Summer of 2020
“The island got eaten alive.” — Anonymous.
Is there anyone on the south coast of Rhode Island who didn’t think that this summer was a combination of a Federico Fellini film and an apocalyptic zombie movie? Especially during and after the Fourth of July weekend? If there are, they must not be connected to the reality I or my coworkers were connected to this summer, which was a perfect storm of elements that resulted in some unstrapped behaviors — pent-up pandemic energy, cash, and lots of daylight to burn, resulted in a spike in weirdness. Now don’t think I’m going off on a curmudgeonly geezer-like rant because I’m really just a guy who observes his surroundings and, quite frankly, rather enjoys a bit of chaos — in small doses and of course from a safe distance. Let’s be realistic, it is perfectly natural for things to get out of hand once in a while; sometimes life can get a little unstable, which can be exhilarating. Order usually follows chaos and things find some balance — too much chaos can be, ahem, exhausting.
I like to see people having fun, and embarking on a boat ride to Block Island. I like to see businesses succeed in the seasonal window that drives our local economy. This is why I call the ferry dock Paradise Alley in all seasons. (Okay, there is some snark in my tone when I refer to the dock as Paradise Alley in February when it’s five degrees and blowin’ the dog off the chain and there’s no caffeine at 0530 on a Monday or Thursday morning.) As stated earlier, things got a little weird along the coast and on the island this summer, and of course things are now starting to slow down a bit.
Some observations of this past summer season of 2020:
When the pandemic kicked into gear around the middle of March, it wasn’t clear how or even if the summer would pan out; everything was in a wait and see mode. Of course, a summer did happen, which was a result of the aforementioned perfect storm. Moreover, and most important, was that the weather gods cooperated which created a steady boom of business along the coast. When the sun shines and it’s hot, it is a fait accompli that people will hit the beaches and bring their wallets along with them. This has always been the case and the summer of 2020 was no exception. And, this is where things got somewhat interesting.
For example, the local state beaches were required to only allow a certain amount of people on the beach, and this directly affected the new influx of people who visited Galilee and Block Island. Think of a bottleneck and you get the picture. And what we saw this summer as a result of these logistics was a new customer heading to Block Island. Follow this scenario with me. There’s a car full of guys and girls heading to Scarborough State Beach from points north. This carload of unbridled youth who have been shut inside their domiciles for months want to party. They get to Scarborough Beach and the capacity has been reached. So, this car heads on south along Ocean Road and takes a right at Aunt Carrie’s. The kids follow the bend of the road and take a left on to Sand Hill Cove Road. After a mile they see a beach, and they can get into the parking lot. Winning, right? Au contraire, mon frere. These young and restless youth will soon discover that Roger Wheeler State Beach is full of young kids and moms and dads. (This beach was once referred to as “Women and Infants,” and when I raised my kids near this family place we made sand castles and aimlessly dug holes on the beach.) This is not what young and unbridled youth do in the season of the rising sap. Nope. They wanted to be where the action was happening. And, that place was, you guessed it, Block Island. All they had to do was pay ten scoots to park the car, grab a ticket, and hop on a ferryboat for a brand-new experience. Game on!
This new customer brought enthusiasm — squared — to Galilee and Block Island, and the ferry company and island adapted as best as could be expected from this unknown and unanticipated blast of day tripping, fun loving, and as stated earlier unbridled youth. For a season that had begun with trepidation in regards to everything from ferry schedules to local beach and restaurant openings, things evolved into a very busy summer. It really did seem that business from the Fourth of July onward was a steady and busy stream of newcomers to Point Judith and Block Island. As a result of the crowd therein came the aforementioned chaos, and things got a bit out of hand. Subsequently, there was a reaction and the Rhode Island State Police, along with the local authorities, had to beef up their presence to shut down certain behaviors, which will certainly set a different tone for next summer. People will know that there are consequences for abhorrent and destructive behavior. Sanctions needed to be imposed to bring order from the summer chaos; looking at the long game, these sanctions will serve everyone in the seasons to come.
Finally, during this past summer, Block Island Ferry managers Janette Centracchio, Lynnie Kennedy, Megan Moran and owner Athena Linda got to thinking about a way to show appreciation to the company’s employees by giving us a little memento for this unusual summer. Last week all employees of the ferry company received a little reminder of what the Summer of 2020 was like for all of us on the job. Truer words were never spoken, and the t-shirt says it all: “We Survived.”