Sunday, August 16, 2009

Why Wellfleet Residents Look Forward to September

How bizarre the relationship between the residents of a tourist town and its tourists! By the third week of August, after more than once waiting in an endless line of cars on Route 6 and at least twice being unable to find a parking space in the lot behind town hall, almost empty for ten months of the year, Wellfleet residents are firmly hunkered down and peer from their windows from time to time, as from a bomb shelter, to see whether the hordes of income-generating folks have left for the beach or must be confronted in order to obtain a quart of milk. This can usually be deduced from the sky. Blue sky, all clear. Clouds, imminent danger. Of course, the tourists are not the only ones to blame. 72% of the homes in Wellfleet belong to non-residents, and these folks also spend the better part of the summer here. (Their cars are dead giveaways: no year-round resident thinks to get Wellfleet plates!) Even our bed & breakfast guests have begun to complain about overpopulation in August, especially those guests taking courses in Eastham, ten miles away.

Today evidence of the invasion reached new heights. Here’s the count: buzzing by small planes, 4 passes in 1 hour this morning; sirens down on Route 6, either ambulance or police car or fire truck-generated, at least 4 during the afternoon; lost garbage trucks, 2; impudent Homeowners Association reps in search of drains on Barnabas Young Road, which is not paved, two passes by one electric car. Of course, then you have the usual lawnmower and power tool symphony, dogs barking, and angry babies screaming their lungs out. Sven heard all this, even without his hearing aids. Wait! I forgot traffic on our little dirt road. More than once I threw myself into the path of a speeding car with three kayaks more or less tied to the roof. How much better it would be if everyone got around on bikes!

Sometimes it is necessary to venture out into traffic oneself. This afternoon I realized there was no more organic butter, not a stick. I need butter to make scones, tomorrow’s breakfast pastry. So, off I went to Cumberland Farms, the shortest distance – and hassle – between butter and me. I turned onto Route 6 fairly easily and slipped into the one parking space that had just been vacated in front of the convenience store. I power-walked inside, grabbed a pound of butter off the shelf, and made it home without crashing the car or succumbing to hysterics. (The people tearing out their hair were actually going in the opposite direction, towards Orleans, traffic, which had suddenly accumulated while I was inside, the way traffic is wont to do on a late summer afternoon when everyone leaves the beaches at the same time.) Then the realization hit me that I had never purchased butter at Cumberland Farms before. Did I pick sweet cream or salted? In my haste, I had not checked. After a thorough examination of the box, I finally located the word SALTED (in tiny letters to the left of the word BUTTER.) Rats! Wrong kind! I'll have to go out again. No wonder Wellfleet residents feel so ambivalent about their tourist industry and are relieved when September rolls around!