If you haven’t heard yet, the ferry service to the island I live on, Inis Mor, ended yesterday. I was on the final voyage home after having ventured to the mainland that morning.
Just before boarding the ferry, I was approached by a newspaper photographer asking was I living on the island and, if so, could he take my photo. I said yes and he requested that I “look sad”. Huh, really? ‘Click’ went his camera. But I wasn’t exactly feeling sad.
“What does losing the ferry service mean to you?” he asked. “Where do I even begin?” was my reply. Now, I don’t know was he just hurried or if he didn’t understand how serious I was, but he then drew attention to the many full bags I was toting.
“Some” is all I said. I really didn’t want to share what was in my bags and trolley. I had purchased new sneakers for my children and a special dress for one of my daughters who is soon having her first Christmas dinner at secondary/high school. I also had some food for someone in my house with special dietary considerations and I had attended a dental appointment; all things I couldn’t do on the island. And yes, some Christmas gifts too.
Several times he looked away from me and up the gangway to the other people who were also making their way towards the ferry. He asked for my phone number and would it be alright for a reporter to call me. Then, while walking away, he looked back at me and said seriously, “Okay, it’s about Christmas.”
What?! He was nearly out of range when I said, “Have that reporter call me, okay?” He was gone and I boarded the ferry.
After sitting down, I had an awful feeling of being misunderstood, of having been put in a position to hurriedly answer an important question which I was unprepared for by someone who was only half listening.
Immediately, I pulled out a pen and on the back of a receipt I wrote what I would have said had the ferry not been leaving so soon, had I been able to think more clearly on the spot, and had he not been determined to photograph other ‘sad’ Island Ferries swan songers.
I would have told him this:
Our entire lifestyle is threatened by the loss of our ferry service. Employment, health care, education, family, entertainment, recreation, and numerous other needs are all accessed via the ferry. Having no ferry is equivalent to cutting off our legs; our mobility is severely limited and there’s no crutch that can accommodate the numbers of islanders and visitors who travel to and from day to day. The loss of the ferry will cripple the island, having a huge impact on its very existence. It’s serious and it needs to be sorted out once and for all and as soon as possible.
I also jotted down a few words that reveal how I feel more adequately than ‘sad’:
- vulnerable; why is it that our needs are so ill-considered?
- worried; when will the service resume?
- frustrated; why won’t the responsible politicians sort this out?
- mad; why must we carry the burden of their shortsightedness?
This post is by no means meant to be critical of the photographer or the ferry service. Even people who share the same experience will have different interpretations of it so there are as many different perspectives as there are people in the world. Of course, I take responsibility for not conveying my deep feelings when the window of opportunity, small as it was, presented itself. Verbal communication can be woefully inadequate to impart intentions, opening the door for misunderstanding.
Obviously, this post can’t cover every situation in human interactions, and it certainly isn’t meant to be taken as a serious analysis of human communication, it’s just some things that I wanted to share because a reporter hasn’t called.
If by chance my photo is printed in a newspaper captioned ‘Loss of ferry service is a great inconvenience to islander’s Christmas shopping’, please understand it has much greater implications than anything materialistic. There’s nothing funny about our situation and many families could end up spending Christmas apart if it isn’t sorted out soon.
Please light a candle, say a prayer, or whatever is your custom to show solidarity with others who are faced with righting a wrong done to them. We could use all the support available in our time of vulnerability.