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Volume 37 Issue 6 • May 30-June 6, 2007 now in our 37th season

How I Got Here

by Nancy Swain

During a particularly boring stretch of summer in central Maine in 1976 I received a frantic phone call from an old friend in Nantucket.  Howard Elkins was a pilot turned station manager for Air New England, a small commuter carrier servicing, as the name plainly stated, New England.  Howard needed someone immediately to work at the busy ticket counter during the summer season.   I had been working for a travel agency in Maine, landlocked and brutally hot, and at 24 had dated both single men in that area, and decided that I most likely would end up single, but well read.  I was qualified for the job, and I am embarrassed to admit that did not know where Nantucket was, but assured Howard if I came for an interview and got caught in the fog, I'd take the first bus there. 

In spite of the above, Howard did want me to interview and see the island.  I called in sick, not wanting to burn any bridges, and flew from Waterville Maine to Nantucket on a Thursday.  If I had called in sick on a Friday would have red flagged my boss, so a Thursday was a much safer bet.  Upon deplaning in Nantucket, Howard immediately took me to meet the ground personnel .  His back is to his employees, and they are all trying to mouth to me "get out now!", as though I had entered the twilight zone.  But I do not deter easily, and as he whisks me off in 1970 powder blue VW bug with no workable radio, I felt as though I on am starting the adventure of a lifetime. 

Our first stop, Finast, which is now Stop and Shop.  The store was small by mainland standards, and that I could live with, but the prices were something I wasn't sure I could.  Just how well does this job pay?  Am I going to have to choose between food or rent?  Sticker shock aside, we forge on to the laundromat.  If I am fortunate enough to find an enclosed bedroom on Nantucket in July, I was certain I would have to bring my washboard with me, as a washer/dryer would be too much to ask.  The laundry was  bonus, dry cleaning and washing all in one.  No one said to only leave your clothes in the dryer for 10 mins., otherwise they would fit your newborn niece.  Still, it beats wearing your cleanest dirty clothes. 

On to the Jared Coffin house for lunch, and Howard knew the way to my employable heart. Patio dining on the most picture perfect day Nantucket had to offer.  We sat and enjoyed people watching, which was an eclectic mix of Yacht Club matrons, working class college students scurrying off to their jobs, and hey man, a group of hippies, all looking like Cousin It from the Adams Family.  Cultural diversity at its best.

I had been advised to eat lightly, as our "dine around" plan involved several stops.  We chug out to Sconset, and find that the radio is picking up the signal from the Loran tower in Sconset.  I guess I was going to have to give my prospective boss some of my captivating conversation.  We chat about the journey to Sconset, how there once was rail service on the island, and if I chose to live on Nantucket, never choose Sconset, as it was remote, and a lengthy commute.   There was nothing on the Sconset Road from Nobadeer Farm Rd, until you got to the Golf Course.  Having no car, and no chance of getting one in the near future, living in Sconset was absolutely out of the question, even with popularity of hitch hiking.    We arrive at the Summer House (Moby Dick), and we have a poolside cocktail.  The day was getting more perfect as time went on, for starters Sconset was slightly cooler in temperature than town, there were billowy clouds in a deep blue sky, and waves were  lazily lapping the shore as mothers and au pairs were walking their charges.  But this bit of heaven was about to get better, and I now realize just how bad Howard wanted me to take the job, as he zeroes in for the kill, and we head for the Sweet Shop.

We grab gooey sundaes, take  them in the back to the small patio, and revel in the waning afternoon sun.  The day could not get any more perfect, the weather cooperated beautifully, our little grey lady had the welcome mat out for me. Seeing a cobble stoned Main Street  lined with fully leafed trees, window boxes with trails of flowers spilling down, and the smell of unspoiled air, and the beauty that only Nantucket could have surely took my heart.  But, beauty notwithstanding, would this be enough to keep me in possibly the country's most expensive glacial moraine?  I was dropped off at the airport, wondering if I would ever see Nantucket again, my head spinning with pros and cons. 

I arrived back home, to a sultry, steamy central Maine night, complete with the sulfur haze left over from the day shift at Scott Paper Co.  As I retrieve my key from the lock, my phone is ringing.  Howard dispenses with the niceties, and gets right to the point.  "How quickly can you get here"?  I ask if I can at least sleep on it, giving  him my answer in the morning.

He relents, but would prefer I do not give a 2 week notice to my current employer, availing myself as soon as Sunday.  My head has stopped spinning and I now have a full fledged migraine.I attempt to sleep, so many life altering decisions, so little time to make a decision that I will not be able to undo.

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