Monday the 26th of December is, or used to be anyway, celebrated in certain mostly British parts as Boxing Day, a day for giving a present or a gratuity to those who do all the usual and routine jobs that keep civilization — or one’s manor and estates — merrily churning along. ’Tis the day for a sort of holiday “thank-you” to those who haul away the dunnage, battle the crabgrass, and deliver the morning Picayune Gazette.

Those who help the several dozen inhabitants of Matinicus Island get work done know that nothing required of our manor and estates is even remotely usual or routine. The island has many to thank, and in particular, to thank for their indulgence.

We are the people who call up Penobscot Island Air and ask, “Do you think it’s going to be flyable on Thursday? No, I don’t want to make a reservation for a flight, not yet. I just need to know if it’ll be decent weather before I call and see if I can get a dentist appointment. I’ll call you back.”

The poor dispatcher gets off the phone, rolls her eyes, and thinks, “What am I, the weather bureau? Am I supposed to be writing them down for a flight or not?”

We’re the people who then tell the receptionist at said dentist’s office that “We have no idea whether we’ll be able to make a week from Tuesday at 9 o’clock.” It’ll be about the aviation weather or sea conditions, and no forecast more than about 36 hours out is worth a fig. I am in the middle of National Weather Service “Skywarn” and Weather Spotter training, and I say that is a meteorologist’s technical term: not worth a fig. 

So, thank you to all the veterinarians, optometrists, dentists, and other non-emergency medical providers who put up with our inability to keep a schedule. Thanks also to the emergency providers who hold our hands over the telephone, such as the nurses and physicians on duty at Pen Bay Medical Center’s emergency department when I call up from somebody’s bedside, me as the EMT, they as the person not feeling well, and outside, a raging gale making transportation impossible or at least more painful than the illness in question. We realize it is not normally the way of doctors to give advice without actually seeing their patient. We thank you all.

On this day of thanks to laborers, professionals, and the entire cast of These Are the People in Your Neighborhood, a la Mr. Rogers, let me offer a nod of gratitude to those with iron stomachs who, never having claimed to be of the maritime trades, ride our ferries in order to make much-needed deliveries. The guys from Viking Lumber come to mind, and there are others, truckers and contractors who ride the two hours out across the bay and two hours back, sometimes taking quite a pounding, sometimes rolling in a sickening sideways torsion, sometimes in an icy bath like as to give a man pneumonia. It isn’t fun. We know that. Thank you. Really.

Among these seagoing deliverymen we would like especially to thank the people at Maine Energy in Northport, not only for making the trip four times a year to deliver propane, but for not laughing right in our faces when we described how we still need the old-style hundred-pound exchange cylinders.

We’d like to offer a special salute to the two fellows from Environmental Projects, Inc. who just happened to be on Matinicus running the annual Household Hazardous Waste collection day last summer when a hose fitting in the powerhouse failed and a mess of diesel fuel ended up all over the concrete floor of the station. The EPI guys spent hours on their hands and knees mopping up diesel fuel, and boy, were we ever lucky that they were around, they being professionals at that sort of thing. Thanks also to those on the mainland who helped by sending us extra oil-sorbent pads, including Rockland Public Safety, Knox County Emergency Management, and the flying service.

Big thanks are due the helpful folks who work for large governmental and corporate entities, and by that I mean those who are helpful despite — not because of — their employers. Not everybody nurtures a warm sentiment toward the postal service or the Department of Transportation or FEMA or any phone company in the abstract. But there are individual human beings among the minions who know the convoluted systems of their agency. These unsung heroes cut through bureaucracy, decipher jargon, spell out acronyms, and skip over needless layers of formality to help get problems solved. They could easily get in trouble with the higher-ups if I put names in the paper, so hopefully they know who they are. Thank you.