The styled bunch
Who knew there was so much going on behind the closed doors of the ladies room in the Staten Island ferry? The women at the makeup mirror every morning did, and they tell their stories in the thoroughly entertaining documentary "Ferry Tales."
By JOSHUA TANZER
"Ferry Tales" is a film that boldly goes where no man has gone before into the Staten Island ferry ladies room.
"The women's bathroom is a phenomenon," says one woman who knows. "You have no idea the scope of what goes on in that bathroom."|
But after seeing this brief but all-out entertaining 40-minute documentary, you will have some idea what goes on. Crowded around a four-seat makeup mirror are maybe a dozen women at any given time, all getting up in one another's work-in-progress faces. For half an hour a day, the ferry brings together suburban moms and project-dwellers, white-collar and blue-collar, black, white, Asian, what have you all are temporary sisters in this floatable feast.
Equal, that is, only if they follow the rules. There are do's and don'ts (above all, nobody is to use the toilets during makeup hour), and an established pecking order. Life here is part Oprah episode, part junior-high lunchroom the popular girls' table, of course. Strangers who walk in and grab one of the queen bees' seats are in for a rude reception and woe to the intruder who stops to read a magazine while someone waits for a spot at the mirror.
Most of what the film preserves is the lore of the ladies room, so the funny stories are layered as thick as mascara on a cover model. There's the one about the two women who found out they were sleeping with the same man. There was the time one of the women stood up to a mother beating her child in a stall and brought the wrath of her mirrormates down on herself. There's the time one woman poured hot coffee on another one and started a major brawl. ("Oh, it was fabulous. Fabulous!" one bystander remembers.)
There's also something special about the way the women talk about this little half-hour haven. It's the one time they have to stop and take a breath as one of the girls, no longer wife, mother or employee.
"I've been known to get in the car in my slippers," one ferry rider admits about her morning frenzy. "Because you don't get yourself together you get your family together."
"It looks like a crowded makeup table but that's not the real point," says another rider. "The ferry is my transition period. It gets me from from work to motherhood/wife, and from wife/motherhood to work. And in between them, I am Kamillah Hanks, uncut, this is who I am. I am not Mrs., I am not Mommy, I am not Mrs. Hanks from 'Can you give me this RHD report?' "
"This is where it is," she says. "And behind that, we put on makeup."
|JUNE 4, 2004|
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