Please enjoy this rerun of an older column. Nicole is on hiatus while she is finishing up a novel that is set, strangely enough, in a newspaper office on Martha’s Vineyard.
Recently I told a friend, let’s call her Blanche, that I was driving to New York in a few days. A few hours later I got a call from someone I had never met, saying, “Blanche gave me your number and said you are driving to New York. Do you think I could grab a ride with you?” It’s a long drive and, to be honest, I didn’t feel like sitting in the car with someone I didn’t know, but I also realize it can be complicated and expensive to get to New York. I was upset with Blanche for putting me in this situation, but I didn’t want to tell her that, because I’d sound like a heel. I don’t even want to tell you what I decided to do, as you might think poorly of me and I don’t want you to think poorly of me, even anonymously. What in your opinion would have been the right thing to do?
Most anonymously yours,
Before I answer, I beg you to meditate on the following three things until you can see through their apparent similarities to their essential differences.
One: A thoughtful, kind, generous person willing to extend themselves for others in a meaningful way.
Two: Somebody painfully preoccupied what other people think of them.
Three: A doormat.
Your question qualifies you as a Two who is browbeating herself toward being a Three. Which is a shame, because your intentions seem to be genuinely One-ish in impulse. You are letting your own insecure need to be known as Good get in the way of your actually being Good in the larger sense — the kind of Goodness that includes being good to yourself. If you can’t manage to do that, then all the rest is smoke and mirrors.
This isn’t about whether you gave the ride seeker a ride or not. The “right thing to do” would have been to handle Blanche very differently than you did. How very uncool of her not to ask for clearance to send a ride seeker your way! Failing that, she might at least have given you a heads-up that a stranger would be calling asking for a significant favor. She’s a heel for putting you in that position — you are not a heel for pointing out her heel-ness to her. The right thing would be to confront Blanche. It’s the right thing for you, because you clearly need to practice standing up for yourself. It’s the right thing for Blanche, because she is either amazingly clueless (and could therefore use a wake-up call) or has a worrisome lack of boundaries (and could therefore use a wake-up call).
As for giving the ride seeker a ride or not: Do what’s comfortable for you, but you won’t actually know what that is until you’ve resolved things with Blanche. You’re upset with her, but repressing yourself from telling her so; that is going to spill over. Don’t say no to the person because you’re upset at Blanche, but don’t say yes because you feel guilty for being upset at Blanche. Deal with Blanche first. Then do what feels right with the ride seeker. While it would be a great act of charity, and a classic Vineyard do-gooder sort of thing, to offer somebody a ride to New York, you’re not a bad guy for not doing so. They have these magical things called buses nowadays. Anyone with mettle enough to ask a ride from a total stranger probably has mettle enough to survive Peter Pan.
That’s my take.
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.