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I Was on Martha’s Vineyard All Summer… and I Need a Vacation

Gone are the days when we long for summer. Hard-working Vineyarders pine for September.

“It’s almost over!” “September! SEPTEMBERRR!” “My back hurts.” – Direct quotes from every working person on this island this week. Including me.

Now that Labor Day is finally, blissfully near, locals — especially those in the service industry — are holding their breath for the end of this madness. And by “this madness” I mean summer on Martha’s Vineyard.

See, for most year-rounders, Summer equals Work. Stress-inducing, back-breaking, pacifying-angry-mobs-but-it’s-worth-it-because-you’re-raking-it-in Work. But have no fear: after this upcoming long weekend, it will ALL BE OVER. I’m pretty sure that on Tuesday morning at sunrise, if you listen hard enough, you’ll hear a collective sigh of relief. It may even rustle the trees.

And I will be one of those sigh-ers, because last August, I chose to live here year round. Because it’s so relaxing!

Ha! HA! HAhahahaHAA—Ow. (It's no big deal; I just threw my head back and the pinched nerve in my neck cramped up. It should de-cramp by December.) Note to self: don’t laugh at own misfortune so heartily until snow is on ground.

Around this time last year, before I was gainfully employed, I was chatting with an elusive housemate — elusive because she was a full-time waitress and was therefore never home. Inexplicably though, she’d found herself with three consecutive days off, and a ton of time on her hands. You’d think she’d be thrilled, but by day two she was at a total loss. Without work, she was antsy and adrift. “I don’t even know who I am anymore!” she joked, feigning hysterics.

Come to think of it, maybe she wasn’t feigning at all. Back then, when I was footloose and footpain-free, I’d assumed she was feigning. Now, I’m not so sure. It turns out, summer on Martha’s Vineyard can turn anyone into a zombie work-bot. Including me.

I worked steadily from September through June — aka the Off-Season, aka Winter — with nary a complaint. I loved my job (7a, whoo!) and just about everyone who came in. And then, July 4th weekend slammed into us like a hot, muggy tsunami and the entire island transformed: suddenly it was teeming with distracted, huffy, voracious pirhanas who wanted everything exactly the way they wanted it and they wanted it NOW. (Some being presumably licensed drivers with no clue as to how a four-way stop works. But that’s another issue.)

Since it was the Thing to Do in Summer, I snagged some catering (and writing and dogsitting) gigs on the side, and eventually signed up for a true second job. This was a concept that was once absurd to me — why would any childless single person take a second job? — but the Vineyard is different. In tourist economies like ours, the money ebbs and flows with the crowds. Therefore (unless we’re independently wealthy) we ALL take second (and third, and fourth) jobs here during the summer. We can’t even help it. We’re on YES autopilot: Yes, I’ll work that second shift. Yes, I’ll cater that wedding on my day off. Sure, I won’t sleep for 72 hours straight. Like woodland creatures, we inherently know that this is the one and only time to gather up nuts for the cold, barren winter. Saying no is not an option – not until Labor Day.

I had this crazy notion that my summer would be packed with carefree beach days and wild club nights bookmarking super-lucrative waitressing shifts, but that’s not quite how it went. At all. (At least, not for me, since I’m not twenty anymore.) I have barely had a second to myself. My rare days off are populated with errands, freelance gigs and appointments (mostly physical therapy for neck pain and tendonitis — big ups to my chiropractor! Who I’ve probably seen more of than my friends.)

All through July and August, when passing friends in the street, we’d say, “See you after Labor Day!” or “September! We’re totally hanging out in September!” September is a hard-working Vineyarder’s favorite month. No joke: a girl I met while catering said, as we lamented our lack of free time, “If I ever have a baby, I’m naming it September.”

And I’m naming my pinched nerve “August”.

