From the East End to The Hamptons

Written By: Susyn Reeve

I moved to East End in June 1987. It came to me in a dream. I knew no one here and planned to continue my consulting work in the city two days a week and live the rest of the time in East Hampton. I’d seen the Jitney, for many years picking up and dropping people off at the upper East Side bus stops. I think when I first noticed it, the Jitney was a van not the moving advertisement it is today. I settled into my sweet rental house on North Main Street in the alley behind the dry clearer. On Tuesday mornings I’d walk into town and board the 7:00am but. Then on Wednesday evening or Thursday afternoon I’d board the Jitney again for the ride home. I always got a seat, there were often empty seats, even in the height of the summer season. I began to meet people. I said to a woman at the bus stop one day, “Were you in Jackie Jackson’s yoga class last Friday?” She, looking directly at me said, “Yeah, I thought I recognized you.” We sat next to one another, and six degrees of separation soon revealed many connections. Half-way to East Hampton she said, “You really ought to call my friend, Eve, she lives in Springs year-round, you’ll really get along.” I did call Eve and my life on the East End began to blossom. I continued this schedule until I got a call a few days after Thanksgiving. The wife of a colleague had died and the funeral was the next day. I was going, but the Jitney schedule didn’t work for me. Someone suggested I fly. I don’t think I really knew this was a possibility. But after a few calls I had a reservation on the 7:30am flight to Laguardia. The cost, take a guess – $25.00, $10.00 more than the Jitney! For the next few years I flew back and forth from the East Hampton Airport, that wooden building with the slanting floor, every time I went t work in the city. On occasion on a Thursday afternoon, there would be an announcement at the gate at Laguardia, “Flight XX from Laguardia to East Hampton Airport is cancelled due low lying fog. A van will take you to the to the Westhampton airport where a Jitney will take you to the East End Jitney stops.” In summer months, when the plane was full – that’s 6 to 12 seats booked, there was an audible gasp of anger that the weather had caused such a great inconvenience. I was generally, in the go with the flow mode, when I heard the announcement, since safety first, seemed like a good idea. Rather, I was a bit shocked by the reaction of my fellow passengers. Really, was this a BIG problem in the full scheme of life to feel victimized by? This was my first taste of the East End becoming The Hamptons. One Tuesday morning in the deep freeze of winter I boarded my flight – by walking to the runway and climbing the moveable steps to the plane. Another passenger was on board and we settled in for the flight – two of us a pilot and co-pilot. Twenty minutes after take-off the co-pilot announced – by turning around and looking at us, that we might be delayed due to a back-up of flights at Laguardia. The woman across the very narrow aise turned to me and asked, “Do you know how long this is going to take?” ‘Huh!’ I thought as I looked at her saying, “I have no idea!” She then said, “I’m going to talk to the pilot,” and quickly opened her seatbelt, got up from her seat and hunched over made her way to the pilots, who were only 3 rows in front of us. I heard her say, “How long is this delay going to be? I would have never taken this plane if I knew I was going to be late?” Quiet honestly, I was incredulous, as I thought, ‘Is this woman nuts? We’re in the air, about 12,000 feet above ground – this isn’t like directing a cab driver to take Park Avenue instead of 5th to save time in the midst of traffic!’ It seemed to me that now, even in the winter, the East End had transformed into The Hamptons. I continued to fly for another 2 years and then began to feel that I had done enough flying on small planes at the same time that the price increase had become exponential. Back to the Jitney. By this time, my return ride was usually on Thursday afternoon or evening and the Jitney was crowded. I’d often board on 86th Street, so I easily had my choice of a seat – but on the occasions that I boarded on 40th Street my experience was quite different. Arguing and raised voices were often part of the scene when there was a problem with a reservation. And then boarding the crowded bus was not an inviting experience. Passengers already seated would share their seat with their belongings and avoid eye contact with fellow riders on the lookout for an empty seat. Were the already seated passengers thinking, ‘If I don’t look at them and pretend I don’t see them, or if I close my eyes as though I’m asleep, then they won’t bother me, and I won’t have to share my seat?’ I’ve never quite understood this behavior – we’re all on the bus, going out to one of the most beautiful places on earth, why hoard the empty seat next to you? Why act as though another passenger, who paid the same price for a ticket is actually intent on causing you discomfort? If being kind, generous and thoughtful on a bus is an inconvenience then is their really any hope for a more peaceful and loving world? I love the East End, I don’t always feel the same way about The Hamptons – but I do have enormous gratitude for the Jitney attendants who announce in a bold and commanding voice before opening the door to passengers at 40th Street, “This bus is going to be full, if you have any of your things on an empty seat next to you, please put them in the overhead bin, or store them below in the luggage carrier.” You, Jitney attendants, are heroes and heroines of the East End!