The Other Side

By Any Other Name


Too bad there isn’t a superlative form for “unique.” If the grammar police let me say “unique-est,” I’d wear it out describing the KP.

From above, the Key Peninsula doesn’t look like a key. Not on a map, either. Except maybe for those of us who look up at the clouds and see elephants or the Mario Brothers. After all, it’s legal now.

Our three U.S. Post Offices, Wauna, Vaughn and Lakebay, are in Lake Kathryn, Key Center and Home. In the interests of making my point, without any ruth (another useful, missing word), I’m kicking the correctly named P.O. in Burley off the peninsula for its dull conformism. Besides, it’s in unremarkable Kitsap County.

We boat in Von Geldern Cove, aka “Joe’s Bay,” and Mayo Cove, alias “Lake Bay.” What some people call Dead Man’s Island is labeled “Cutts Island” on the charts.

On the Key Peninsula, the KP, or “Tha’ 884,” you could say that we enjoy better than we name.

But tell that to the UPS driver who has to lay down the GPS and use the map in his head to find my doorstep. You’d think Humpty Dumpty had taken us through the looking glass with Alice and said, “When I name a place, it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”

Fine. If ambiguity makes you uncomfortable, you’re going to struggle on the Key “almost island.” Water on three sides is a side short of an island.

Most people call me “Dan,” but some call me “Daniel,” while my children call me “Dad.” Everyone calls me “you” in conversation, and some of you have called me “You (expletive)!” for taking the righthand overflow lane on the Purdy exit from northbound SR-16 at 1:59 p.m. I make do with “I.” Can yours truly be all five at the same time? Deep stuff to think about next time you are out on grass looking up at the clouds.

Then there are the unique-est communication issues talking to forever-young KP old-timers who haven’t updated their place names in 50 years. They shop at local archaeological sites they call Vissell’s and Walt’s. What is a newcomer to think of “I’m goin’ into Vissell’s for a box of sinkers?” or, “There was a big wreck in front of Libby’s liquor store.” Where is the Longbranch Mercantile anyway?

Transplanted boaters (to mix gardening and nautical metaphors shamelessly) make funny faces when they hear advice like: “Watch out for low tide at Driftwood Annie’s.” How many out-of-town guests have wondered what rowing out to “The Reef” was going to involve? Looking at anemones and crabs in the shallows? Or the wet surprise of a squirt in the shorts from a geoduck, one of those words that the natives pronounce better than they spell.

We drive by lots of unusual roadside signs. How ’bout the official greeting on the highway north of town, “Welcome Home,” where the little preposition “to” is one-tenth the other words’ size. Older citizens will smile at the memory of the sign just above the Wauna curve announcing “Emerald Shores” that was missing the crucial first “S” for several years. The “Air Mail” box mounted atop a phone pole above the Cornwall Gulch is still there.

On the topic of KP misnaming, why does Google think that both Food Markets are in Gig Harbor? So does Amazon.

But try picking up a Prime shipment from the Amazon locker in the back of the Food Market at Key Center when you’ve inadvertently sent it to the locker in the Lake Kathryn Village store. Pro tip: the one in Key Center is called “Sunset.” The other one is “Channel.”

If you are unable to get “Sunset” in Walt’s, I mean the Food Market at Key Center, to open any of its doors because you’re using the code for “Channel,” and it’s a Tuesday before 2 p.m., well, that’s different. The staff will cut you slack for one of those senior moments. You just wish the nice checkers would be gracious enough to ask for ID and not automatically apply the senior citizen discount.

Of course, I could have avoided the Amazon confusion altogether if I’d just sent it to the post office in Home, but addressed to Lakebay, of course.

Dan Clouse lives in Lakebay. Or maybe it’s Bay Lake.