I know a lot of weird things. This column explains why.
-by Christa Weiss
Getting stranded on a deserted island is at best a cultural trope, and at worst a terrible icebreaker game you play with people you hate at a corporate team-building seminar. Oddly enough, it is also a thing that happened to me.
It all started quite a long time ago, back when men were still men, women were still women and Poison was still considered music, the 1990s. We were on a family vacation in Cape Cod, a place more famous for white people in ugly shorts, than for islands or getting lost on them.
I was about five years old at the time, my little brother about a year and my parents were whatever age parents are to a little kid, which is some where between 18 and 127. Initially, I thought I was around 8 when this happened because I remembered it so clearly, but upon checking in with my family, I realized this was roughly my third memory, my first being, taking a crap in my little kid potty and the second asking my mom ‘If God created man, who created God?, not being satisfied with the answer she gave me, and crying for hours. I’m not sure exactly what this says about me, but I’m pretty sure Freud would have a field day. A gross, sexy field day.
Anyway, this story isn’t about some weird psychologist obsessed with shit and having sex with your dad.
This is about me. And not fucking with me. And also why I’m probably magical, and will one day make cities CRUMBLE BENEATH MY FEET.
Ok, I might be watching too much Game of Thrones, but here’s the thing. About a year ago, I had a job interview with the Boston Phoenix, a weekly alternative newspaper. Apparently, they did not think I was a skilled enough designer to layout the ‘personal escort’ section of their fine publication, because I did not, in fact, get the job.
I was pretty disappointed because working for the Phoenix would make me look cooler than I actually am, and the Dig, (the better version of the same thing) didn’t bother returning my phone calls. Roughly six months later, the Boston Phoenix folded, and everyone was out of a job, BECA– USE EVERYTHING I TOUCH TURNS TO DUST.
Coincidence? Probably, but this isn’t the first time it’s happened.
This brings me back to that fateful trip to Cape Cod. My family was renting a house with my Aunt and cousin. We set off on our own for the day, and decided to meet my aunt and cousin later, for dinner. My parents took us to the beach, to a small island located off the coast of Chatham. We had to take water taxi (small boat) to get there. You paid the driver in full on the way there, and you would agree on a time for him to pick you up, later that afternoon.
The island itself was small, less than a half a mile long. There were no actual buildings or establishments of any kind there, just a long stretch of beach, speckled with tourists.
Our day at the beach started off great, the sun was warm, the water was cool and I had collected a delightful array of shiny stones, broken shells and dead crabs to keep my 5 year old self entertained and permanently smelling of kelp and fish guts. The day wore on and boats began to come in to take the tourists home. One by one the groups left, but our water taxi was nowhere to be seen. Soon there was no one left on the beach. We waited.
He had left us there.
I live in Boston now, and I understand how it feels to have a bunch of dumb wide-eyed tourists clumsily wandering around the your home. I regard them with either mild annoyance or blind hatred, depending on how many times I have to explain to them that ‘I know you’re on vacation but I have to get to work, so for the love of God stop asking me questions. Also, why the hell don’t you have a map?’
If someone’s ugly pink shorts cost more than your rent I think you’re kind of obligated to hate them.
I understand wanting to dick over tourists, but my paycheck is also not supplied by tourism and stranding someone on a deserted island is not a particularly good way to get repeat client. Personally, I might be okay with, say, stranding a pair of particularly annoying, particularly rich teenagers somewhere, but leaving a couple with two small children to fend for themselves alone on an island for the night, is an exceptionally shitty thing to do.
It was starting to get dark and my parents were getting worried. I, however, was thrilled with the situation. Being five, I could think of nothing more fun and exciting than spending the night on the beach, underneath the stars. Getting, cold, fending off wild animals and making sure I was not swallowed by the sea were my parents’ jobs, not mine.
Out of ideas, my parents decided to walk along the perimeter of the island, in a desperate attempt to find someone who might still be there. We walked a long way and finally, we got lucky. We found another family who had their own boat, camping out on the island. The family was very nice and helped us out.
While my parent’s radioed the Coast Guard for help (remember, this was before cell phones) my brother and I got to sit around the campfire. It was there that I experienced one of the most important milestones of my young life: My first s’more. It was toasty, it was gooey, it was chocolaty, it was full of sugar and it was probably one of best things I had ever tasted up to that point. I quickly made friends family’s little girl, and before the Coast Guard came to pick us up, she gave me a friendship bracelet.
I wish I still had that friendship bracelet.
The boat ride back to shore was nothing short of hella-awesome. The coast guard came and picked us up in a big yellow zodiac boat. It was fast and loud and I was full of s’mores, so both of those things greatly appealed to me.
When we got to the dock, I experienced another milestone: I saw a giant tuna, seemingly 20 feet tall*, strung up, Jaws style, right on the dock. It spurned a lifetime of loving all things fishy and not following up on learning how to scuba dive.
While I was busy ogling the tuna, the Coast Guard asked my parents if they would like to file a formal complaint. Apparently, this particular water taxi guy, did this all the time.
He’d pick up a fare and have them pay in advance then leave them on the island because he knew the Coast Guard would eventually find them.
WHAT. AN. ASSHOLE.
At long last, we finally drove back to the house, where my Aunt was convinced that we were dead. After she calmed down, we all had a good laugh. Everything turned out okay for everyone….for a little while at least.
Fast forward to three months later. A massive hurricane pummels Cape Cod. It’s bad. Not just regular bad, like really, really bad. You know that movie Perfect Storm where all those sword fisherman, (and George Cloony at his manliest) died? That storm. It tore through Chatham, Cape Cod and most of New England and New Jersey. On top of all the damage, there was a lot of earth picked up and redistributed around the shoreline.
The island we were stranded on no longer exists. Now it’s just a peninsula, attached to the mainland.
There’s not too much need for a water taxi, for a place you can walk to.
Like the ashes of the Boston Phoenix several years later, someone’s livelihood (and also much of the coastline) had been ravaged, within a few months of, for lack of a better term, fucking me over.
But you might want to watch out.
* Before I wrote this, I asked my Mom to go over the story with me because I couldn’t quite remember the specifics. So, for anyone wondering, the tuna, was in fact, closer to 10 feet tall, although neither of us can figure out why we knew it was a tuna.
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