Edward Hopper verse ‘The Thunderdome’
Pull it together. Take a deep breath. Cross those fingers at their ten and two o’clock positions. You are about to enter the east end’s own personal version of “The Thunderdome”. The sheer anxiety of approaching Montauk Highway from the Southampton bypass is enough to Google the pros and cons of a Xanax prescription. You begin to question everything in life. Should I have gone the back way? Should I have cut across earlier? Why is this happening to me? Is this drive even worth it anymore? Has the east end become more trouble than it is worth? How come I am the only person sitting in this procession not driving a Porsche, Audi or Range Rover – what am I doing wrong? Would that Patio furniture look good in the backyard? Do I need a swinging chair? I think I need a swinging chair. Didn’t Jodi Della Femina write a book about how to best avoid this Greek tragedy of a traffic jam a decade ago? You talk to yourself, out loud. You consider all options. You debate stopping for an iced coffee at Hampton Coffee Co. You consider pulling over to stock up with another case of ‘Summer in a Bottle’. You look for any readily available instant gratification to lessen the frustration: the french fries at Townline, ice cream at the Candy Store, a life size statue of a superhero – anything to make the pain go away – but alas it is all fleeting. Ultimately you convince yourself to carry on. To push forward. You consider possible reasons for the traffic. Then you consider possible solutions. Then you approach Hank’s Pumpkintown and notice the pumpkins have been planted and are growing at an alarming rate and then remember tumbleweed Tuesday will offer no relief and it will only get worse – much, much, worse. Hope quickly dissipates. Anxiety turns into harsh negativity. You’re suddenly hungry out of nowhere. Next, a yawn. Your world is crumbling fast. You turn to the radio for help but it’s all bad. You hold onto a gossamer thread of hope that a peek in the window at Levain will reveal people inside but alas, no one is in there, again. It’s closed. It’s always closed. The emergency Chocolate Walnut cookie is no longer an option. Your fight or flight turns to just flight as you consider all possible exit strategies. It’s too late. You reach for the eject button on the seat but it’s not there. Despair has arrived and it has sucked the life and ability to think clear right out of you. Your brain is fried from a long work week. Utter despondency has now taken over and all you can do is muster the strength to aimlessly stare into the warm glow of brake lights in front of you from a car you will never be able to afford.
I’m not a city planner, but clearly there is a bottleneck issue that needs to be addressed along the stretch between the Princess diner on Montauk Highway and wherever the traffic decides to end on any given day. The east end has its problems, some more serious, but the majority of its problems can whimsically be dismissed as “part of the charm” of the Hamptons. The bottleneck has no charm, I assure you. The bottleneck has no legitimate or rational explanation either. It would be less stressful to get out of your car, put it in neutral and push your car along Montauk Highway until – let’s say – Wainscott. Maybe we should make that a new town mandate, it might thin the herd, force people to seek alternate routes or alternate summer house locations and consequently solve the issue. I hear the west end of long island is lovely in the summer. Surely there is a viable solution.
The brain trust over at the Long Island Railroad have been a recognized leader in quickly addressing travel delays in an efficient and timely manner. They implemented the double decker train on the east end a few years back and it was perfect. Perhaps we can make Montauk Highway a double decker highway. Add a second level to increase traffic flow. Another option would be a Ferry system from Flying Point Beach to each of the Hampton towns. I’m willing to consider any and all options at this point. [Note: Any ideas or suggestions or proposals for fixing this dilemma – no matter how ridiculous, ill-conceived, or simply un-thought out as they may seem – can and should be sent directly to Mr. Dan Rattiner c/o Dan’s Papers 158 Country Rd 39, Southampton, NY 11968. Please, don’t hesitate.]
If the problem can’t be fixed then at the very least there should be some sort of road rage prevention hotline you can call from your hands free Bluetooth in the car. Someone to talk you off the proverbial edge, give you suggestions on breathing techniques, etc. Another option would be support group meetings held at each town’s high school gymnasium or some other vast open field that can hold large masses of wounded defeated people. I heard in the cape there is a free strait jacket program that is well sponsored and allows people to put themselves in a strait jacket and rock themselves to sleep when they do eventually reach their destination. These options are relatively easy to implement. We need help. There just aren’t enough quiet little shorelines or crowd-free secret spots or tranquil vistas to go and unwind from the post traumatic stress related to the bottleneck issue. We need organized, town supported solutions – if not for us, then for future generations. The Montaukett Indians had drum circles to release the pressure from traffic in the same exact location 300 years ago and yet we have nothing.
Just as the emotional scars scab over its Sunday evening and time to drive back through the gauntlet of pain again. And so it goes. Once in a while, not often, the east end will remind you why you brave the traffic and the crowds. Usually it is something simple that reminds you. A sheer white window curtain will gently fill with a breeze from the sea like the full sail of a sailboat and you’ll smell the hint of salt in the air mixed with the smell of a pot of fresh picked sweet corn boiling in the kitchen downstairs. You’ll then hear your two beautiful kids genuinely laughing and enjoying each other as they play in the backyard and look outside to find them truly happy, an American flag ever so slightly waving in the ocean breeze as the sun sets behind it in light blues and purples of a summer sunset. The salt air has now filled your lungs and as you exhale you suddenly find yourself immersed in one of Edward Hopper’s serene idyllic seaside landscapes. As you go downstairs to sit down for a family dinner and look down at table holding a bounty of incredibly fresh, clean, food from the farm down the road and look around the table at the glow on the faces of the people you love most, it all makes sense. A smirk escapes you as you notice the neck of the bottle of Rosé on the table but before your mind wanders you just let it go. . . for now.