“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.