We had some fine weather here in Szczecin and my friend Willie was visiting and so I thought it would be a good idea to catch one of the hour-long tour boats . They cruise up the river enough to see the area from another perspective , the old shipyard , tugboats and freighters , various birds including cormorants and an occasional eagle . Willie agreed to my little plan .
The usual tour boat was not in service . I communicated to the man aboard in English and Polish and he responded in Polish and German . Willie chimed in with a couple of German phrases and we discovered that his boat wasn’t going out that day , but that there was a larger boat further along the wharf that was in business . We walked along the riverfront to the Captain Cook . A girl with carrot-colored hair was standing on the dock selling tickets .
She spoke to us in German , too , and a few words of English. We bought two tickets and climbed aboard . A few German tourists were already aboard , all ready with glasses of beer and cameras in their hands . Loud obnoxious sea shanties were playing on a P.A. system until , mercifully , someone eventually turned the volume down .
The appointed time for departure came and went . Willie pointed out to my attention that the German tourists had begun nervously checking their watches . A couple of minutes later one fat guy started anxiously pacing from one side of the boat to another .
Willie grew up in New York City . After ten minutes he leaned over the side of the boat and reminded the carrot-haired girl that it was time to go . It was ten minutes past time . I heard her response , ” Yes . Yes ” .
New Yorkers don’t take no for an answer , however , even when it sounds like yes . ” Five more minutes , ” Willie called down to the girl , ” and if we haven’t moved by then we want our money back .” It wasn’t a negotiation . It was New York come to Szczecin . She said they were waiting for a group . ” That’s not my problem ,” Willie said .
And so those next five minutes came and went and we asked for our money back from the ticket girl . She offered no resistance at all , saying again that they were waiting for a group . We thanked her and walked away .
I had a Plan B , of course .
I took Willie over to the nearby ferry boat landing and told him that for two zloty round trip ( about 30 cents ) we could go over to the nearby island and walk around the flower gardens for awhile . I told him that the ferry came across every half-hour on the half hour .
I must have been wrong , though . Maybe every hour on the hour ? No ferry boat arrived . We joked about our luck and laughed a little and eventually decided to leave . At that point I wasn’t sure when or if the ferry would come. We saw the ferry boat over there across the river , a blue boat tied up at the dock . Willie took pictures of pigeons and I tried to ask an old lady who had come along what she knew about the ferry times , but I didn’t get very far .
We wound up at a nearby cafe and each of us had a beer sitting at an outdoor table and watching small boats sail by . ( No , the beer was not sitting at an outdoor table ; we were sitting there . ) It was now almost an hour since the Captain Cook had been scheduled to depart . A large group of school age kids had arrived and gone noisily aboard . The Germans were gone by then too as the boat slowly pulled away from the landing with the group , evidently , that they had been waiting for for so long . I say : What a way to run a railroad !