Recapping the Fear of Getting Stuck Off-Island

Well, Hurricane Sandy certainly reminded us all who’s boss…A huge tree went down by the school, one of the grand old maples that was grand when I went to school. Trees and branches flung all over the place, lots of people lost their lawn furniture, and lots of people got new lawn furniture, courtesy of the storm.

The tides made the ferries inaccessible, because you couldn’t even see the gate that lines you up with the ferry. Taking a ferry during the storm would not have been a leap of faith, but rather a plunge of faith….One of the biggest fears here is to be stuck off-Island. Everybody gets back from the Commons and Tanger well ahead of storms. You make the last two stops at the IGA and liquor store and then it’s back home to hunker down.

Many years ago, I missed the last ferry and got stuck off-Island. I had to spend the night all alone, but at least I was first in line for the           6 a.m. boat. I didn’t have the money for a motel, so I had to sleep in the car. It was late and no food places were open. It’s just six hours, I told myself. Who can’t survive six hours?

During the first hour I read with the cabin light. But that’s a poor light to read by so I gave up after a half hour. It was autumn and I was getting cold. I had a wool wrap, so I wrapped that around my legs, turned on the car and ran the heater for a while.

During the second hour, I cleaned out my glove compartment and as much as I could reach on the floors behind me. That was productive, I thought, I needed to do that anyway. French fries can get rock-hard with age. I also found McDonald’s Monopoly pieces and a Happy Meal toy of Ursula, the bad witch from Little Mermaid. I put her on the dashboard. She was evil, but at least now I had someone to talk to.

The third hour I worried about using up my battery to run the heater, so I drove the car around the ferry waiting circle a few times, always on the alert, even in the middle of the night, that some one might sneak into the line and get ahead of me. Silly, because so what if I’m the second car on the boat? The only real advantage to being first on the boat is that you’re placed front and center, so you get to imagine that you’re driving the boat. I realized once that my imagination was getting away from me when I began hitting my brakes to slow the boat down as we approached the dock.

The 4 to 5 a.m. hour was actually about three hours long. Time slows down when you’re waiting and cold. I pulled some old beach towels out of the back seat—they were stiff and smelly, but I wrapped them around me just the same. I closed my eyes, but you really can’t sleep in those circumstances, plus there might be zombies or vampires in Greenport who cruise ferry lines. Best to be on the lookout.

At 5 a.m., I knew the end was near. I found some makeup in my purse and freshened up in the rearview mirror. I’m not sure why I put on makeup at that time. I think I was thinking of the ferrymen. Bad enough to have to be at work at 6 a.m., seeing me without makeup can turn straight men gay.

The morning light framed the ferry as it crossed the silver tipped waves. Finally, the end of a long night. The pleasure of leaving the mainland behind and getting back on-Island never fades.


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