May 31, 2006
I always write about the citification of the East End this time of year. It used to anger me, now it just saddens me. Here are a few occurrences over the weekend to illustrate my point.
On Stephan Hands Path, near Montauk Highway, there is an old railroad overpass. The road below is very narrow, not even big enough for two SUVs to pass simultaneously. Locals know the tradition: if there is a car coming the other way, we stop, blink our lights, and let that car pass through first. The driver waves and you wave back. If there is more than one car on each or both sides, we take turns — one headed southeast goes through, then one headed northeast, always accompanied by a wave.
Saturday afternoon, with Memorial Day weekend traffic in full swing, the road was particularly crowded. Only this time there were no pleasantries at the underpass. There were aggressive drivers speeding to get there before you, daring you to try and make it through without hitting them head on. One 40-something clown, very tanned, a black-haired man with the de rigueur five o'clock shadow, rocketed through in his Land Rover, shouting into the phone, fiddling with something on the seat, at about 60 mph. The lady in front of us, a local, who patiently waited while eight or nine cars zoomed through rather than let her go, finally advanced just as he sped through. He looked at her like she was the asshole; this repugnant, aggressive Alpha had no clue.
My grandfather taught me the proper etiquette at the overpass when I was a little boy. Even as wild teenagers, we'd honor the tradition.
The bit of courtesy is symbolic of laid-back, country living, the very quality people come here to capture. The paradox is, their very presence ruins it.
Going to the movies is one of the few "things to do" year-round out here. Of course, many of us live here because we enjoy the very fact that there isn't a lot of nightlife. We want tranquility, and we love our homes. Once in a while, though, it's good to get out. Usually, the theater is a relaxed place. When the film is over, a lot of people sit and read the credits. Others file out leisurely, pausing to let people in the rows of seats merge into the aisles. Lots of folks are talking about the movie, comparing notes.
On Friday night, it was a completely different animal. Even on the way in, we noticed people hustling past us, deliberately muscling in front of us, presumably to get a better seat. After it ended, the stampede to leave was remarkable for its ugliness. Some people literally pushed us out of the way, stepping on other people's heels in their greed to exit as quickly as possible. Where were they going? What was their hurry? One pushy couple, he was the trademark sweater draped around his shoulders, were particularly aggressive. We walk out casually, holding hands, and when we got to the corner there they were, stuck at a red light, staring forlornly as the non-stop traffic. Their rudeness hadn't saved them a single second.
(Speaking of men wearing sweaters draped over their shoulders, what's up with that? You are either cold, in which case you should put it on, or you're hot, in which case you should take it off. Some might argue they want to take it with them in case it gets colder as the evening progresses. For Christ's Sake! WE ARE MEN! It is summer! Oh, poor Lance might get a little chilly chill chill if he doesn't have his lil' fluffy sweater?)
Take the Sweater Test. If you are in the Hamptons and you see a man wearing a sweater on his shoulders I guarantee — I personally give you a money-back guarantee – it will be 1) either puce, tangerine, or pistachio in color; 2) It will be cashmere or some other exotic fabric and 3) It cost $825, even though the same sweater, made of manly cotton or wool in real colors like blue and olive green costs $19.95 at Kmart and Target.
The third sure sign "The Season" has hit occurs at parking spaces. It is here man achieves his ultimate folly. I usually head downtown to do one chore or the other Saturday morning. As the weather warms, it does get harder to find an open spot. I'll just keep circling, listening to music or WFAN on the radio, knowing in a minute or two something will open up.
But the drivers last weekend were leaving nothing to chance. Some guys were following people with groceries, asking them where they were parked. Then they would race up to the car, stop, and put their blinker on. Dozens of cars would back-up behind. These selfish jackasses care only about themselves. It's the same kind of driver who, if you are stopped with your blinker on waiting for someone to pull out and he's coming from the other way, will dart in front of you and grab the spot.
It's a freaking parking space, schmuck. It has no value.
I have written this before, but it's a good trick to try during the summer. Go to any busy street in The Hamptons during crunch time, find a space, park, but leave the left blinker on. I always bring my very large and extremely unstable dog, who gets good and lathered in the car and gets a crazed look resembling a wild boar just before it rips the flesh off of some poor zebra (assuming boars and zebras exist in the same jungle – I really don't know or care).
Leaving the dog in the car and the window half open, I go and sit on a bench for the bird's eye view. What happens is a driver will see the blinker, stop and wait for you to pull out.
Cars will back-up behind him, first a few, and then a lot, and then an incredible line of enraged drivers. One will honk, then others. Some will shout. Now the driver, sweating, realizes his aggressive move to stop traffic in order to get a space has put him in a compromising spot. Like all Alphas, he will then look to intimidate someone else, in this case, you. He'll jump out of his car, slam the door, and stomp over to your car.
Say hello to my pit bull Fang, Mr. Tough Guy!