Bemused 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
I can’t get a ferry reservation. I’m standing in line at the SSA terminal waiting for the preferred line to open up. As soon as it does, I plan to whip out my phone and call the reservation number as well. I have been having a nice chat with the people in line with me and I feel kind of sneaky because I haven’t mentioned this to them. We’ve established a we’re-all-in-this-together camaraderie and I feel like a cheat. What’s your take?
SSA Terminal, Vineyard Haven
Dear SSA Terminal, Vineyard Haven:
It depends upon the time of year. If a ferry is sold-out in the off-season, that’s probably because something very special is happening (a high school play-off game, a March on Washington, a sale at Kappy’s, etc.), and frankly you are interfering with the makeup of society by trying to leave the Vineyard at all for your own selfish reasons. Hang up the phone and get out of the line. Unless you yourself are trying to get to the game, march, or sale – then just hitch a ride from someone who already has a reservation. That way you save on gas.
In the high season, of course, it’s everyone for themselves, so go for it. From the invention of the telephone onwards, Islanders have scrambled to use every new option that comes along to get ferry reservations. You are the vanguard for the next generation of Excursionists.
That’s my take.
I come from a place where the locals smile a lot, but after ten years living here, I find myself smiling less. I think I would stand out less as being a wash-ashore if I stopped smiling, cast my eyes down and stopped bugging the locals to care with my toothy grin. Come to think of it they might already see me as mad, because I smile. I am starting to wonder if my smiling is setting me apart. I have volunteered for everything, you name the fundraiser, I’ve done it. I just want to be invited to a clambake for goodness sake!
Dear West Tisbury:
I’m not entirely sure of your question, but I believe it’s either: “How do I get invited to a clambake?” or “Does smiling make me an obvious wash-ashore?” Regarding clambakes: the “clambake scene” had much clearer social etiquette back in the 1970s. Since then, political correctness, the nouveau riche, and housing prices have shaken up the status quo, not unlike on Downton Abbey. If you’re not actually getting invited to clambakes, I would recommend casually trolling South Beach (or any up-island beach you can gain access to) at sundown in August with several cases of beer (or a magnum of Ridge Geyserville wine if you’ve snuck into Quansoo). Statistically, you will almost certainly encounter some kind of clambake attended by someone you know. Brandish your beer supply (good place to use the toothy grin) as if this person were expecting you. Pull out a beer and offer it directly to them.
Did they take it? Excellent. It will now be far too awkward for them, or anyone else, to question your presence. You have earned the right to attend, both by contributing alcohol and by handling a moment of social discomfort with classic Vineyard passive-aggressiveness. If later in the evening you can sing James Taylor songs, preferably slightly off-key, then you are a shoe-in.
If your question is about your not blending in: what sets you apart isn’t your smile (give me a moment and I’m sure I’ll be able to think of some notable locals who smile a lot*) but your Old World use of the word “mad” to mean “loony.” Stop talking like that, you galoot! I’ve bet you’ve got some kind of cute accent, too, don’t you? That never helps. We prefer not to be reminded there’s an actual planet off-island.
That’s my take.
*Ann Bassett. June Manning. Carly Simon