In 2016, I wrote a column called Standby. It was a fun observational piece about what goes on in the black hole of the parking lot where I work in the summertime. (I’m in the front parking lot in the winter where George Lyons and Ray Gardner work the summer schedule.) The piece I wrote ended up online, so when people pose the standby question to Siri, who as we all know is the all-knowing babe of the innerwebs, my column appears. Then, the uninformed
first-timer might read my column and get a snootful of the existential conundrum they are inquiring about, which is called going Standby. Moreover, they’ll also get a snootful of what it’s like to be the number-10 guy in the queue while
waiting hopefully and helplessly for a ferryboat to transport them to the Isle of Block. Ahem, I refer to this dusty and careworn parking lot as Paradise Alley. I know, I’m a wiseass; however, in an objective sense this place can actually
be a good hang while burning up the clock, if we play the cards we are dealt.
One must be creative and resourceful to roll for an unknown amount of hours in a hot parking lot while waiting to begin a vacation. For example, I met a guy on 7-6-2022 who after sending his family to the island - a very smart move
- got a chance to hang with me and discuss myriad topics regarding: parenting, books, movies, sports, real estate, the ocean, jobs, iPhones, and E-Bikes. This guy did a long and patient hang in the mathematical unknown of the Standby Lot because he understood he was powerless to control the math of the situation. The guy was sharp and personable. I liked this guy who rides an E-Bike, so I let him borrow mine to do a tour of Point Judith to burn up the clock. He was acting, rather than reacting to the dilemma. Later, at 4:15 the guy got on the ferry and left with a fist pump and a smile. Furthermore, last Thursday a guy rolled into the dusty lot with his lady. The guy is a musician and an actor and he was doing a gig on the island. I told him and his companion where to get some grub and burn the clock. It turns out we know some show biz types; he was in the film “Jersey Boys,” and we had some time to talk shop about the acting thing. They were a fun couple to chat up while waiting to get on the ferry. They helped me burn the clock, too.
When I wrote the first Standby column, Paradise Alley was a totally different scene than it is today. I would clock in to work on a Saturday at 0630, and there would be 25 cars already lined up with a passel of sleeping and baffled
characters who all had a story: sighs, sad cow eyes and tears ruled the morning. I’d do my drill of filling out the check-in slips, and then explain the predicament. More sighs, sad cow eyes, and tears. After listening to the stories with a benign and concerned countenance, I’d ghost away to get more coffee and leave my charges to hang in the realm of uncertainty. However, before I’d scoot off on my bicycle, I’d make an announcement, “Hey folks, It ain’t that bad, you’re not working and you’re on vacation. It’s not the end of the world.” More sighs and some sad cow eyes, but no tears. They were slowly catching on that this was simply part of their Block Island experience and they should just roll with it.
The reason I wrote the original column was that the drama and humor I would witness after a 12-hour trick of managing the standby lot was better than anything on network television, and it simply begged to be written. I told my wife A funny it was so she said “Go to your boat and write it.” So I did, and chortled and giggled as I crunched out the nouns and verbs while drifting in my boat. It was a fun scribble where I could unloose my voice in the tradition of Mark Twain and S.J. Perelman (my favorite wise-ass writers). The paper ran the piece, and then it went big on the innerweb. Most importantly, the bride actually thought it was pretty funny when the paper ran the column. (She’s a very
tough room and cuts me no slack with the writing thing. None.) I still actually get a kick out of the fact that people tell me that they read the piece and now understand the math - and powerlessness of being in the Standby Lot. By now, if you’re curious about the number-10 guy that I referred to earlier, you can go ask Siri. Read the column aloud; it’s more fun. Just sayin’.
These days my job is less hectic. The reason for this is that the house-rental flips are spread over a span of three days. It was a smart move by the realtors because it levels out the supply and demand chain for cars going to the island. Subsequently, there is really no drama anymore. No more sighs, sad cow eyes and tears; just the acceptance of a boatload of mathematical uncertainty. However, there are still people who still want percentages. Hey, I get it, they’re human and they are wont to ask questions like: “How’s it looking?” “Whattayathink?” “Do I have a 50/50 chance, maybe a 60/40?” “Do you think I’ll I get on the next boat?” “Do you have any yank to get me on the boat?” I look at them with pallid indifference and a poker face because I’ve got nothing for them. But, I do know that there is a limited number of linear feet that will be loaded with revenue-bearing items, and until the first mate’s voice comes out of the little black radio, I know as much as they do. And, when I say this to these inquiring minds who need to hear some favorable math, they finally get the picture.
Last Friday I had a guy roll in with his family. He was the 10th guy in the queue. Not only that, but he had read my column online, and knew the drill - he looked forlorn. Right from the rip I told this guy to send his wife and kids to the
island, and to “man up” and do the long hang in the netherworld. The guy took my advice. Smart guy; he understood the wisdom of Happy Wife, Happy Life, and after seven long hours of hanging in the dusty Standby Lot, and waiting for the math gods and Archimedes Principle to deal out his fate - the guy had a great ‘tude - I finally got the call for his car to go to Block Island. Finally, as I gave him golden slip of paper, the guy said, “Oh man, thanks, I was really starting to feel like the number-10 guy.” He left the dusty parking lot smiling. ‘Nuff said.