No time to chat

Bemused 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. Nicole’s latest novel, “Stepdog,” has recently been published. Trying to untangle a messy Island ethics or etiquette question? Send it to


Dear Nicole:

The Vineyard is always a small island, but especially so in summer when there’re 10 times as many people-you-know-a-little-bit at the same grocery store, or pharmacy (or even the beach), etc. How do we manage to do groceries or errands without being rude to people we know? What is the best way to stay on task without offending?

Would-Be Taskmaster


Dear Taskmaster:

The briefest nod or eyebrow-raise-of-acknowledgement is the most that should ever be expected of real Yankees. Caveat: When one or more parties are female, it is not unreasonable to expect the corners of the mouth to turn up. Spoken words of more than one syllable are very rare. Even the monosyllabic words are unlikely to be found in a Scrabble dictionary; these generally consist of vowels and an occasional “h.”

As an Islander, you may safely limit your greetings to the above without risk of rudeness. If the other person thinks you are rude, they are not an Islander and their opinion doesn’t matter.

Seeking more than the above? Consider the context. In other words, until September, don’t. On Martha’s Vineyard in July or August, whoever initiates a casual social encounter in public is forgetting that one of the following is probably true for whomever they are trying to socially encounter:

  1. They are shopping/prepping for houseguests or a major dinner party
  2. Their paid work includes helping other people prep for houseguests or a major dinner party
  3. They are preparing to attend a major dinner party, which is probably a potluck (requiring their very best potluck dish, in case Ted & Mary show up)
  4. All of the above

In West Tisbury and Chilmark, it is also possible that the encounteree needs to get home to harvest the zucchini before their livestock break into the veggie garden. And they really need that zucchini for their potluck dish. Respect that.

That’s my take.



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