Minding Your MV P's & Q's: What to say and where to...

Minding Your MV P's & Q's: What to say and where to stand

— Photo-illustration by Kate Feiffer

Nicole-GallandBemused readers ask novelist Nicole Galland for her take on navigating the precarious social landscape that comes with living on the Vineyard. Nicole, who grew up in West Tisbury, is known locally as the co-founder of Shakespeare For The Masses at the Vineyard Playhouse. Her combined knowledge of both this island and the world’s greatest melodramas compels her to help prevent unnecessary tragedy wherever possible. Trying to untangle a messy Island ethics or etiquette question? Send it to OnIsland@mvtimes.com

Dear Nicole,

If you’re clamming and getting nothing and someone next to you is on a hotspot, do you go over and join them or wait till they’ve gotten their fill and leave?

Confidentially Yours,

Oak Bluffs

Dear Oak Bluffs:

Oh boy. They really ought to include this stuff in the shellfish licenses. There are few things more primal, or more Vineyard, than staking one’s territory in the water. So however I answer this question, somebody is going to disagree with me. Fiercely. I may end up excluded from several potlucks just for answering.

For real dyed-in-the-wool clamming folks, I’m pretty sure the only acceptable answer is: “Wait until they’ve left. Dope.” In fact most of them would probably laugh harshly at the naivete of someone’s even asking.

Perhaps you think it would be in the interdependent spirit of a small-town community for everyone to share the bounty? Well, the unromantic heart of the matter is this: Somebody else has something you don’t have, and you want it. No matter whether they got it through dumb luck, trial and error, hard work, an inborn aptitude, or acquired wisdom. They have it. You want a piece of it. What if the shoe were on the other foot? If you were a little kid who found a stash of candy — perhaps by dumb luck, but perhaps by skillful observation and deduction — wouldn’t you pocket your fill before you shared the stash with your friends, let alone strangers? If your honest-to-God answer is “Why, no, I’d share all of it right away with everyone,” then go ahead and approach the person clamming, because somebody needs to rip those rose-colored glasses off your face, and a Yankee clammer whose hot spot is being encroached is just the one to do it.

But please call me first so I can get there in time to tape it. It’s rare, in these domesticated and educated times, to get live footage of a bona fide Shellfisherperson in full Curmudgeon Display. I think the last recorded sighting was Craig Kingsbury, circa 1996.

That’s my take.



Dear Nicole,

Like many people I know, I am fuming about certain deteriorating movie theaters on the Island. Like many people I know, I have a casual relationship with the owners of these theaters. I find when I run into them, instead of saying, “How can you do this to the town of Oak Bluffs? Where’s your civic pride?” I say, “Hey, how’s it going?” What is the right thing to say?

Confidentially yours,

Oak Bluffs

Dear Oak Bluffs:

There are a number of answers to this, the first being to split the difference between “judgmental-angry person” and “doormat” and simply ask them politely if they have plans and if so, what those might be.

If that kind of straight-forward decency is beyond you, or you’re just too intimidated to ask directly (it’s true, some people find direct queries for information rude), you could employ the time-honored means of the Passive-Aggressive Question.

Some examples:

“I really miss those boxes of retro chocolate thingies with sprinkles you sell at concessions. Will you be selling those this summer?”

“Don’t you love the artwork in the lobby of the Film Center?”

“What have you got on at the Capawock?” (note: residents of Tisbury need to ask, “What have you got on at the Island/Strand?”)

“Wouldn’t it be cool to have an IMAX on the Island?”

If asking any question in person at all makes you break out in hives, you could move on to Passive Aggressiveness 2.0 and ask them indirectly by oh, I dunno, sending in your complaints to a local advice column in the hopes they’ll see it and think, “Wow, we should really be more attentive to the needs of our fellow residents.” ’Cuz that always works.

Or as I said, you could just try asking them directly, instead of complaining about them behind their backs right in front of them in print.

That’s my take.