Minding Your MV P's & Q's: After Obama

Minding Your MV P's & Q's: After Obama

— Illustration by Kate Feiffer

NickiGalland-headshotBemused 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. Interested in Nicole’s take on your messy Vineyard-centric ethics or etiquette question? Confidentiality ensured. Send your question to OnIsland@mvtimes.com

Dear Nicole:
What do you do when you mistakenly break into the middle of the Presidential motorcade? Should you stay with it or try to veer off?
Confidentially yours,
Clutching the Wheel in Chilmark

Dear Clutch:
First, the official response: I have no idea. I’m sure there is some official caveat but nobody bothered to inform me. Second, the practical response: It’s true that you won’t get held up in traffic, but tourists will gawk and locals will roll their eyes, which — if you’re a real islander — are two of the few things worse than getting stuck in summer traffic. So there is no net benefit to staying with the motorcade. If you can get to your destination some other way, divert.

Third, my actual response: To quote a professional wise–guy friend: “The value of any life experience can be determined by how good an anecdote it makes.” So, in the interest of having a good story, stick with the motorcade as long as you possibly can. Forget about your actual destination; just go with the flow. Eventually, some member of the Secret Service or the police escort will question you. Depending upon whom the President is hanging out with, this is the perfect opportunity to pitch your television series, request a puppy playdate (“Hey, I also have a Portuguese Water Dog!”), or offer your helpful and well–informed views on the situation in Iraq.  I have no idea what will happen, but I bet it will make a better anecdote than simply driving away.
That’s my take.
Nicole

Dear Nicole:
Some people seem to manage the whole Presidential Visit thing just fine without any headaches or inconveniences. What is their secret?
Confidentially Yours,
Stuck in traffic

Dear Stuck:
They vacation on Nantucket.
That’s my take.
Nicole

Dear Nicole:
I think it’s rather nice that President Obama and his family vacation here, however I am sick and tired of hearing about all the Obama sightings. I really don’t care that my friend’s friend’s houseguest saw the President golfing. How can we put a stop to the incessant chatter about Obama sightings?
Confidentially yours,
Edgartown

Dear Edgartown,
There are a number of ways to stop “the incessant chatter about Obama sightings.” One option is simple honesty. Say, for example, “You know, I must admit I’m tired of hearing about all the Obama sightings.” But that seems rude, and we all know nobody is going to do it, so let’s move on to other options.

The tried and true Vineyard MO is (as I have perhaps suggested in earlier columns) passive aggressiveness. If you want to be passive aggressive as a form of politeness, you could simply pretend not to have heard or understood the statement, and respond with a pensive silence or perhaps a bland comment such as, “Hm, hasn’t the weather been lovely lately.” If you want to be passive-aggressive as a form of contempt, the best approach is, “I bet people who talk about Obama sightings have really boring lives,” (or some other demeaning remark). But I won’t like you very much if you go that route.

Or you could be more pro-active in your refusal to engage in such banter. Distraction is a good way to do this. If, for instance, somebody says, “My mother’s best friend’s dog-groomer saw Obama at the package store,” a recommended response might be: “Look! A raccoon!” This should be followed by a lively narrative about a raccoon cub you took into your house as a child, who ate through both the linoleum and the insulation in the kitchen. It’s almost certain that somebody else at the gathering will have a story about raccoons, insulation, linoleum or kitchens, and so you will have successfully diverted conversation, at least for the nonce.
That’s my take.
Nicole

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