap. The fact that cities have a variety of different things, including some things that are total crap, is not a reason to say we must keep the crap. If the ducks were to go, all the things that make Seattle a good place to be would remain.

Posted by elenchos | September 28, 2007 12:35 PM

The real news here is how cute the public intern is. More pics! More video!

Posted by Mark | September 28, 2007 12:37 PM

In Boise, there's a Tour Train ( No big bodies of water nearby, so no need for Ducks. But the Tour Train is an institution.

There once was a strong "MOON the Tour Train" scene in Boise, if I remember right. At least I remember mooning the tour train a time or two. Good, clean fun.

Seattlites really should start MOONING the Ducks. I rarely get drunk enough during the daytime hours to do much mooning....

And the folks on the Ducks Tour, most will enjoy a full moon in the middle of their tour. I know I would. And if they don't - Fuck 'em. I don't like their kazoos.

(Me - I've got Love-Hate issues with the Ducks. With the Boise Tour-Train, it's more clear: they're Hate-Hate issues, since they have no amphibious skills, which I admire.)

Posted by Chacho | September 28, 2007 12:40 PM

The ducks going through Fremont suck. All the drivers talk about is "the hippies" and "naked bicyclists".

When tour buses used to go through Haight-Ashbury area in the late 60's, people would hold up mirrors so the tourists would see themselves. Maybe we should do something like that.

Posted by Ebenezer | September 28, 2007 12:47 PM

Yet another triumph over evil for the Public Intern.

Posted by superyeadon | September 28, 2007 12:55 PM

My first job ever was working at Pike Place market, where in the summer, the ducks drive by approx. every 5-10 minutes, it seems. Now I work across the street from Gasworks Park, where in the summer, the ducks drive by approx. every 5-10 minutes, it seems.


Posted by Duck Hunting Season? | September 28, 2007 1:18 PM

I think I distinctly heard one of the passengers yelling "your dollar is weak!"

Posted by Touring | September 28, 2007 1:41 PM

Hee hee. I read the headline of this post and expected it to be about yelling at water fowl. That might be funnier.

I lived in Washington, D.C. this summer and there's something like this there, too. People with duck lips that make a quacking sound. Being a University of Oregon student, hearing the duck quackers kind of made me feel at home. The tourists were still irritating, though.

Posted by Jo | September 28, 2007 1:47 PM

you're still cute, Rebecca.

Posted by Will in Seattle | September 28, 2007 2:21 PM

I used to work as a valet at a historic hotel in Baltimore, and we had the same damn ducks there. I actually would yell shit at them as they went past, usually while waving and pretending to smile. I thought they were unique to Baltimore, and I thought I was the only one to hate them.

I am so glad to see I am wrong.

Posted by Me | September 28, 2007 4:36 PM

Keep ranting, grumpy hipsters. Your stereotypical crankiness and lack of sense of humor are landmarks, and help keep the tourist dollars flowing.

Posted by Big Sven | September 29, 2007 2:18 PM

god, i hate fun.

Posted by erin | September 30, 2007 12:49 PM

as a certified hipster who is generally too cynical and jaded to even feel good about leaving the hill, i do have to go downtown to work. i hate the ducks. problem, one driver. fuck me, she is the bane of my existence, (if my friends ever found out i would loose my street cred) she is beautiful and funny and shit, i am a loser. i see her all over the city and even went on her duck, i drug some of my friends on board in an attempt to heckle. instead she told me i had good style and made us all laugh. it sucks. i fucking hate the ducks and i think i love her. why can't she be anything else. i am too shallow to date someone who drives a duck. ha! this is like i, anonymous.

Posted by why me? | October 1, 2007 6:40 PM

Jessica and the intern have a blast yelling at the Ducks, and it's all obviously very silly. And people get on here and sniff that there are more important things in the world, "I'm better than hipsters," blah blah. And Jessica is the one who is angry and hates when other people have fun????

Posted by Mary T. | October 2, 2007 11:22 AM

I was in P Square over Christmas ( it musa been 05) and one of the ducks came by--- a little later in the evening than usual (the biz people had mostly gone home) and heard the driver instruct his charges "Say Merry Christmas to the homeless people"
And they--did the whole duck load yelled "Merry Christmas, Homeless People"

Seriously, ducks are not good.

Posted by OH HAI | October 8, 2007 5:12 PM

For the love of God, please post more of Jessica in some kind of photospread, semi-porn thing you guys are so famous for. We need to see more of her, say in a bikini? At least an in depth interview with scantily clad pics...

Posted by Jessica Lover | October 11, 2007 9:35 PM

Comments Closed

In order to combat spam, we are no longer accepting comments on this post (or any post more than 14 days old).