It’s August. Oh God, it’s August.
When you leave the Island for a couple of years and come back, as I have, it’s reassuring to know that most things don’t change much. The way folks behave in August, for example — that never changes. But that’s not good.
I was driving home from the Net Result in Vineyard Haven Wednesday evening when I came upon three women jaywalking across Five Corners without a care in the world. They seemed to have done the calculations and chosen the longest possible diagonal path, from the post office corner toward the Black Dog. And not one of the three looked the least bit concerned as the traffic bore down upon them. Blithely they meandered, chatting, caught up in their conversation. It would have been charming if it hadn’t been borderline psychotic.
Still recovering from this, I kept on driving, up State Road, only to see an SUV coming at me head-on, on the wrong side of the road. The driver had made a left out of that little street next to the Martha’s Vineyard Savings Bank, heading toward the ferry. There was a lot of traffic coming into town, and nobody would let him in, I guess, so he just started driving on the wrong side, figuring somebody eventually would. A trusting kind of guy. I was rooting for him, especially the closer he got to me. “Okay, now, somebody let him in, please, please, somebody let him in . . . ” and finally somebody did. Of course that’s only going to encourage him to do it again. I’m still alive, though, so it works for me.
In a book I wrote ten years ago about the Vineyard, called 45 Minutes to America, I said that we all need to look out for the summer visitors; they’re like little addled bear cubs tumbling off the ferry, wandering about in a daze, disoriented by the sea air and the smell of Argie Humphrey’s doughnuts. Argie is gone, alas, but the addled little bears are still here. And now . . . the little bears have cell phones.
It’s really not fair of me to single out the August people. In the middle of July I was driving in Oak Bluffs at dusk and came upon a couple strolling down the middle of East Chop Drive, ignoring each other, talking animatedly on their cell phones. Finally they looked up, saw me, and swerved to the side of the road, still yapping. I gave the fellow a look, and held up a pretend cell phone to my ear, trying to suggest he ought to pay attention to where he was walking. He stopped talking, all right: just long enough to give me the finger.
So hang on, keep your wits about you. Stay alert. You just never know. You could be driving by Farm Neck one fine day and find somebody standing in the middle of County Road practicing his putting. Why not? It’s summer on the Vineyard. And in spite of the addled bear cubs, it’s awfully nice to be back.
Julie Kimball is a writer and an Oak Bluffs summer resident.