In the meeting room of an Island church, a small group sits in a circle.
Group Leader: “We have a new member here tonight, Paul. As always, before we begin, let’s read our eight steps.”
1. I acknowledge that I am living here of my own free will. I am choosing to allow something, like a mortgage, or someone, like a spouse, to keep me here. I could run away, but I choose to stay.
2. I forfeit freedom of mobility to the ferries.
3. Like real Islanders, I will find a way to use the time waiting on ferry lines productively. I will read a book, make a list, balance my checkbook, think of a solution to the Middle East conflict. I will not waste my time fantasizing about my old life on the mainland, nor plan an escape. I will not dwell on the fact that I could have been to the store three times and back already in the time I have spent on this line.
4. I will keep a blanket, food and bug spray in the car at all times in the event I am ever marooned off-Island and have to spend the night in the car. Even though I believe myself to be too intelligent for this to ever happen to me, my fellow Islanders assure me that is not the case.
5. If I am off Island and find that I have fallen into a trance and driven past Riverhead, I will call my sponsor, who will alert the group, and if I’m not home by the last boat, they will strip my house of all possessions and hold them hostage until my return.
6. I will accept that there are only three places open after 6 p.m., the two bars and the video store. In summer, add a few restaurants and miniature golf. I accept there is no nightlife here, as it is known elsewhere. There is no movies, no nightclubs, no bowling, no fast food, no nothin’. A big date is dinner at the Chequit, mini golf at the Whale’s Tale, and home by 9 p.m.
7. I will put the Outline of Shelter Island sticker on the back of my car. The sticker is like a tattoo. It identifies me as a member of the tribe. If I am off-Island and I see another member of Islanders Anonymous off-Island, I will call my sponsor and give a description of the car in the event they have to initiate the protocol to foil an escape attempt.
8. When I have visitors, I will listen patiently to their complaints about driving all the way to the end of Long Island, then waiting in a ferry line and having to pay for passage both ways. I will defend myself by telling them I love the beauty of the Island and the quiet life where dodging seagulls who are dropping clams on the road to break them open and chasing deer away from your roses is a way of life. I will share the excitement of sitting on the porch in summer and listening to the bug zapper and guessing which bugs just got it. How one must develop a refined ear to distinguish between the pop of a mosquito versus a fly, and the thrill of the big pop of giant moths with torsos as long as your thumb. I will tell of the fun of shoveling out the end of your driveway twice in one day after the snow plow goes by. Or the thrill of victory as you coast downhill into Picozzi’s gas station on fumes and the attendants cheer when you make it to the pump. Yes, Shelter Island is bustling with activity compared to…ah…Antarctica.
Group Leader: “So, Paul, tell us a little about yourself and what brought you here tonight.”
Paul: “My wife loves it here, so we moved here two years ago. At first, it was nice. But now it’s our second winter. Nobody comes to see us anymore. And I hate getting on the ferries in the winter. Those huge platforms of ice, 10-, 20- foot blocks, crashing into the boat, making the ferry shake and all the cars jerk back and forth, it scares the….”
Leader: “We understand, Paul. We’ve all experienced that Titanic effect.”
Paul: “And then there’s the constant battles with the raccoons. They got in through the doggie door…we were asleep…every cabinet opened…cereal everywhere…they opened the refrigerator…what animals can do that? They got…it was for our anniversary dinner…”
Leader: “It’s okay, Paul, we’ve heard it all.”
Paul: “They ate our anniversary shrimp…two pounds…shrimp shells on the floor…our stupid dog just joined them in the feast…two pound of fresh shrimp…wife crying, hell, I cried…how much do I have to take?”
Leader: “We’re glad you’re here Paul…you’re among friends now.”