Asssignment: Yell at the Ducks
posted by September 28 at 9:35 AMon
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.”