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In This Place

Straight Talk from an Old Guy

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Nelson Sigelman
/
Beach Road on Martha's Vineyard

If your daughter returned home on a recent Sunday in your white Audi and said an old guy delivered a lecture to her in the Stop and Shop parking lot in Vineyard Haven, I am your man.

Having seen a friend off at the Steamship ferry just before noon, I left Oak Bluffs and headed back to Vineyard Haven. I’m no slowpoke but for some reason, a white Audi that had been tailgating me as I exited the harbor area passed me on New York Avenue. The impatient driver’s reward was about one hundred yards of open road before encountering the next vehicle in the stream of Sunday traffic.

What was the point of that, I thought to myself.

I imagined the driver might be racing to catch a boat and had not yet adjusted his or her mainland habits to the realities of summer traffic on Martha’s Vineyard. Maybe it was frustration with the string of rainy days. Soon enough, given the pace of travel, I was behind the white Audi. We crossed over the Lagoon Pond drawbridge. To my disbelief, the driver shot around the vehicle in front and soon passed the remnants of a small memorial erected in December on the side of Beach Road, testimony to the deadly consequences of a young man’s reckless decision-making.

Inevitably, the Audi hit the next slug of traffic. The driver’s reward for hitting the gas between Oak Bluffs and Vineyard Haven was the time it takes to travel two vehicle lengths.

The Audi parked in the Stop and Shop parking lot and three young women in their late teens or early twenties emerged. They had the self-assured athletic good looks of members of a prep school sports team.

I told the driver I’d watched her pass two cars on the way back from Oak Bluffs. “What was the point?” I asked. “What did you gain?”

Somewhat weakly, she said that she’d only passed on the broken line. I said that not that long ago the stretch of road where she passed the last car had been the scene of a terrible two-car accident that claimed the life of an innocent young woman, a driver about her age, and injured her two friends. The driver was more polite than apologetic. Her two friends seemed amused by the old guy lecturing them. There was a collective sense of, “Whatever.”

I spoke as forcefully as I could to let these three young women with so much life ahead of them know that I saw what they did. I told them it was foolish and irresponsible.

I am sure that not enough of such badly needed straight talk happens anymore.