Martha's Vineyard's people have always had a certain snobbery about the Hamptons -- Manhattan by the sea. This year, however, their idyll is seeming a lot more like what happens in a Lincoln Tunnel traffic jam. Last week, Manhattanite Toni Goodale started out on what should have been a ten-minute trip to the liquor store to pick up Brazilian rum for the caipirinhas (yes, the New York Times food section is available on the island) she planned to serve her guests. "It took me 50 minutes to get back," says Goodale, a fund-raising consultant. "Thank God I had a book."
Last week, ocean breezes at least cooled this scorching island, awaiting the down-sized arrival of Bill and Hillary Clinton, but the wind didn't do much to soothe the tensions of vacationers fighting the traffic to get to the beach or the fish store. "The line of cars was so long yesterday that I thought it was a search party for Chandra Levy," quips investment banker Richard Grand-Jean. "The stock market is down, and you still can't park."
Tisbury police chief John McCarthy seems to enjoy the idea that his summer charges feel inconvenienced. "Are you telling me New Yorkers are complaining about our traffic?" says McCarthy, a former city denizen who moved here more than 25 years ago. "Can they come give me an autograph?"
Unfortunately, though, traffic isn't the only urban ill that seems to have crossed Vineyard Sound and infested the island. At a large celebrity-studded cocktail party here recently, the wife of a movie mogul was distraught as she described the invasion of her waterside estate by -- you heard right -- rats. "Everybody freaks out at rats, and you have to talk people through it," says Bob Drummey, an assistant manager at the island pest-control firm Griggs & Browne, which charges a bounty per rat. "There are a lot of urban people who aren't used to seeing any wildlife, even ants, and they get hysterical."
To islanders, actually, New Yorkers have always brought two much-appreciated imports: money and comedy. At John's Fish Market in Vineyard Haven, the staff was laughing last week about the man who came in and ordered live lobster, then asked, "Are they fresh?" Documentary-film maker Kate Feiffer says that unlike in the Hamptons, "there aren't any secret back roads here. But as a former New Yorker, I feel like I'm in my element in August -- the traffic, the long lines. It's just like home."
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