Living on an island is a pain in the butt.
For example, I have a tripod for my camera, and there is one little screw missing that renders the entire contraption useless. It has been this way for more than a year, and its brokenness has caused me multiple complications. Fixing the problem has eluded me, and I blame living on an island for my failure. I have tried twice to order the part online, but neither part I ordered was quite right. I’ve gone to town plenty of times in the past year, and I’ve looked for this part in the shops that sell everything: groceries, electronics, bicycles, and camera equipment – including tripods, but nope, I need the specialized camera store to get this little screw. This, it seems, has been too much for me, because the agenda that comes with a day in town is way too packed, and I can’t trek across town for one little screw when whole days are devoted to going to the dentist or getting passport photos AND traveling on a ferry.
If you’ve never lived on an island (or maybe just the particular island where I lived for 11 years) you probably have no idea what I’m talking about. You’re probably thinking, “this woman needs to go get an ADHD diagnosis.” It’s not a crazy thought, I do need that diagnosis, but it won’t make the struggle any less real. Just ask my (former) 3,000+ neighbours.
The really great thing about this struggle is that it shifts your mentality. When opportunities to shop are drastically limited by the surrounding environment, a person’s deeply ingrained consumeristic instincts are constrained as well. There are things you learn to live without, and you also look for more creative ways to get the things you really need. Living on an island also makes it a little more difficult to dispose of certain items, and this also bolsters the alternative economy.
The most radiantly successful example of this is a little store called the Knick Knack Nook. For years (pre-Covid) it seemed that most islanders built this shop into their weekly routine. There are always things to get rid of (clothes your kids grew out of, or kitchen utensils that you realize are just cluttering up your cupboards) so you would gather those things and drive over to the Nook to drop them off. A team of volunteers would evaluate your items to ensure they were usable, and put them on the shelf. You’d browse those same shelves and inevitably find a treasure. Do you really need a pasta maker? No, but for $2, why not?
For those of us with small children, the Nook was necessary. Kids get bored of toys incredibly quickly, and the Nook meant you could just grab a bag of those old, boring toys and trade them in for new-to-your kid toys. The best part was that your toddler could while-away a significant chunk of a rainy Saturday exploring the toy section while you caught up with your neighbour or tried on a pair of cowboy boots you never knew you wanted.
Before Marie Kondo, we were ridding our homes of the things that no longer brought us joy, and refilling them with other things that did bring us joy. A week or two later when we were bored of that stuff, we’d repeat the process, and never have any plastic packaging to show for it.
You’d get to know the volunteers who worked at the check-out. You’d share jokes, discuss your aches and pains, the horrible weather. You’d know your relationship with this person had solidified when they started offering you discounts on the sly.
“Two-dollars is really too much,” they’d say. “I’ll give it to you for fifty cents.”
The crazy thing is, when you sell random things for fifty cents, day in and day out, eventually you find yourself with a pretty significant chunk of change. The amazing volunteers who ran, and still run, the Knick Knack Nook, take all that money and give it back as scholarships and community grants.
When I think about this whole operation, it really is too good to be true. Only it is true, and it’s tangible.
Since moving off that little island I’ve caught myself needing something and thinking, “I should just go see if they have one at the Nook.” Sadly, that option is not available to me now, so I’ve gotten more acquainted with Walmart than I would like to admit.
I’d be lying if I said the ease of urban life hasn’t offered me a measure of liberation. That said, I still haven’t fixed my tripod. We’ll see how long it takes now that the camera shop is two convenient kilometres from my front door.