P’s and Q’s: Nor’easter

Illustration by Kate Feiffer.

Dear Nicole,

Another week, another nor’easter to look forward to. Among the issues that these nor’easters have wrought, I’d like to ask you about one that isn’t being widely discussed, and that is the marital discord that these raging storms can create. Since the storms started, my husband and I have not been seeing eye to eye. First I wanted to stay at home where it felt safe, but my husband wanted to drive around the Island checking out the damage, like a disaster tourist. I asked him not to go for his own safety and for mine, but he did what he wanted irrespective of my wishes. Then, later, with our electricity out, I wanted to leave for shelter elsewhere, but my husband wanted to stick it out at home. Tensions are flying around our house like a hurricane. Nicole, I’m wondering if you have any advice.

Confidentially yours,



Dear Nor’d,

So, a few things here.

First of all, congratulations on using the term nor’easter. There has been a spirited, if not rabid, debate on social media claiming that nor’easter is a newfangled fake word, and that it should in fact be “noreaster” (pronounced no’theastah, like that’s not a fake word). For the record, the term nor’easter has been found — in print — since the early 1800s throughout New England (and since at least the early 1600s in Britain). I am happy to answer a question about a nor’easter.

Most important: When NOAA tells you not to travel, then don’t travel. Neither of you. No matter if it’s to seek thrills or to seek comfort, just don’t do it unless it is an emergency. Not only are you putting yourselves at risk, but you could make things harder for the linemen who are trying to restore or maintain power, the police and firemen and town workers who are trying to keep roads clear, the EMS folks trying to handle urgent-care situations … you’ll just be a nuisance. It’s worse than foolish; it is selfish.

If your husband is that obsessed, he should figure out a way to do something productive with his impulses: Become a volunteer fireman, an EMT, a lineman for Eversource, a photojournalist. That would also give him bragging rights about what he did during the nor’easter! The downside to this is that you’d probably be highly distressed about it — if you don’t want him driving around randomly in a storm, I’m sure you don’t want him grabbing for power lines in one. Perhaps marital pride can allay your fears: Wouldn’t it be better to say, “He broke his arm because he was helping an elderly couple evacuate,” rather than, “He broke his leg because he thought it would be cool to take a picture from the top of the Tabernacle while the wind was gusting 60 knots”? I really hope you can say yes to that.

Meanwhile, if you (on the other extreme) are that concerned about being comfortable should you lose power, here is a suggestion. The logic might be tricky to follow, but let’s give it a shot: If you want to make sure you’ll be someplace comfortable should you lose power, then go someplace where you will be comfortable should you lose power. Crazy, right? Give it a try anyhow — but go BEFORE the storm. Don’t go in the MIDDLE of the storm. Again: You risk making a nuisance of yourself to people who are putting their safety on the line to help others.

Who knows — now one of those people might be your husband!

I can, of course, understand how cabin fever can cause tension in a marriage, especially if it’s just the two of you. Try to be positive and proactive. Don’t sit there and glower with disdain at each other. There are many things you can do in a house that is neither as comfortable as one partner wants nor as exciting as the other wants, while waiting for the power to come back on. Here are some suggestions:


  • Play Scrabble by candlelight.
  • Art therapy: Let him draw pictures of what he thinks he’d be seeing if he were out driving around in the storm, while you draw pictures of him being catapulted across Beach Road by squalls.
  • If power is off more than 48 hours, indulge in a half-thawed-out-food-eating contest.
  • Plan an extremely expensive dream vacation.
  • Plan your wedding-vow renewal.
  • Plan your divorce.


Here is something all of those suggestions have in common: As soon as the power comes back, you will lose interest in it.

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. 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.