pike place fish

22/09/2018 Posted by admin


 If you have never been to Pike Place Market in Seattle go. Don’t hesitate. Don’t put it off. Go. 

  It is Granville Island with one endless comedy act.  Yes, I like Granville Island. It offers much more than Pike Place. It has theatres and schools and a concrete factory and parks and a brewery and mini ferries and turtles in a pond and a duck crossing. 

  The Duck Crossing on Granville Island is wonderful. That is a touch of soul, but it is only a sign.  Just after you pass the brewery and Kid’s Market you see the Duck Crossing sign. 

  “Are you kidding?” I asked a maintenance man on the island. 

  “No way. It is serious. Ducks cross here. Drive carefully.” He brushed off the sign with his sleeve. That is humour, but done quietly.  

Story continues below


  But in Pike Place Market is a fish store, called The Pike Place Fish Shop. Brilliant original name. What goes on there has become world famous. 

  Half the workers at the store stand out in front of the boxes of ice and fish and crabs. They wear yellow rain slickers, or at least the trousers below their working shirts. 

  They wait for an order. 

  “A King Salmon,” says a customer. Customer points to it. King is American for sockeye, which we think is the king of salmon even without the name. 

  One of the outside workers picks it up from the stacks of fish on ice, then shouts, “One king.” All the workers out front and behind the counter shout together, “One king.” It is a powerful shout. 

  Then the outside worker throws it over the boxes, over the counter behind the boxes, a good 20 feet of throwing, where a behind-the-counter work snags it. The fish is not gently lobbed like in slow pitch soft ball. The fish is thrown, hard ball style. 

  The crowd cheers. 

  The king gets wrapped and weighed, then the behind-the-counter monger shouts, “King coming back.” 

  The wrapped six pound fish flies over the counter. 

 The crowd cheers and takes pictures. 

   “Two crabs, please.” 

   A customer has spoken. Outside worker picks up the two chosen hard shelled bodies and yells, “Two crabs.” 

   All ten or 12 fish mongers yell, “Two crabs.” The crabs, one at a time, fly through the air. 

  The crowd cheers and takes pictures.The crabs get wrapped and weighed and, “Crabs coming back,” is yelled. 

   More cheering. More pictures. 

 This goes on all day, every day. It may sound monotonous, but it works. The workers either really enjoy it or are paid to enjoy it. It doesn’t matter. It is fun to watch. And the store does not have to advertise. Everyone who knows about it comes to buy a fish or wait for someone else to buy. 

 There souvenir stores in the market that have cartoons of the crowds of people watching fish flying through the air. All the cartoons show people clapping and cheering and taking pictures. 

  And then i saw the problem. It was the fault of the media. 

 A woman told me she had come from Boise, Idaho, and wanted to take pictures of the flying fish.  She squeezed her way to the front of the crowd. She had to, she wanted a picture. 

 A man had come from Vancouver. He got to the front. Another woman from California and a man from Texas joined them. I know they were from California and Texas because they told each other loud enough for me to hear. They asked the man from Vancouver where he was from. With the lady from Boise they formed a solid front. 

Then more photogs squeezed through the crowd.  A bus must have unloaded just to watch the flying fish of Pike Place. “You can’t miss this moment,” I imagine the tour guide said.   

  In a few moments there was a wall of digital cameras and cell phones with lenses and expensive single lens reflexes and little pink cameras and blue cameras and things I did not think were cameras all lined up in front of the counter, waiting. 

  “When are you going to throw a fish?” asked Boise woman. 

  “When someone buys one,” said monger with the yellow pants. 

  “I haven’t got all day,” said Boise lady. “I have to get back to my group. “Can’t you just throw one and let me get a picture?” 

   Monger in yellow knew lady from Boise did not catch the concept. 

  “Buy and fly,” he said. 

   “But I don’t want a fish. What am I going to do with a fish? I’m on a tour,” said Boise.  

  Yellow picked up a fish. More than 20 cameras rose up. 

  “I don’t mean to be impolite, but all of you are in the way of the people who want to shop.”  

  Then he put down the fish. Twenty groans and the cameras lowered. 

  I have seen something similar at almost every choir sing and press conference and  ginger bread house contest I have been to in the last two decades. The cameras are in front of the audience. It is embarrassing. The poor folks who have come to see the event see only the back sides of the cameramen. 

  It is true that many more people will see the event on television, but I always think the cameras have long lenses. They could go in the back.  

  But like at the fish market, everyone wants to be in front. 

  There were no shouts, no fish, no pictures.  

  “Darn,” said Boise. “I have to go. It’s not fair.” 

   Yellow pants looked sad. “Wait,” he said. 

  He picked up a king. “One king for Boise,” 

   “ONE KING FOR BOISE,” shouted all the fish folks. 

  It flew over the ice and the counter and was caught in mid flight by two strong hands. 

   “I missed it,” shouted Boise. “I wasn’t ready. I didn’t get it.” 

   Yellow pants laughed. 

  “No, I think now you do get it. Hold up your camera.”  

   He waited. “Ready?” 

  She said yes. 

   He held up his hands and barely glancing back. 

“Boise fish coming back,” the man behind the counter said. 

 “Boise fish coming back,” all the workers shouted. 

  And the fish landed right into outside man’s hands. 

  “You got it?” he said to the lady. 

  She was so happy she could only smile. At least 19 other tourists also got the picture. They left and business returned to shouts and flying fish. 

   Moral: they know it in the fish store. You want to get rid of a problem? Treat it nicely. 





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