Being unemployed sucks! With the economy in chaos and 150 people applying for one job, it just ain’t easy these days. Lots of minimum wage service jobs available but how does one afford the greatly inflated housing costs throughout Vermont? The famous “Moonlight in Vermont or Starve” bumper sticker certainly rings true these days.
Avoiding fast food
McDonalds and Burger King everywhere, along with Pizza the Hut and of course the dreaded Subway (where Clay Henry lost a gazillion pounds). Half the time, your order is guaranteed to be screwed up by *associates who could not care less about customer service. On this island, minimum wage jobs mean that scowl and look of disdain are just part of the job. No wonder McD’s has a character named Grimace. A lot of employees also fit the part. They never say ‘thank you’ or even ‘you’re welcome’, if you thank them. A primordial grunt is usually the standard response. I try to be nice so that at least (hopefully) they won’t spit on the food.
Recreation on the “island”
Shop ’til you drop. Every weekend, the natives fall upon the malls and department stores with a vengeance. Other than the casinos, there’s little else to do here. Although driving seems to take on a “rollerball-esque” flavor, where competitor’s fight to get ahead of each other by any means possible. Only the strong survive, so beef up your insurance coverage and keep sharp. Forget the video games, these folks play for real!
They have a great way to get rid of trash down here on the “island”. You simply put it out on the sidewalk every week and the trucks come and haul it away. No muss, no fuss, no charge. It’s kind of funny to see everything from trash bags to refrigerators on the sidewalk, waiting to be scooped up. Two thumbs up!
Home sweet “stone”
Down the street there’s a duplex with a grave stone in front of it. Looks like they put the trash out on the sidewalk and buried Mom in the front yard. Now that’s a burial plot with a view!
It begins on Friday night. Restless natives leave the island in a northerly direction. Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and upstate New York…the invasion has begun. Gridlock on I91, terror in the passing lane. They’re coming fast and furious. Like a Dr. Seuss tale: “With snowmobiles in tow, skis on racks and bikes and boats in the back. Money to burn and vacation homes to be had. And on a Sunday afternoon, they all go back, with visions of doing it again next weekend already in the plans.”
Living on the “island”
Rents and home prices are high everywhere. Especially on the “island”. Add to that the high taxes for just about everything and you’ll know why the natives are restless! Yet, almost everyone I have met owns a home here and a vacation home “up north”. Must be nice. Guess that explains part of the reason for the skyrocketing prices of homes back home in Vermont.
There seems to be a primitive “class system” in effect on the island. Both in public and at work, you tend to encounter “tribes” of people who only socialize within their circle. Very similar to the third world cultural attitudes that I observed in Thailand. A curious situation that fortunately is not as prevalent in the Green Mountains. Perhaps someday these tribes will merge, but for now, the Mercedes remains parked in the garage!
Since I’ve been here, I have met many people who were voted off the island. Amazingly enough, they were all happy (and even jubilant) to leave. The couple from Minnesota who couldn’t wait to escape, the folks from Pennsylvania who were voted off and almost decided to become Amish. The list goes on.
Whatever happens, I’m sure that this saga will be over some day. In the meantime, the game continues. It may be the only game where getting “voted off” is actually worth more than a million dollar prize!
Update: In July 2003, I was allowed to leave the island and return home to the Green Mountains. Now that’s a prize!
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