Saturday, August 18, 2007

Turning Down the Virgin Islands

Tell your standard work-a-day drone that you just got offered a yearlong job in the Virgin Islands, and the response is immediate.

"Awesome! A year in paradise! Congratulations!"

Tell him that you are not sure whether or not to take it, and he will look at you with a mixture of shock and confusion.

"Are you kidding me? You even have to think about this? It's the Virgin Islands, man! Have you ever seen the place? It's heaven! What do you have to think about? You don't have a full time gig lined up here... this would be a full-time job, partying on the beach every night... Why are you even hesitating? TAKE IT!"

Tell him that you've decided to turn it down, and his look of shock and confusion becomes tinged with resentment.

"I can't believe you're going to turn it down. If someone offered me a job in the Virgin Islands, I'd take it in a heartbeat! The average temperature in the winter there is 73 degrees. In the summer the average is 84! Beaches and deep blue water and glorious sunshine! How DARE you turn that down? What is wrong with you? Are you mad???!"

The answer, of course, is no. I am not mad. Perhaps you would be mad if you turned down this offer. The Virgin Islands, to many, are paradise. But for me, the idea of going to the Virgin Islands for an entire year - possibly two - is simply not paradise. I have been to the islands twice. Each time, for no more than a week. It was great! I had people waiting on me hand and foot, I had fresh water delivered to my doorstep daily, and don't forget the rum that was placed in my hotel room every day. Yes, living in a luxury resort on the fabulous island of St. Thomas was an amazing experience.

That is not what I would be doing.

Contrary to popular belief, the Virgin Islands are not as heavenly as they first appear. The crime rate is unbelievable. People are poorly educated. Customer service is an absolute joke. It's basically a third-world country with a nice view: the only thing that's really nice about the Virgin Islands are the beaches. And I sunburn! Seriously, I am not the kind of person who takes pleasure in spending every night, beach with a beer in my hand I am sure many of you are. There is nothing wrong with that. It is not for me.

Oh, sure, the work would be interesting. With such a high crime rate, the criminal cases alone would be worth the experience. Further, due to the general lackadaisical nature of the workers in the Virgin Islands, there is a tremendous backlog of cases - almost 300 civil cases have not yet been decided. People have been waiting for years. The current judge told me that he works every day from approximately 8a.m. to 7p.m. He is in desperate need of a clerk - someone to give all of the work to. I am sure he would love to have me. And I would learn a lot too.

But a working environment in which I would be doing something interesting and helpful to my future career is not the only consideration when taking a new job. The fact is, I love Washington DC. I love it because of the vibrant culture. I love it because of all the singing opportunities. I love it because of all the educated young people here. I love it because of all the Starbucks.

Yes, I said it. I have learned from experience that my general level of contentment with a place will be directly proportional to the number of Starbucks. Starbucks and big bookstores with coffee shops. No, I am not insane. I just recognize that these kinds of establishments are emblematic of the level of civilization that a society has developed. No Starbucks means no higher civilization, to which I am so accustomed. St. Thomas has no Starbucks. The Virgin Islands have no Starbucks. I would not be happy.

I have built the last several months around the idea of returning to Washington DC to pursue a career in telecommunications law. A trip to the Virgin Islands would be, at best, an interesting experience that would not help with my chosen career path, or at worst, an unnecessary detour that leaves me sunburned and bug-bitten. I don't need to be in the islands trying to stem the tide of crime. I need to be here in D.C., where my life is. I need to be making professional contacts. I need to be attending communications bar events. I need to be publicizing my indecency article. I can do none of that from the Virgin Islands.

And, more than that, there is the fact that my primary form of leisure here is singing with various choirs. From September through May, the Choral Arts Society of Washington is my main form of release. I get paid to sing tenor at a church in Maryland. I am in the process of auditioning for the holy day services at various synagogues around the area. And my voice coach recently told me that she thinks I'm ready to audition for the Washington National Opera. How could I leave now? What would I do in the Virgin Islands? Join a steel drum band?

Relaxing on the beach with an alcoholic beverage in my hand is a fantastic way to spend a week or two. It may be a fantastic way for many - if not most - readers of this blog to spend not just a week, but a year. Or two. Or the rest of their lives. But it's not for me. I am a Washingtonian, through and through. I love it here, and I would not give it up. Even for a year in the Virgin Islands.


Anonymous said...

Well if you think that it is such a bad place because it doesn't have a starbucks.. then you are the uneducated one my friend

Matt said...

Read more closely. I didn't say it was a bad place. I said it's not the kind of place where I would feel comfortable and happy. The lack of a Starbucks is just an example. It also lacks great orchestras and museums and lots of vibrancy that mainland big cities have in spades.

Who are you, my friend? Drop your Cloak of Anonymity!