Archive for March, 2013

On Standby

Living on an island, you have to learn to accept certain aspects of daily life that are just facts. Getting a reservation for your vehicle on the boat going off island, for instance, is not always easy, especially when you wait until the last minute. If you are lucky, standby will be open. Now, standby does not mean you WILL get off the island, it just means there is a CHANCE you will get off the island. The days of “guaranteed standby” are long since gone. If you do get in the standby line, try to be driving a really small car; it will increase your chances of being tucked into an otherwise unusable spot on the freight deck. In any case, if the standby line is long, prepare to spend a while waiting your turn.

Beyond the hassles of the Steamship Authority, it seems there are other aspects unique to island living that are fixtures on Martha’s Vineyard. Ever try to get a return call from a contractor? Yeah, if you do, it is from the boat, leaving the island, not returning for two weeks. Last February I emailed my contractor regarding finishing a punch list, from 2008. He stopped over a week or so later and said, “I should be able to get some guys over here next month…” I bumped into him in December and he said, “I haven’t forgotten about you, we have a job coming up in your neighborhood soon…” When I saw him in January he asked, “Are you going to be around in February…?” Now that it is March, it occurs to me I should have asked him if he meant February of THIS year.

Many times over the past couple of summers, I have had clients ask me if I knew what happened to the smoothie shop across the street, as the door was locked and it was within the shop’s usual hours of operation. I shrugged and said I had not a clue as to what the story was. Perhaps there was some personal emergency once or twice, but half a dozen times in a week, for several weeks “in season” does not bode well for the reputation of the business.

The epidemic of being kept on standby might not be strictly an island curse, but it does seem to be more prevalent here. I might need to call, text, email, and eventually stop by an office or worksite in order to get the attention of certain individuals. Even when there is a verbal agreement, there is no guarantee they will follow through, even when doing so would mean either immediate financial gain or future prospects for financial gain. As a business owner, it is difficult for me to comprehend how that business model could possibly lead to success. If I used a similar practice in my office, I would not have very many clients, let alone a business.

While a few summer visitors sometimes think it quaint that small island shops close on short notice for quirky reasons, to have to deal with such annoyances on a daily basis tends to try one’s patience, if not one’s patronage. When I saw a contractor in the grocery store eighteen months after he was supposed to write up a quote for a landscape project on my property, he apologized and said he could stop by next week. “No need,” I replied, “it was done a year ago.” He stared at me blankly and mentioned needing the work. I needed it, too; so I did it myself. I left him standing there, saying I had a reservation on the next boat. He called after me, complaining he was on standby. “Good luck with that,” I thought to myself.short staff

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