Alliances might keep your Vashon torch lit

At my house, we’ve been watching a lot of “Survivor” lately (don’t judge), and we have learned something important: Ozzy is super hot. That and a $1 million prize, a national audience and forced dehydration makes people mistrust everybody and want to vote them off the island.

The show, of course, pits a diverse collection of people with excellent teeth against each other. Though in the end they connive, lie, cheat and charm their way to solo victory, for a while, at least, they strategically collaborate.

See where am I going with this? Sometimes it does feel like “Survivor Vashon” out here. We don’t get to vote people off, but man, we can do the tribal alliances and simultaneous every-person-for-themselves thing with the best of them.

For instance, it’s a common saying that if you get 10 islanders in a room, you’ll have at least 11 opinionated personalities with different versions of what matters, how we should do things and what makes us ... unique? Is that what we think we are?

Question: How many islanders does it take to screw in a light bulb?

Answer 1: No idea. I have to call King County.

Answer 2: I don’t need your help; get the hell out of my kitchen.

Answer 3: Can I just look at the package first and see where the light bulb was made? I want to be sure it’s compact florescent, locally made, fair trade, has a union-friendly, diverse workforce and is non-toxic to dogs.

Now there’s a community cocktail.

Have you seen the Wikipedia article on Vashon? We sound wicked boring. The history section is all of 64 words long and doesn’t even include “The Maury Island Incident” (our extraterrestrial claim to fame) or that time when the ferry worker smeared a cream cheese Danish on somebody’s windshield.

I did find a clue in the past to our semi-dysfunctional present. In 1880, we had just over 100 (white) people on the island. Fascinatingly, that turns out to be around the optimal number of social relationships any one person can maintain. The same is apparently true for apes and baboons; opinions vary about their numbers on the island.

That first census also references “Vashons” and “Maurys” Islands. Plural? So maybe, from the start, we were in fact a collection of mini-islands, operating as independent, competing fiefdoms — just like today!

And of course, different subgroups, much like neighboring medieval villages, are often suspicious of each other (sometimes even hostile), having different values and speaking slightly different languages and all. And oh my God, that explains everything on Survivor Vashon.

The lady who sits on the aisle of the empty booth on the passenger ferry and hairy eyeballs me for wanting to sit down; the people who bring spelt “salads” to potlucks — with ingredient lists; the folks who revel in cursing diatribes on Facebook, those who bring their cardboard to recycling in neatly packed bundles.

It’s just people being themselves, whereby we display our very own extremely homogeneous diversity. If the aforementioned social clan size factoid is correct, then the island currently consists of exactly 84.6 sub-islands, give or take. Any given individual might be a part of just one, or, statistically, all 84.6 of them. You could theoretically have alliances with every group. Think of the power.

This could be you: a gun-rights Libertarian who nevertheless sees Vashon as a beacon of hope for a convivial, sustainable humanity, while personally suffering from food intolerances, diet crazes, yet being blind to the island’s cultural elitism, which thereby disconnects you from “reality,” even as you struggle financially and try to care for your super-entitled pets and feral children.

After all, we got hooked on “Survivor” thanks to island friends, the Spankhooters (not their real name), who home schooled their children, can their own tomato sauce, have farm animals, work in the city, shop at malls, practice radical politics, go to church and watch Survivor for quality family time.

You know why all those AM radio transmitters are on the island? It’s because Vashon’s soil conductivity is greater than anywhere else in the Puget Sound. You know what that means? Me neither. But I’m thinking the upshot is, in spite of ourselves, we’re an electromagnetic petri dish of unavoidable connections.

In other words, we’re an ongoing experiment (just like everywhere). Here’s to a beautiful summer. Be sure to hydrate — it makes your neighbors nicer and possibly better looking.


— Kevin Joyce is a writer, humorist and father on Vashon.

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