Prompt: “Repeat after me ,” said the stranger on the ferry as he handed me a box.
“Repeat after me’ must be used at least twice.
COMOX QUEEN COOKIE KERFUFFLE
The four uniformed Girl Guides were smiling and giggling as youngsters will, but they followed me obediently. A young shore officer conducted us aboard the Comox Queen, told us to wait in the aft seating area, and left, but not before he gave the girls an exaggerated salute. The giggling got worse.
We had been given permission—rather extraordinary permission, really—to sell Girl Guide cookies to the passengers. The captain is a friend of mine, and the father of one of my charges.
We waited in the forward lounge for some time after the ship’s departure from Horseshoe Bay. The Comox Queen is one of the smaller ferries in the BC fleet, and as such, is assigned to the shorter trips, traversing the coastal waters off the British Columbian Sunshine Coast.
Finally a man, in his sixties, approached me. He stared at my mufti (no uniform for me), running his eyes up and down, then shook his head in obvious disgust.
“In my day, Girl Guide Captains wore uniforms. With skirts to just below the knee, and proper white shirts. And the beret, of course.”
“We don’t have to wear uniforms anymore,” I smiled. “But my girls make up for me.” He glowered.
“Come this way,” he curtly ordered, then led us through the lounge. “You will not sell your…” He sniffed, “Your cookies in the lounge. I have assigned you a place near the children’s play area.”
I did not want to hear children screaming for the whole of the next six hours. So I hurried ahead and turned back to face the man. I read his name tag: Arthur Goodall, Purser.
“Mr. Goodall,” I started.
“Officer Goodall, miss.”
I was wearing my wedding ring, but perhaps he had not noticed. Then I remembered. My friend, the captain, had told us a few months earlier that the Comox Queen, although technically too small to require a Purser, had been assigned one. No other ferry captain in the fleet wanted Goodall anywhere near their crews. He was well known as a crotchety nit-picker. He was particularly harsh to the female contingent of the crew, making up his own rules about acceptable grooming, including hair and make-up. In a time when some young women like to dye their hair pink, or blue, and arrange it in spikes,–all of which does not detract from their Able Seaman qualifications or their efficiency as deck hands–he was truly overreaching his authority. But BC Ferries thought it best to let Purser Goodall work out his last two years under the command of my friend, apparently the calmest and kindest of captains.
“Officer Goodall,” I amended. “If we could set up at the back of the forward lounge, we would not be in anyone’s way, and everyone entering or leaving the lounge would…”
I never finished my sentence. The Purser rudely interrupted me.
“You will ‘set up’ as you put it, where I say you will.”
Still standing in front of the Purser I could see the faces of my four charges cloud over. They did not like to have me treated this way. I didn’t either.
A deckhand had used a handcart to bring our four cartons, each containing thirty-two boxes of cookies, up to this level and left the handcart for us to use. The Purser awkwardly slid the top carton over, and thrust it toward me. “Now repeat after me,” he said. It was too heavy for me to hold comfortably. (I am recovering from a wrist injury.) I dropped the box, but that did not seem to have any effect on Officer Goodall.
Again I noticed the sad and almost frightened looks on the faces of my Girl Guides.
That is when something in me snapped. I am a professional woman, and although I have experienced misogyny I have always overcome it, and nowadays, I am not subjected to such treatment. I have, through effort, achieved my place. But my girls were not there yet. They were shocked and sad. So, knowing I was about to provide a bad example, I snapped.
Officer Goodall growled at me. “Repeat after me.”
I responded. “Repeat after me.”
“What?” he queried.
“What?” I answered.
He glared at me. “Stop that.”
“Stop it now.”
“Stop it now.”
“I mean it.”
“I mean it.”
This was the annoying game that my siblings and I had played as youngsters. It is the most aggravating thing to have someone repeat everything you say. When you say ‘stop that’ the other one answers ‘stop that’ and you have not got anywhere. The only conclusion is to cease talking and leave, the loser.
I am not a natural protester, I have never carried a placard. And I do not believe that any one of my great grandmothers was a Suffragette. But I am a Girl Guide Captain. Officer Goodall stomped off.
We opened up our carton of cookies in the forward lounge. By the end of the day my girls were beaming with joy as we had sold out and made $50.00 extra in change not accepted back by our customers. And Purser Goodall did not speak to me again. I am not sure which of those occurrences made me happier.