Happy Summer’s End, islanders! Come visit me and August at 7aFoods this September. We’ll totally hang out.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Carol Lashnits August 31, 2012 at 10:04 PM
I hate to burst your bubble, Jen, but it doesn't really end on Labor Day anymore. It used to for sure and it was always so much fun to go down to the boat and happily watch the zillions of cars and tourists leaving. It was a weight off of our shoulders and off of the Island's as well. I suspect it's not really over these days until the end of Sept. I wonder what other Islanders think.
Bloodyrue Andrue August 31, 2012 at 10:16 PM
I drive in traffic around VH, OB, and WT every day. I can assure you all but the islanders, bike sharks and joggers have gone home.
Bloodyrue Andrue August 31, 2012 at 10:17 PM
Oh, and the ones with NY, CT and NJ plates.
JM September 01, 2012 at 12:01 AM
It is hard working 48 weeks a year too!
Holly Nadler September 02, 2012 at 03:55 PM
Jen, you've definitely nailed it -- the agony and the sorrow and the absolute exhaustion. I do believe we need to be good to ourselves by remembering that the other three seasons bring their own challenges. Personally, I've often been depressed in the fall. This year I'm going to arm myself against it by acquiring one of those full-spectrum lamps and by giving my Inner Hermit some time to herself. I'll also be checking so many books out of the library, I'll be like that fat person at the buffet table told to hold back.
Michael West September 03, 2012 at 04:46 PM
September would be even better if the town beaches like Lambert's Cove and Lucy Vincent weren't still closed until September 30. But at least the traffic eases off a bit, and you can find a place to park.
MollyK September 05, 2012 at 07:28 PM
Jen, thank you for this piece. So glad you wrote it. As a full-time summer vacationer on the island I will do all that I can to reduce your stress, aching back and other madness that poses such an inconvenience for you. I'll start by shopping elsewhere. Please let the Sauers' know that I will not be shopping at 7a anymore since it seems to be causing you stress which as we all know, is not good for anyone. Despite their wonderful organic offerings, I guess I'll drive a wee bit further and renew my relationship with Cronigs. Enjoy your R&R.
Jimmy Kelleher September 05, 2012 at 09:42 PM
Leave Jen alone !
Carol Lashnits September 05, 2012 at 11:05 PM
What is a full-time summer vacationer anyway? I agree with the above post, "Leave Jen alone!". It's hard to survive here 12 months out of the year. We who are the "full-time year round Islanders" could care less where you shop.
BarbaraB September 05, 2012 at 11:17 PM
What a nasty note. Unless you are one of those demanding, rude, arrogant, "I must have it right NOW" customers that she was referring to (that all of us in the service industries are familiar with) you have no reason to take offense. Actually we can all see by your tone exactly who you are. Newsflash, the workers at Cronig's feel exactly the same way.
MollyK September 05, 2012 at 11:23 PM
Why am I not surprised by the vitriol.
KristenF September 05, 2012 at 11:57 PM
Do you know that most summer workers on Martha's Vineyard have at least 2 jobs, sometimes more? And many times work for months without a day off? I think what she means is that she is happy her schedule will be opening up. Is that too hard to understand? Do you know what it's like to work 3 jobs and work more than 40 days in a row? Do you? Please, because if you don't, don't spread your negative energy to anyone on the matter. Thank you.
Sheryl Dagostino September 06, 2012 at 12:39 AM
All I have to say to this is that anyone that would take an article so personally to take it out on a BUSINESS rather than keep it in the context that it was written in (ie: a personal reflection and showing of 'island life reality') has some serious internal issues. Maybe you should be doing more than vacationing all summer long! Oh wait - guess you SHOP too... Drive a LOT further. There is a Walmart in Falmouth.
pat waring September 06, 2012 at 12:49 AM
Hmmm....Lambert's Cove shut until Sept. 30? Most years the "stickers only" rule has ended soon after Labor Day weekend. I hope that's still true (and I live in WT). I will double chek.
Tracy Berna September 06, 2012 at 12:49 AM
MollyK, I suspect you're not surprised by the vitriol because it works this way: when you spew a bunch of it, it tends to come back to you. I imagine you you get that a lot.
jean summer September 06, 2012 at 12:49 AM
clearly mollyk is just sensitive and maybe even a bit miserable.
