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Saturday, March 26, 2011

No. 16 "... I want one so bad, I’ll take a pack of them.”

An oft told story on the Island is of an Island boy [nameless for now] who got a job working on a dredge boat in the Tidewater area of Virginia. His first trip to Norfolk was his first ever time away from home. Feeling less than comfortable in the new setting, he stayed close by his friends on the boat where he lived the two week stints on the job. Each dredge was in some ways its own little housing complex and the crew could find there all the basic necessities for living.

That’s exactly how life went on for the young Islander for the first few months of his time as a dredgeman. But, a crisis eventually arose when he gave out of cigarettes and learned that there was no one board who had any to sell or share. So it was that he was obliged to venture off from the boat and onto the docks and stores of Norfolk. He was uncomfortable as to how he would relate to strangers, but his friends assured him that the people there was just like folks at home and he had nothing to fear. Still unsure as to what he might find, he asked to know exactly what he should do when he found a store and went inside.

“Just like home, you tell ‘em what you want, they’ll find it for you, and you pay for it and that’s it. Just that simple!” So off he went into the city of Norfolk looking to buy a pack of cigarettes. The very first business he came to after leaving the port was brightly lit and displayed a large  sign of the store’s name, “Western Auto.” Anxious to get his cigarettes and head back to the boat, he hurried in the door and asked the clerk behind the counter where he could find a pack of “Winstons.”

The clerk was not nearly as sensitive to his request as he might have hoped and answered with more than a little sarcasm, “I’m sorry sir, but we don’t sell anything here but hardware.” Unsure of exactly what he should do then, the young man from Harkers Island responded with a mixture of urgency and frustration. “We’ll, I want a cigarette so bad, I’ll take a pack of them.”

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