While waiting to board the next boat back to the mainland after a truly magical stay here on the island, ever wonder what it would be like to be able to live here and instead commute to work? For those with professions that would enable telecommuting it really isn’t that farfetched a concept and over the years more and more people are doing just that. However, for those who actually have to be at work it is a bit more complicated, can be done – but does have some challenges especially for those with families.
At any one time there are probably about 50+/- residents that commute off-island every day to jobs on the mainland. Many work in Boston but some commute as far away as Western Mass. Most leave on the 6 am boat and return anywhere from 5pm to 8:30pm. For most of the year, they get up in the dark and come home in the dark. Catching the 6 am boat entails getting down to the parking lot in Vineyard Haven, parking their car at park and ride, catch a bus to the boat and then make the 45 minute trip to Woodshole. Once arriving they have to catch another bus to their car in the Steamship Authority lot which for most is outside of town in the outer lot. Some instead take the Peter Pan Bus to South Station however with all its scheduled stops it does add a considerable amount of time to the commute.
For those commuters driving, they can be facing as much as up to 1 ½ -2 hours of a rush hour commute to finally arrive at their desks. Wow. You have to really love living here to sacrifice so much of your personal time to such a commute although many do.
There are others that actually remain off-island during the week and then come home on the weekends. While these commuters don’t have to deal with all of the daily commute considerations, many are dealing with less than desirable living accommodations and (most importantly) have to sacrifice seeing their family every day. While less of a problem for singles or couples without children, for people with families it can be a sacrifice one should really think thru before undertaking. Speaking from experience I can say that having one of the parents out of the loop for an entire week and then reintroduced into the family dynamic every Friday night can be tough on the kids but also on the parents. While the commuting parent is away there are a lot of routines, disciplinary issues and activities that they have not been involved in and eventually there can be a real disconnect that develops that can confuse the kids and cause issues between the commuter and primary care parent. I recall how it would be like Christmas waiting for my husband to come home Friday Nights (gifts in tow) all excited to hear about each other’s week and catch up with what new things the kids were up to at school etc. However after about 1 day I couldn’t wait for him to leave to regain control of the household and he couldn’t wait to get back to his quiet little enclave where he didn’t have to listen to disputes between siblings, enforce the disciplinary rules of the house or listen to my complaining about how hard it was being a single parent all week. I can’t say that I blame either of us for our respective roles in this drama but in speaking with a number of other commuting households it seems that our experience was not unique to our home.
So, the message is that if you have visions of sugar plums when you think about how incredibly exciting it would be to be able to live here and commute off to work – understand that it’s not easy. If it was that easy everyone would do it. Plus being a year round resident your daily life becomes as mundane and routine as it is anywhere on the mainland except that you do get to go through the motions on an incredibly beautiful backdrop; and, thankfully that never changes and to many of us this has made it worth the sacrifices we have all had to make to remain here.