Thoughts at the Bainbridge Ferry Terminal

I've been riding on Washington State Ferries since I was a kid; I feel completely at home on a ferry, and I love that ferry riding is one of those touristy things that thousands of locals do all the time. Ferries are emblematic of our state, as well as necessary transportation links.

In recent years, my various jobs have brought me closer to an appreciation of marketing on and around ferries: Posters advertising local attractions; real-estate flyers; free magazines, like the "Getaway" about Jefferson & Clallam counties, full of ads for the various delights to be had  throughout the region.

So I pay attention to things like the banners that hang overhead on the passenger walkway from the Bainbridge Island Ferry Terminal to the ferry itself. Hundreds of pedestrian passengers wait or walk in this wooden tunnel every day, and while it's pleasant to look out the windows at the lanes of cars, the harbor, sky and seagulls, it's also nice that there are some nifty banners overhead, with interesting facts, placed there by the Bainbridge Historical Society, or the local museum, or something. Until you actually read the banners -- and you see they do not actually have much information at all -- just a titillating question, designed to encourage people to visit their website.

This enrages me. Fuck you, Bainbridge Historical Society, or whoever the hell decided to put those infuriating and depressingly uninteresting banners up there. So much potential for great marketing -- wasted! For education, for sharing interesting factoids with the general public, for pleasing tourists! You fucked up, putting questions with no answers. You could have put the answers on the back! Or just told us the information, straight up, with a great photo!

I'd be far more likely to go to your museum, or your website, or remember the name of your organization, if I liked you -- which I would, if your banners had provided me with something pleasant to read. Teach me something. Tell me a story. Give me a fun fact about the region. Please, please don't just ask me a question as if I were a fourth-grader being given a school assignment on how to do basic Internet research. Don't make an expensive banner that says, "What year were the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks built?" over a sepia-toned picture of that marvel of engineering and environmental devastation. Instead, just please tell me, "The Hiram M. Chittenden Locks were completed in 1917, connecting Lake Washington, Lake Union and Salmon Bay," or something like that.

So, to whoever decided to just put questions on those banners: I'm not going to visit your goddam website. You're likely a nonprofit whose mission statement says something about educating people. Don't just leave us hanging!

And if you happen to be on the board of a historical society or a museum, and you are considering placing some informational or educational banners, posters, flyers or other visual displays in a public place, please, for God's sake, don't just make it a question. Don't NOT share the historical information. Do not make an expensive banner that just asks a question about a historical fact. Be declarative!

Thank you.