In 1908 in Seattle, a ship called “Corona” launched from downtown Seattle to West Seattle with a full deck of passengers. You can faintly make out “Corona” on the front of this ship which was one among others in the Mosquito Fleet.
The Mosquito Fleet ships were so nicknamed because they were small and quick, flitting from one side of the sound to the other.
While I never sailed on this ghost of the past, I did have a mosquito commute to work on the Sightseer which was pleasant.
It took only 12 minutes to cross to downtown Seattle and was far preferable to 40-minute bus and car commutes on the West Seattle Bridge. Less gridlock, less carbon footprints.
Before the Sightseer, I commuted on the Admiral Pete. Pete was much smaller than the Sightseer. He was the first water taxi when Seattle re-launched service in 1999. I used to sit on an open seat in the back and feel the water’s spray against my skin.
But in 2020, things aren’t funny. We are in lockdown now, with cities across the world in the same situation.
The haunting image of the Italian balcony singers of our Corona days presses me to get outdoors as often as possible.
My husband and I ventured out for a walk to Elliott Bay. With Purell in our pockets and donning our disposable gloves, we visited the dock where the water taxis moor.
A water taxi was pulling in. I was curious as to ridership these days, and so I spoke to the ticket taker. Ridership is down 90%, he said, even though King County is offering rides for free.
Social distancing on the water taxi? Of course, what was I thinking? This is the new normal. It just takes so dang long for me to wrap my mind around it all.
But wait, there’s more! A few weeks ago, the City of Seattle decided to shut down the West Seattle Bridge for repairs. There is no timeline for even temporary repairs. We are in a pandemic and the most heavily trafficked bridge in Seattle is closed? People are finding alternate routes, adding more time and requiring more patience, as they attempt to get to appointments, buy essentials.
I’d like to say things are funny in 2020. I’d like to say “bring on the mosquito fleet” so we could all feel salt breezes and avoid gridlock on bridges.
Though I will never feel nostalgic for gridlock, I am nostalgic for mosquito fleets. But also for bridges — which, after all, were first developed by the ancient Romans.