On Orcas Island, something magical happens on the day after Labor Day. A magic wizard flicks a light switch, and the island goes to sleep. The summer visitors (hereinafter “tourists”) who have frenzied over the island like ants suddenly disappear. Their manic mainland pace is replaced by our island status quo: slow, steady, sedate. Eastsound, our little town, empties out. Witness the miracle of plentiful parking. Our parks, campgrounds, and hotels similarly depopulate. The island is ours again.
My third island summer went by in a manic flash. I took a serving job at a local restaurant. Our busy season is short—June, July, August. Starting in June the little restaurant I worked at filled like a clown car. We had lines of people waiting for eggs and bacon. Each day became an emergency, coffee triage, a pancake crisis, we are out of f*cking bacon.
On Saturdays I set up my Standard Rainbow booth and sold leggings and bags (but mostly leggings) to tourists. It was the first time I have sold my wares in person like a gen-u-ine entrepreneur. I sold many leggings. I learned many things. Mathematically speaking I spent more on the business than I made in profit. But I do not regret the experience.
Between my serving job and my business I worked about 40 hours a week. Almost everyone I know worked more than me, usually two jobs, often two shifts a day, seven day weeks, 60, 70 hours a week. I came to Orcas to get off the urban roller coaster, yet here I was, surrounded by people who put in more hours than your average San Francisco tech worker.
But now all that is over. The seasonal jobs have dried up. The shiny young seasonal workers have fled to Mexico, Thailand, New York. The tourists have slowed to a trickle of retirees. Businesses are closing or shortening their hours.
I feel like I have woken from a fever dream to find myself on a sparsely inhabited island. During that dream I did not spend any time mulling my fall plans…So here I am, fall on Orcas, figuring out what to do next.