Can’t get there from here. Bert and I said it first, but Chappaquiddick truly took the sentiment to heart. Giving (or receiving) directions on Chappy is nothing if not impossible. Sisyphus himself would have said “aw, screw it” after the third run-through of the same direction to the same person.
There are markers on Chappy, real landmarks that denote location, which are fine if the location that you’re describing is within 10 yards of that landmark. Any further and you must rely on the ever-changing mailbox or disappearing street post. And even if the streets or driveway are named by that rare telltale lettering, who here remembers their names? I’ve been here going on 49 years and I could not name more than four of the roads on Chappy. Okay, three.
Add to this confusion that distance seems relative to Chappy folks. One person’s mile may be another person’s three miles. Odometer watchers, you may be doomed to find yourself outside a chicken coop near Poucha. Trust me.
Oh, but what of the wonders of GPS mapping systems? Who needs directions when you have Google Maps? Everyone on Chappy, that’s who. True, you may be able to navigate the first straight mile (three miles) of the Chappy Road, and the immediate 10-yards surrounding it with a Garmin, but navigation becomes more difficult elsewhere when the Garmin actually can be heard to sob, “I don’t know! I can only do so much!” Even with satellite assistance, you can still find yourself driving though somebody’s yard, then field — believing that at any moment the GPS will be vindicated and North Neck Road will appear like Vallhalla before you (this happened not once but twice during our tenure at the Marshall Farm).
There may have been a day when it was easier, and more fruitful, to give directions on Chappy. That was a day when people listened. Now we are inveterate non-listeners, only able to accept information in 20-second bytes until our brains have moved on to another more relevant thought. Witness any shopper in the Stop & Shop querying a manager as to where the brown rice pasta is shelved, and then said person moving halfway down the aisle before an answer has even formed in the manager’s mind. Now imagine the difficulty of holding a person’s attention long enough to say: “Okay. Take the ferry from Edgatown to Chappy. Where’s that? Ask someone in Edgartown. Then get off the ferry. Yes, you need to get off the ferry. Then drive about point six miles to a dirt road on your right. You’ll pass the beach club on your left and a pond on your right. The beach club? You’ll recognize it. You just will. Fine, it has red white and blue hats on its cabanas. Cabanas? They’re like little houses. Turn right onto that dirt road. It’s called Litchfield Road, but I can’t remember if the sign is still there, then go past maybe a dozen mailboxes . . . maybe more, maybe less, and turn left on either the second, third or fourth road you come to. . . ” The eyes glaze over, or the pencil can be heard clicking down on the other end of the phone. But I suspect that Chappy knows what it is doing. Many of us come here to be not found . . . at least for a little while. In fact, Chappy has become so good at hiding our whereabouts that when someone stops me on the road for directions, I don’t skip a beat, but point skyward. “Quick! Follow that crow!” Gazette contributor Brad Woodger lives on Chappaquiddick, where he often cannot be found.