Return of the Manitou

Fri, 01/23/2015 - 9:15am

The clock on my phone, one of the few in my house not set five — or 10 — minutes early, read 6:59 when I finally pulled myself out of some quickly forgotten dream in which the odd sound of the alarm, set at three different times in consideration of having to make the early boat, had long been incorporated.

It was one of those rare Thursdays and Mondays in winter when I was going off-Island, as is the case with many people, for a specific reason, mine with plans to be somewhere at 11:30. It would be, unusual for me, the second trip in less than a week, this time with my car. 

There were years I envied everyone with a car on the mainland, the passengers with carry-on grocery carts and coolers headed for cars parked in the lot over beyond the old DEM building. It seemed so much simpler, so much less time consuming to walk on and off the boat, not to have to be there early, all those grass-is-greener illusions. Then, some kind, trusting friends loaned me cars and I realized vehicles drove off before the masses huddled on the upper decks and stairs. Then there was the walk to the parking lot and, on the other end, returning, there was unloading, hoping for at least as good a space as the car had been in before it was borrowed, and the not-long but still time-consuming walk back to the boat. 

There is, of course, not having to worry about reservations. Perhaps more to the point, I do not have to go off frequently, on business, to see medical specialists, or take classes, or any one of the travel reasons of many of the folks it seems I see every time I am on the boat.

Time was a little tighter with the car but, even with giving Autumn an admittedly shortened outside romp, which I could do as I was lucky to have a friend coming to walk her at mid-day, I was able to leave the house in time to get to the dock by the blessedly reduced winter deadline. 

Everything was on track, again, the dreaded backing onto the freight deck went without mishap, I was not so squeezed I could not get our of my car, and upstairs I found a seat with friends. From there it all went downhill. The coffee I had set to brew - as it did - even before the first of those three unheard alarms sounded was still on my kitchen counter. Time was tight, and I left it in sure anticipation of a beverage and my on-the-boat bagel treat. The concession never opened. 

Nothing over the course of the day went truly wrong, absolutely nothing of any severity, merely a series of annoyances that steal precious minutes which accumulate. There was a list left not at home, only in the car, there was a new duplicate key seemingly lost that was attached to the old clicker fob. I lost a place in line because I drifted off and forgot I was in line, all difficulties of my own doing until the automotive guy landed in the paint section of Benny's. How does one say “I do not have time for this nonsense, stop telling me you do not have what I want when it is on the shelf behind you!” 

Thankfully, the Paint Lady arrived and took over and my faith in Benny's was restored. A nice stranger helped load a big bag of dog food into my car. 

Then there are the things those of us who rarely get to the mainland forget until we encounter them, particularly the lines in stores, which always seem longest in the Stop & Shop in Narragansett. I think it is worse because there are fewer cashiers, or some other austerity reason, then I remember my mother cautioning time had to be allowed for check-out. She died in 1987. 

At least I had paid attention and knew where my car was, its place in line, the direction in which it was headed, and I rolled my cart to it. Unfortunately, I do not recognize cars, only license plates (I'm still trying to adjust to the numerical plates, initials were so much easier) so I was almost at the silver Subaru Forrester of a certain age before I realized — after a moment of sheer panic — mine was parked in the next row over. 

It was a day filled with the tiny time sucks compounded by what used to be an 8 o'clock boat off and a 5 o'clock boat back shrunk 15 minutes on either side. Half an hour is a lot to lose, although I cannot truly complain about the morning after this particular near miss. 

It was a time to remind myself there was not always the possibility of going-off-for-the-day on the winter boat; I remember when two round trip days were added, an experiment that was successful from the days of the not beloved Manitou, the thing that was sitting at the dock in Galilee when I arrived as late as I ever have and hope never to again.

That is a visual I put out of my mind until this moment. It is, it has been for some time, painted white, as if it is in disguise, like Superman wearing those horn rimmed glasses and working in a newsroom where otherwise astute reporters never notice the resemblance between him and Clark Kent!

Although, now that the Manitou and its sister are not a part of our daily lives, it is easy to think of their upside: they gave us all a common ground, a focus of dislike which perhaps helped mitigate other hostilities. 

After the blatant nastiness at last week's Financial Town Meeting (point of fact: far, far better attended than the last five held in May) I am wondering if we would be best served by the return of the Manitou.