Just when you thought it was safe to ride the No. 5 bus from the Aquinnah Cliffs …
Let me rephrase. It is perfectly safe to ride that bus, as well as all of the buses on the routes run by the Martha’s Vineyard Transit Authority (VTA). And let’s face it, when you’re doing the tourist thing, that all-day fare the VTA offers up cannot be beat.
Just don’t forget your Jaws Fest 2005 hat on the 4:10 pm bus departing from the Aquinnah Cliffs.
Regrettably, that’s what happened to me. I haven’t been so disconsolate since the late Lee Fierro — the longtime director of the Island Theater Workshop — refused to slap me outside one of the festival’s signing events in Edgartown, 16 years ago.
Though I got the John Hancocks of “Jaws” cinematographer Bill Butler and “Jaws” screenwriter Carl Gottlieb, I really wanted that of Fierro, who passed away last year due to COVID-19. However, even with my wife’s blessing and eager coaxing, the actress best known for playing the grieving Mrs. Kintner in “Jaws” didn’t do to me what it reportedly took her 17 takes to do to Roy Scheider.
But I digress.
See, late last month, my family and I arrived in Falmouth on a beautiful Tuesday afternoon, ready to explore the Cape. I was bummed that the Commodores wrapped their baseball season about 10 days earlier, but very excited that we were going back to the place where one of my favorite movies was filmed.
“Jaws” has always had a special space in my heart, because it was the last picture my mother and father and I had seen together as a family. To this day, I still recall my mother’s peals of laughter after she was practically frightened out of her seat when she saw Ben Gardener’s head come out of his damaged boat’s hull.
Like most fans of the movie, I can quote all the famous lines. This has sometimes proven to be an annoyance to people. I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve worked a variation of Scheider’s “You’re gonna need a bigger boat” — the 35th greatest line in film history, according to the American Film Institute — into ordinary conversation.
Or used Scheider’s line — “That’s one bad hat, Harry” — for any man who’s wearing a really bad straw chapeau, like Alexander Godunov wore in “Witness.”
One of my friends and co-workers, Tina Connell, even refused to carpool with me because she knew I’d try to run “Jaws” dialogue in the front seat while she was behind the wheel. (After all these years, I’m admittedly still a little shaky doing Quint’s Indianapolis monologue.)
Professionally, I’ve even written about Edgar Harrell, the last living U.S. Marine who was a survivor of the real U.S.S. Indianapolis tragedy, which was the inspiration for Robert Shaw’s memorable speech. Sadly, Harrell died last year too, one month after Fierro.
Anyway, we boarded a ferry the next morning to Oak Bluffs, and after stopping at the famous Flying Horses Carousel, decided to take the No. 13 bus to Edgartown to eat at the Wharf Pub, the restaurant on Main Street which is managed by “Jaws” actor Jeffrey Voorhees — Alex Kintner himself. But since we were told that Voorhees wouldn’t be in till late that afternoon, we decided to head to the Aquinnah Cliffs and snap a few pictures of that breathtaking view.
While there, we learned about the Wampanoag Indians and, once we finished shopping, it was time to depart on the No. 5 bus. The last ferry back to Falmouth would depart at 6:50 pm, so we obviously didn’t want to be late.
The No. 5 bus brought us to West Tisbury, where we switched to the No. 4 bus. But that bus went out of service at the Martha Vineyard’s Airport stop.
Maybe it was the rush to get back to Oak Bluffs, maybe it was just the adrenaline of the day kicking in, or maybe it was just my sheer carelessness, but somewhere between West Tisbury and the Airport, my treasured 16-year-old hat went missing — a fact I didn’t realize until the No. 13 bus from Edgartown deposited us in Oak Bluffs.
The next day, I spoke with a woman named Helen from VTA’s Lost & Found unit, who told me what I had to do to get my hat back. Once home, I put a postage-paid envelope that had my return address within a larger envelope, and mailed it to the VTA at 11A St. in Edgartown.
Eighteen dollars and ninety-four cents later, the hat arrived safe and unharmed on the first Saturday of September.
With apologies to Jim Croce, and with a nod to filmmaker Bryan Singer’s Bad Hat Harry Productions — a company which got its name because of Scheider’s line — mine is the baddest hat I’ve ever owned.
A confirmed “Jaws” fan for 46 years, Douglas Gladstone is a freelance magazine writer and author of two books, who lives in the Capital District of New York with his long-suffering wife and daughter.