jean summer September 06, 2012 at 01:14 AM
i hope mollyk never comes back to our home to curse us wither her presence and dirty money. apparently she is incapable of imagining herself in someone elses shoes. self important and closed minded
MollyK September 06, 2012 at 02:01 AM
I now know where Thomas Tryon got the idea for the fair maidens of Cornwall Coombe.
JosieMmmm September 06, 2012 at 05:03 AM
MollyK, are you talking about the vitriol in your own post? You know, the one where you took personal offence to a light hearted piece and posted a mean comment stating that now you were taking your business elsewhere?
Jen Zern September 06, 2012 at 06:59 AM
MollyK, I'm sorry you misunderstood this piece. I wasn't complaining about working at 7a, nor was I blaming the people who patronize it for my stress. I was simply voicing a widely held perspective and using exaggeration and sweeping generalizations for comedic effect. This summer I averaged an 80hr work week, for 3 employers - which was entirely by choice, but it's a choice that a lot of Vineyarders make if they want to stay afloat in the off-season.  I can see how, if you don't catch the tongue-in-cheek tone, this piece can be read as a rant, but it's not at all. I used to be a summer visitor myself. I chose to move here and live this way because it's been a lifelong dream of mine to live on MV. Summer work comes with the territory, and it's a tough 3 months, but I wouldn't have it any other way. I love my life here. (continued...)
Jen Zern September 06, 2012 at 07:05 AM
(...continued) If I've ever served you it's probably been with a sincerely friendly smile - even if you were rude to me! - because I understand where rudeness comes from (ie, it's never personal; mostly it just makes me laugh, or gives me a funny story to tell) and I never bring my personal woes to work. In fact, several summer customers told me they were amazed at how pleasant and accommodating I was amid the chaos. One woman who had to wait ten minutes while I corrected a mistake actually ended up thanking me for being good at my job. And two different tourists told me I deserved a medal! In other words, even they could see that it's a challenging job that can test anyone's patience. I can't stop you from taking your business elsewhere, but I want to clarify that your ire is misdirected. Neither I nor 7a has anything against you. And I certainly didn't want this piece to spark a "tourists vs townies" war. We all have a right to be here. Let's all be kind to each other. Have a wonderful off-season, MollyK. I know I will!
JM September 08, 2012 at 01:27 AM
She was not funny when she made fun of customers. Her sense of humor may be pinched by her work schedule. She should try working 60 hours a week year round and vacationing on MV. We chose our lifestyles.
Michael West September 08, 2012 at 12:05 PM
Now that we have pelted MollyK with corn cobs, I am sure she feels entitled to her vitriol. We used to say "Summer people ... some are not" (after that marvelous book of cartoons by Cynthia Wayman and Sally Ward, published 1977 by Tashmoo Press). Really we are all people, and islanders need summer people to survive the winter as Jen pointed out. We no longer eat the summer visitors, although I do sort of miss that old tradition of soaking them in hot brine, and enjoying them all winter long, but the money they spend, especially the full-time summer vacationers, keeps us well-fed and warm through the long dark winter months.
D.Sullivan September 08, 2012 at 07:54 PM
Thanks Michael for bringing a level of civility back to this thread. There’s a whole lot of hate that’s been slung and most of it not from MollyK. “Dirty money”, “nasty note”, “rude”, “arrogant”, “negative energy”, “never come back”, “curse us with here presence”, “self-important and closed minded”. A mob mentality is always ugly. Everyone has a right to spend their cash wherever they like for whatever reason they like. Who among us would patronize a business where we were spoken of in unkind terms? No business wants bad ink especially when that ink comes from an employee. Throwing a business under the bus (ya named names) can translate into no business at all. If this was my business you might be looking at a pink slip right now. Making snarky comments about customers doesn’t help a business’s bottom line.
Mark Seruya September 15, 2012 at 02:48 AM
Thank you for your fine essay. You are always a sweetheart at the store.
Matthew January 25, 2013 at 07:54 PM
Now I know why mothers eat their young.

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