Illustration by Kate Feiffer
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. Nicole’s latest novel, “Stepdog,” has recently been published. Trying to untangle a messy Island ethics or etiquette question? Send it to OnIsland@mvtimes.com.
When friends come to visit, there is an expectation that I will pick them up and drop them off at the ferry. Usually I get a call that goes something like this, “We’re pulling into Wood Hole and we’ll be on the 2:30 ferry.” So I will ask, “Do you know if that gets into Vineyard Haven or Oak Bluffs?” And they’ll say, “We’re not sure.” And I’ll tell them, “Don’t worry, I’ll find out.” Then I’ll cancel whatever plans I had at 3:30 so I can head to Oak Bluffs, only to learn when I get there that the wind has kicked up enough so as to divert the ferry to Vineyard Haven. So I jump back in my car to race to Vineyard Haven, but the race is more of a creep due to summer traffic and then, naturally, the bridge will be up. When I finally arrive in Vineyard Haven, their ferry has docked, my friends have already unloaded and I am apologizing for being late. So my question is, now that we have the VTA, taxis, and even Uber, why do we persist in this ritualistic Island pickup and drop-off practice? Hasn’t the time come to let our visiting friends find their own way?
I would start with getting a new set of friends, perhaps some who are considerate enough to give you more of a heads-up about their arrival time. If you’re really attached to this set of friends, however, here are some thoughts before leaving them entirely to their own devices:
First, it’s their responsibility to work out the off-Island part of their trip — including which ferry they’ll take — with as much notice as possible. Our last houseguests decided two weeks in advance which ferry they’d be taking. In fact, come to think of it, they first proposed a time and — imagine! — checked with us first to make sure it was convenient for pickup. (Would you like to borrow them and chuck out your set?)
If you’re working the kind of schedule most Vineyarders work in the summer, your visitors need to be considerate and flexible. As long as both you and they know with plenty of time what the game plan is, there are times when meeting somebody at the boat is (besides gracious and old school) absolutely the right choice. Taxis and buses are not a good way to start a visit for those who are older, or have young kids and their accoutrements, or are bringing pets or musical instruments, or big bags of gifts to express their appreciation of you (again: Just let me know if you want to borrow my guests …). However, if visitors are traveling light, and hardy enough to manage the T or Peter Pan, then I heartily agree that the Vineyard is overdue on learning to embrace public transportation, especially in congested areas such as ferry terminals.
I’m going off on a little tangent here, but by public transportation I mean the VTA (Vineyard Transit Authority, for those who never outgrew the 1970s) or the taxis that function like shuttles and take more than one set of travelers. Any motor vehicle that carries away only as many people as your car would carry does not count here for congestion-cutting purposes. I think the SSA should have shuttle buses that foot-passengers can board on the ferry, buses that are first off the boat and take everyone to the Park and Ride or some other remote spot, from where they can be picked up (or grab the VTA or cabs). Some enterprising soul could set up a rest area with a snack stand, maybe a drumming circle or a bowling alley (or a combination of all three), and then, if they come on the 2.30 ferry and you’re not free to get them until 4, they can cool their heels in comfort, and nobody needs to apologize to anyone else.
Until such time, however, the answer to your question is that picking them up or leaving them to fend for themselves is context-dependent, but having good clear communication and mutual consideration is mandatory.
That’s my take.