Today was a yucky day – yes, they DO occasionally occur on Mackinac Island. It was cold, it was raining, and worst of all, I had to go buy “big groceries” on the mainland (I think buying “big groceries” is a southern term. You go to the store to “pick up a few things” or you go after “big groceries”). We had put it off for 10 days. Now we have company coming in on Friday, and the trip HAD to be made.
I love the two grocery stores on the island. There is Doud’s downtown, and there is the Harrisonville Grocery up in the Village (the Village is where the majority of the year-round residents live). The Harrisonville Grocery is about three blocks further up the hill from us (yes, you can go even further up that hill). If you wanted, you could get by without going off the island all summer for groceries by frequenting those two stores and the drug store next to Doud’s. But, sometime you just have to buy those 12-roll packages of toilet tissue and paper towels, and the two local stores don’t stock that kind of thing.
I had a few things on my list that I could not entrust Ted to figure out – a new shower curtain for the day-glo yellow bathroom, a new kitchen rug, a new lamp for the guest room, etc. So I volunteered to go, and Ted was excited that he didn’t have to (until I came home 7 hours later with a receipt list from Wal-mart’s that stretched all the way down our hall (I think I went a little overboard on the home decor).
Going to the grocery store off-island is a little different from going at home (at least getting there is different). I called the taxi office at 10 a.m. and said I needed to be at the docks for the 11 o’clock ferry to Mackinaw City. Then I put on all my wet/cold weather gear, grabbed my lists and Ted’s lists, and went out to wait. As I watched people walk by in big coats and rain hats, I thought, “Every day on the island can’t be colorful and beautiful. There have to some gray days, and this is one of them. Just relax and go with the flow.”
The taxi came, and I asked Ted to get a picture of me climbing in. This is not exactly what I meant.
This does give me the opportunity though to comment on one of the essential accessories for the island – the backpack. I know not everyone reading this is as old as wood like I am, but I learned last year that if you walk this island like we do and carry a shoulder purse around with you, you are going to end up as lopsided and hunchbacked as that Notre Dame guy. So you get a backpack and keep yourself all evened up (everyone asks me if my backpack is a Vera Bradley. It does kind of look like one, but I actually bought it for $.99 off a bargain shelf at Walgreen’s). Nobody believes that, but it is the truth.
I rode down to the ferry docks with one of my favorite drivers, Janeen. Janeen loves Bear, and when I told her Bear had written a blog yesterday, she told me that the next time he writes an episode she wants to be in it. On the taxi with me was Aaron, who I introduced myself to and asked his life story (when you write a blog, you cannot be shy). He told me he was from California, and this was his second summer on the island as a bartender at The Grand.
When we got to the docks, I paid Janeen and carried my cold food container into the ferry office to wait with the other poor souls who had to leave on this dreary day. The bad part was most of them would not be coming back after buying groceries. They were off to other parts of the country, continuing vacations or going home. As soon as the 11 o’clock ferry had unloaded its passengers for the island, there was a mad dash to the door to see who could be first in line to wait in the rain to get on the ferry. I know better now. That line isn’t going anywhere for at least 10 minutes. They are just going to stand there and get wet. How can you tell a local from a tourist? A local is going to stand around and talk until the last minute and jump aboard the ferry as the gangplank is being pulled up. A local is also going to go into the ferry and sit at the back (to get off first), and read a book or a newspaper during the crossing. A local would not be caught dead taking a picture of the Mackinac Bridge or the Round Island lighthouse through the windows of a ferry (I’ll give you more of these tidbits as the summer goes on.)
When I boarded, I gave the dock worker my parking ticket number. When you are on Mackinac all season, you can buy a valet parking ticket. The ferry line keeps your car in storage on the mainland. Then when you are coming across, you give them your number, they call ahead, and your car is magically waiting for you when you get off the ferry.
It was raining and cold on the mainland too. I made the drive to the Cheboygan Wal-Mart in under 20 minutes. It was raining there also – only harder. I shopped from 11:45 until 3:30, spending maybe the last 20 minutes of that time in the grocery aisles. I told the checkout lady that I needed everything bagged for the island, which was her cue to call the produce department for some banana boxes, the best box made for hauling groceries. NOBODY wants to get on a ferry with 50 little plastic sacks. She got all my stuff into two boxes, 3 plastic bags, and my refrigerated stuff went into the bag I had left in the truck. You have to plan every trip around the ferry schedules, so I was eyeing the 4:30 ferry back to the island.
I got lost getting out of Cheboygan because of detours. I pulled into a auto repair shop and asked a man who was working on a car how to get to the Mackinac City highway. He looked at me very strangely and pointed to the stop sign three feet from where we were standing. He said, “At that stop sign, take a right and you are ON the Mackinac City highway.” He asked where I was from (both Ted and I get a lot of that-something about our accents). I said south Georgia, and he said, “Lady you really ARE lost!” He found that extremely funny – I didn’t.
I arrived back at the ferry docks with about 400 Detroit Chamber of Commerce people who were going over to stay at The Grand for a few days. A porter loaded a cart with my stuff and groceries that another lady was taking over. They shrink-wrapped the whole cart, then covered it to keep it dry on the trip over.
I sat down in the back row with some other islanders and leaned back to observe. All the passengers except the back row were conducting business. I started to go ask the captain if he would make an announcement that all cell phones, iphones, and blackberries must be tossed overboard halfway across. I mean, why come to Mackinac Island if you are bringing all your worries and work with you? The person that I had the most empathy for though was a beautiful blonde lady. She really could have been a model, and she was dressed beautifully. Only one thing wrong – white stiletto heels and white slacks. Hello? Rain. . . . horses . . . . wet streets . . . . horses . . . . not a good mix with white.
I finally made it home around 6:30 – with so many people arriving, the taxis were mega-busy (they are expecting a total of 1700 Chamber people to arrive tonight). I rode up the hill with a group of island residents and their children. One busy mom of three had been on the mainland all day with her kids and was planning on taking them to a play on the island tonight. I was in awe of her patience and good humor, and then I remembered – I used to do that too – a long, long time ago. Janeen was in the taxi behind us, bringing other folks home. We happened to be in the handicapped taxi – that’s why you see bars. That bar thing lets down into a ramp so wheelchairs can be loaded.
Ted was waiting at the boardwalk to unload the groceries (and other stuff). He pretended that he had been busy all day, and I just gave him a look that said he couldn’t have been as busy as I had been. “Sweetie, all you did was go to the grocery store,” he said.
And he was right – that’s all I did.
P.S. Bear read all your comments and emails about his blog yesterday, and was very pleased that you enjoyed it. I told him that many of you had requested that Maddie write one also. Bear said, “Why?”
View from the Deck