Shopping Cart Valet

Nicole-GallandBemused readers ask novelist Nicole Galland for her take on navigating the precarious social landscape that comes with living on the Vineyard. Nicole, who grew up in West Tisbury, is known locally as the co-founder of Shakespeare For The Masses at the Vineyard Playhouse. Her combined knowledge of both this island and the world’s greatest melodramas compels her to help prevent unnecessary tragedy wherever possible. Interested in Nicole’s take on your messy Vineyard-centric ethics or etiquette question? Confidentiality ensured. Send your question to

Dear Nicole,

Should we return the shopping carts to the queue in the grocery store or is a shopping cart valet service built into the high cost of groceries here?

Confidentially yours,

West Tisbury

Dear West Tisbury:

There is no shopping cart valet service. I’m sure that when a grocery-store worker sees an orphaned cart out in the parking lot, they will take the time to go outside and return it to the queue. Or other shoppers might grab it on their way in to the store. That these behaviors reflect well on the people retrieving the carts doesn’t somehow make leaving a cart in the parking lot an okay thing to do.

You’re paying so much for groceries because you live on a “seasonal resort” island with inflated prices that are reflected in, not caused by, the high cost of groceries.

The grocery stores are not gratuitously charging more than they need to and pocketing the extra change. If they were, then I’d encourage you to petition them about providing valet service to justify their prices. (I stand by that – if I’m wrong, and you can prove that grocers are gratuitously overcharging and simply pocketing the extra, I will personally write to them asking them to provide valet service for their shopping carts. But remember, valets expect tips).

When grocers thrive on Martha’s Vineyard, they pay the community back quite generously – for example, by supporting locally-sourced enterprises or making significant donations to local causes and charities. They do not pay the community back with shopping cart valets. It’s all about priorities. If that’s the kind of perk you want for buying organic kombucha, try Los Angeles. On Martha’s Vineyard, the perk is that you get to have a grocery store.

That’s my take.



Dear Nicole,

It’s March on Martha’s Vineyard and I feel like it’s not safe to leave the house. Are people prickly or what? I feel like I can’t breathe without someone snapping at me to stop. Yesterday, I got yelled at by a friend, a co-worker, and someone I didn’t know in a store. I got honked at twice. Even my dog growled at me. Should I simply ignore the March madness or should I play ball?

Confidentially yours,

Oak Bluffs

Dear Oak Bluffs:

If you’re asking about basketball, I’m not qualified to advise, but I think the real gist of the question is: “Wow, why is everybody so cranky this time of year?”

Before I go further, excuse me, but I have to ask: Is it possible that your pals feel cranky toward you all the time, but this is the only time of year when there aren’t a thousand distractions keeping them from showing it? Or could it be they’re being unpleasant because of their own internal sensors, and your internal sensors just happen to be hypersensitive right no?

March (and early April, for many) is an uncomfortable time for most Vineyarders. We like a life of heightened significance; we prefer to be so overwhelmed by External Stuff that we seldom have time to just sit and wallow with our own personal mess. Generally this island provides exceptional amounts of External Stuff, from summer crowds to ferry schedules to winter storm watches… but this is the time of year when wallowing with our own mess is most likely to happen. The preparations for summer haven’t begun; the glow of the Christmas season has faded; there’s no cordwood to lay in; major planting awaits a few more weeks. Having no External Stuff to get cranky about, we channel our crankiness in more intimate directions, like our friends and neighbors.

As much as we like to say this is the season of renewal and regeneration, the truth is, this is the season of mud and muck – metaphorical as well as actual. Traditionally, Town Meetings took place in April because that was how long it took the roads not only to thaw, but to drain from the thaw. In March, the roads went from frozen to impassable due to the sticky mud. We are all creatures of our environment, and thus, we’re all currently in our own sticky mud – and wow, do we all hate that. If only there were deadlines: logs in need of splitting, a rental property in need an emergency paint job, all the seedlings needing to be planted NOW, charity auctions to order tents for. But no, it’s our last moment of calm, and for all the Vineyard’s bucolic public image, few of us actually do calm very well.

Look on the bright side. Soon the mud will dry up, and there will be lots of External Stuff to be cranky about. In no time at all, you and your friends will start being cranky together about summer people, and stop being cranky at each other.

In the meantime, just try to be nice.

That’s my take.