I'm re-posting this column by one of my fave Maine islanders, Eva Murray, who basically delivers a spin on a column I wrote about a year ago "Top Ten Dumbest Questions Tourists Ask." This is Eva at her best, giving it to ya straight. Re-posted from Village Soup.
There is no boat
Someone you know needs this. Send it to them, please. I know who I’ve got in mind. It won’t do any good, most likely, because it’s very hard to get people to give up their preconceived mistaken ideas, but it might make us both feel better:
1. Stop saying “the boat.” There is no boat. At least, not like what you’re thinking. Sometimes there is a boat.
2. When there is a boat, there is no “morning boat,” like every morning at 9 a.m. or anything regular like that. There is no daily ferry. There is no island mail boat. There is no zip-back-and-forth-anytime-you-want water taxi. The state vehicle ferry comes roughly 30 times a year but the schedule for 2012 looks like this: Friday, Jan. 13, leaving Rockland at 8:15 a.m.; Monday, Feb. 13, at 9:45 a.m.; Friday, March 23, at 8 a.m.
Are you starting to get the picture? Three trips in April, three in May, four in June. People keep telling me the ferry serves Matinicus every two weeks. I don’t know where they get that. I explain how it works and once in a while they even argue with me, which seems nothing short of bizarre.
By the way, the passenger boat, which is not the same thing as what we call “the ferry,” keeps a completely different schedule, also irregular and based on the tides, and is seasonal only. This time of year, when even once-monthly state ferries can and should get canceled due to nasty weather there is, for all intents and purposes, no boat.
3. You might assure me that, “Surely one of the fishermen will take you across whenever you need to go” but you have dreamed that up in your head (or are reminiscing about the 1960s).
4. They might give us an extra ferry trip if there are several trucks waiting to get across, such as to deliver firewood, lumber or propane, but a few walk-ons who wish a cheaper passage than the air service can provide will not cause the Maine State Ferry Service to muster the four-man crew, thrash all heck out of its equipment, and spend a fortune on diesel fuel. Sorry. It costs a lot to get here. It costs a lot to leave. Such is island life.
5. For some, this is still not sinking in. I swear somebody is going to call me up this week and ask, “What time’s the morning boat?” That’s because people think what happens on one island represents all of them, and most other islands do have daily boat service. Each of the inhabited islands has entirely different transportation mechanisms. Somehow I doubt you believe me.
6. Why is it too expensive for you to come here, but you seem to think it no big deal for me to come to you? The cost is the same in either direction.
7. If you call the flying service and plan an island flight too far in advance, it probably won’t be “flyable” when you mean to go. If you don’t call and make a reservation at all, they’ll probably be busy with other flights when you show up. Call the day before and then keep checking in if the weather is questionable. Fog, snow, rain, icing conditions, high winds, or too much mud means “it is not flyable.” Write that down. Your boss will probably not understand, but that is not your fault. Bring your toothbrush (because, you know, there is no boat).
8. If it is almost flyable, your best bet is to hang around. Don’t leave town. Don’t go farther away than the Owls Head General Store. While you’re there, get a pizza. Remember, you can’t get pizza on this island. If you’re at the store anyway, grab some extra milk. Always wise.
9. If you are on the wharf or at the airstrip, you are a freight handler. A longshoreman. A baggage carrier. If you can’t help because you are infirm or managing a baby or an animal, that’s one thing, but if you stand right smack in the middle of things obliviously primping your carefully arranged hair while others unload your boxes from the vessel or aircraft, and you are perfectly able-bodied, you ought to be ashamed of yourself.
10. Most of the obvious things you think we should do, we think we should do too, but we can’t afford. Put up wind turbines for the power company? Open a store/restaurant/public fuel dock? Take down all the dead spruce trees? Make the roads so you can roller skate on them? If you think any of this is merely a matter of will, you haven’t done the math. If any of this is within your personal budget, come on ahead. If you think we just hadn’t noticed how our lives could be made better because we are simply Neanderthals, you’re an idiot.
11. But, of course, we are Neanderthals. Just read the papers.
12. Nobody runs this place. There is a sort of town council of the semi-willing, which sometimes functions and sometimes doesn’t, and there are generally a few guys refining those indirect and subtle Machiavellian reality-TV-style schoolyard political machinations in their efforts to try and run the harbor. I try not to pay too much attention. The old ladies used to run the place, but we are now completely out of old ladies.
13. I truly do not know how many people live here. Nobody does. More and more of the guys catch their lobsters and leave. Sometimes that isn’t even their fault.
14. A few bog wraiths drift around, driving at unsafe speeds and snarling at those of us who really live here. They like to think they’re tough. Sometimes those idiots presume to stomp around on the wharf, and bark orders or issue pathetic threats to people unloading freight, as if we who carry on our year-round daily lives here are somehow in their way. Shut up, you thugs, and either help or move over. You have absolutely no authority to patronize the rest of us. I don’t give a rat’s posterior who you shovel bait for.
15. I hear they named a hockey team somewhere around here the Sternmen. Go Sternmen.
16. All that most of us care about is that somebody teach school, pump oil, keep the electricity and the telephones going, get the mail out, sell bait and buy lobsters, and repair stuff (sumps pumps, largely, and a few washing machines). The paperwork has been growing exponentially, though. Agents of various facets of the nameless bureaucracy seem to think that it matters that somebody fill out forms in a timely manner detailing how many nuclear power plants and ski areas we have, or whether the boundaries of our peculiarly insular municipality have expanded, or whether we plow the sidewalks, or whether such-and-such a house has hardwood flooring, or what percentage of our demographic lives in parks or under bridges, or how many nuts and bolts the power company keeps in inventory. I kid you not.
17. We don’t have any bridges.
18. Or sidewalks. Or a morning boat.
Stephen W. F. Berwick
1/18/2012 08:16:13 am
Eva, as with your book, thoroughly enjoyable!
2/17/2012 10:02:31 pm
eva, I always helped unload/load and once my brother and me helped Bill clear the trail of fallen trees. And my wife actually shared a recipe with Natalie for the coconut ice cubes! And I sent your son a movie, Sahara, with Humphrey Bogart (cause he said he loved Black Hawk Down so much and I figured why not see a real war movie.) He never thanked me, by the way. So maybe not all off islanders were not "difficult". God, I loved matinicus. Maybe some day will go back. And I'm glad you're ok.
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Columns and news about the subculture of Maine lobstering.