Editor’s note: Reflections is a monthly column written by Island Fellows, recent college grads who do community service work on Maine islands through the Island Institute, publisher of The Working Waterfront. Alana Flanagan is working with the Vinalhaven School and Partners in Island Education to create support systems for parents of school-aged children.
There it was. A flat tire. Right as the nice man in the highlighter green Maine DOT vest at the Rockland Ferry Terminal is waving my car—exploding with moving boxes carrying all of my earthly possessions— onto the boat.
I was sure this meant at least a day-long delay in my crossing to Vinalhaven and some pretty ticked off ferry hands as I held up the line. Quickly, I scanned through motels and auto shops I had seen on the drive in through Rockland. I thought about the spare tired buried under mountains of my things crammed into the back of my truck, and wondered what form, if any, AAA takes this far up I-95.
The ferry hand looked pretty confused, because instead of promptly driving my car onto the Vinalhaven ferry like the dutiful drivers ahead of me, I climbed out of my father’s black, too-big-for-me SUV and hesitatingly made my way over to him.
“So, I think I have a flat tire?” I offered in the form of an apprehensive question.
As Steve (as I learned his name was) retreated back down to the dock, all I could think to myself was, “What a way to make an entrance…” I watched him conversing with two colleagues, all glancing appraisingly at me and my car. As I waited, a woman from behind me in the car line walked up to me. “You a new teacher?”
I explained I was the new Island Fellow, just moving onto the island, and immediately apologized for holding up her and others in the line.
“Oh, this happens all the time,” she said. “Happened to us when we were actually on the ferry last year. You should’ve seen my husband lying flat on the cement, squished between the car and the wall trying to change a tire. If they don’t think they can get you on this boat and fix your tire on the way over, those guys”—she pointed to an Auto Zone right across the street that I had somehow managed to overlook—“can probably get you patched up in about 20 minutes. They come right over if you say you’re in the ferry line.”
I ran over her words in my head. Fix my tire? Twenty minutes? Get on my scheduled ferry? And she was smiling! Coming from a city where, all-to-often, the person behind you in the Dunkin’ Donuts line gets annoyed when you take too long to put your change away, this was an unexpected relief.
Steve returned as my new acquaintance departed to say hello to friends farther back in the line (because apparently they all knew each other) and filled me in on the plan.
“One of my guys is going to get his tire inflator. Let’s fill you up enough to drive you on the boat, and then off again on the other side. I think I can find someone to give the mechanic a call. He should be able to patch that up for you if he’s not at lunch when you get over there.”
Not only was Steve arranging to get me to Vinalhaven on schedule, he was helping me find someone to fix my tire, and acting like this effort and time was at no expense to him at all.
After just over two months into my fellowship on Vinalhaven, I see this is not the exception, but the rule. Neighbors and strangers alike will go out of their way to help, trusting that you will pay it forward, too. While I thought city-life had prepared me for everything, this was unexpected. And in just two months, it has been surprisingly easy for me to drop my hustle-and-bustle attitude of always needing to get to the next thing and offer the help that I can to the person in front of me. It’s clear this is the first of many warm and welcoming experiences on Vinalhaven. I can’t think of a more appropriate introduction to this new place or a better way to have “made an entrance.”