How I Left My Mark on Masset
It was, as I recall, the end of spring break in 1980. I had been off-island for the week, and had flown back and rented a car to make the 2 hour trip back from the airport to our little community of Masset. Arriving in Masset, I decided to stop at the Co-op Store and get some groceries on the way home. Now Co-op was the main store in our little rural community, and so not only did it carry all the necessities (though few of the luxuries) of life, from groceries to medicine to nuts and bolts, but it was also the social hub of the community and lots of people would always be hanging around visiting, standing just inside by the big front windows or outside on the front steps. Main Street was very wide, as there were no sidewalks but just a gravelly path at either edge, rather wide one-way stretches of pavement between on each side, and in the center another gravelly stretch where everybody angle-parked, at pretty much whatever angle they pleased. The Co-op store had recently expanded and now boasted a lovely new yellow vertical metal cladding, with narrow ridges every 8 or 10 inches. The town was overwhelmingly proud of this fancy modern look! I drove down Main Street, swung my lovely brand-new rental car into the parking area, facing the store, hopped out, and started walking across to the front doors of Co-op.
A bunch of folks were standing on the steps chatting, as usual, and suddenly they started laughing uproariously, and pointing at something behind me. In curiosity, I turned to look over my shoulder to see what could be so funny, and lo and behold, here came my lovely new rental car toward me, very, very slowly. The parking area was the high point of the street, which gently sloped down toward the stores on each side. I stood there for a few moments in shock, then ran toward the car, which was gradually but definitely picking up speed. I stopped in front of it, and put my hands on the hood, planting my feet firmly on the pavement, and trying with all my strength to bring it to a halt. But the monster, in tandem with gravity, had a mind of its own! It kept on coming, and I had to keep on backing up, the both of us getting closer and closer to the store. The laughter of the crowd was growing at every moment, and everyone in the store was rushing out onto the steps to enjoy the spectacle, including the store manager and workers!
I bravely kept up my effort to halt the monster, but there was no hope. Suddenly my back was up against the wall, literally, and realizing I was about to get squashed, I leapt to the side. Freed from my clutches, the vehicle suddenly gathered one last burst of speed, and bumped up soundly against the beautiful new Co-op wall. I was mortified! Of course the crowd, who had been standing on the steps having a great laugh at my expense, suddenly became helpful now that it was too late, and surrounded the car. I jumped in the car and saw that I had parked in neutral rather than in park. I backed the car up across the lane into its original parking position, and very carefully made sure the gear was in park – and the emergency brakes on for good measure.
Sheepishly, I walked back across the street, where the store manager and the crowd were examining the handiwork which my monstrous friend had inflicted. There, on the front of the beautiful new Co-op cladding, in the middle of one of the delightfully artistic little ridges, was a half-inch wide indentation, oh horror of horrors! The manager was standing with his hands on his hips, glaring at me, and the crowd, now silent, stood staring accusingly at the perpetrator of this horrendous crime! I hung my head in shame, choking back my tears, and waited to hear the store manager declare the dreaded consequences of my hideous act. “Well,” he intoned in a dreadful voice, “You know that this new wall is the town’s pride and joy! We should charge you for the full cost of replacing this beautiful new wall cladding which you have marred so terribly!” I swallowed, picturing a bill for thousands of dollars. How could I ever pay? I peeked up at his glowering face, and suddenly noticed a little twitching at the corners of his angry, clenched lips. A little prayer of hope started to rise tremblingly from deep inside me. Suddenly, his grim face transformed into a huge grin, and the crowd started to howl with laughter. “Looks like you’ve definitely left your mark on this town,” the manager said, and turned and walked back into the store, the crowd melting away as he did so. Still feeling a bit sheepish, I slipped into the store and grabbed a few groceries, paid for them and ran back out to the car to drive home. Today, over twenty-five years have passed by, and Co-op is building a fancy, much larger, new store at a different location. But as long as the old store still stands, my mark on the community of Masset stands too!
Date February 21, 2007