It was lightly misting on Lexington Avenue when I arrived at the Jitney stop and I had not brought an umbrella. A tall silver haired gent in a tweed jacket holding a big navy blue Ralph Lauren one gestured for me to share it. I accepted his thoughtful invitation and he moved closer to include me in this protective canopy.
I noticed his wedding ring, though not interested in ever again having a traditional relationship. I am curious about the sociology of things. Who is this man, does he live in Manhattan or the Hamptons or both? Would he have invited me to share the umbrella if he knew his wife was across Lexington, watching? We chat briefly about the cold until the coach rolls to the curb at 76th St.
Wayne, a driver I’d had many times before (handsome with an anchorman speaking voice) springs out and hoists the man’s cinnamon colored suitcase into the luggage bay while I board.
Whenever I step onto the Jitney I feel I’m already home. The air in the Jitney comes from East Hampton. There is that faint scent of air conditioned luxury that provokes a craving for adventure.
We adventure along Lex amidst a tangle of urban obstacles: orange traffic cones, yellow caution tape, big noisy machines with huge rollers spreading tar for pothole repair. With skillful swerving Wayne cowboys through somehow.
It feels exhilarating to be on this conveyance that had whisked me into Manhattan for a total contrast with the Hamptons which makes me feel as though I live in a poem about geese. Birds are fine, I’m just not a rhapsodizing about birds person. After prolonged time out east, I’ve had enough of the gentle eyed deer too, the lurching turkeys and guinea hens, the mischievous squirrels and raccoons, enough even of the dazzling library daffodils that bloom so early, all grand if you love nature. The Jitney is a ticket to a sabbatical from nature, taking me into the land of industry and manufacture, from beachy bliss to Broadway bedlam.
Can you tell that I’m not a nature person? I’m more of a rainbow on an oil slick person.
It is due to the great idea that Hampton Jitney founder Jim Davidson had in 1974 that I do not have to drive down what seems like a 120 mile driveway in order to get to Manhattan or a major airport. He started small, driving a few people to and from Manhattan and the airports in his station wagon. So effectively did he fill the need for transport that he soon needed more vehicles and additional drivers to serve a customer base expanding with such velocity that by 1979 there was a fleet of big coaches running nearly hourly between New York City and Montauk.
I’m writing this from a window seat, halfway back on the right side as we plough through city traffic. The woman across the aisle to my left is scowling at a Facebook post on her iPad. Who’d want the stress of driving? (On the other hand, Facebook is not without its stresses.) The woman beside her in the window seat is sniffing a page in Vanity Fair. Then she puts it away and carefully unwraps a sandwich on dark grainy toast. The avocado is about to slide right out. Avocados are tricky to sandwich, especially with toast. It takes the combo of a courageous traveler with a picky eater to think up this sort of travel food.
Passengers board at all stops along Lex with delays in between for the tar spreading, the traffic cones, and the bustle and throng of rush hour until we reach the dusky mouth of the Midtown Tunnel. All is at peace with our small mobile world as we roll east.
I notice the general attractiveness quotient among Jitney travelers is higher than that of people in Manhattan. The posture, the footwear, the grooming, the messenger bags, the totes, the paraphernalia required for urban meandering are in better condition here than on the city buses. The press about the Hamptons being the home of the beautiful people is apparently not an invention of People Magazine.
I gaze at the rows of houses in Queens with their green plastic awnings and wonder who lives there, where they work, if they are toasting English muffins or having eggs or protein shakes at this hour. I had passed dozens of bagel shops in Manhattan. People continue to eat empty calories. I’m embarrassed by my obsession with what other people eat. It’s none of my business unless I’m in a position of intimacy with such persons, leaving me responsible for carting them around when their bodies are no longer able to produce muscle due to eating glue made of flour and water. This is what a bagel is.I wonder how many Jitney riders still eat them.
The attendant offers us snacks way less sophisticated than is appropriate in a vehicle transporting residents whose zip codes are among the most affluent in the entire country.
The woman across the aisle chooses party mix. Why is party mix even on the snack menu? (Not that one expects kale chips. Kale is so over). But party mix has gluten and icky chemicals and no food value. I’m hungry but did not bring a morning snack and refuse the potato chips, the healthiest snack on offer. (Who was I just calling a picky eater?)
I’m cranky from the hunger now, having a mood swing on the L.I.E. as the little houses all built out of ticky tack whiz by behind the chain linking. It is Christmas week. That alone can make one cranky, especially if one is embroiled in a family drama, which I am. The monotonous rhythm of Salvation Army Santas ringing bells resonates in my mind. A rap song emerges. I entitle it “Rappy Holidays.”
Rappy Hol-idays 2 – 3 – 4
1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5 – 6 – 7 – 8
To all those Santas ringing bells
May you all go straight to hell.
Enough already with the noise!
Wish us silence, wish us joys
not audible in the defeaning ring
Santa! Santa! Silence bring!
I write more stanzas, but it makes me more cranky. My eyes are burning. I close them. I can’t get the rap song to stop writing itself.
Santa, whaddya want from us?
We can’t go shopping from this bus.
Wait, wait, yes we can!
There is always Amazon!
As we roll to a stop at the light at Bridgehampton Commons I suddenly remember when that entire expanse of prime acreage was the Bridgehampton Drive In Movie.
Those of you reading this who have not yet had a 45th high school reunion will no doubt find the concept of a drive- in- movie theatre unbelievable, much less that there was indeed one where K Mart, Staples and King Kullen now stand. The immense parking lot now accommodates thousands of eager shoppers seeking to accumulate multitudes of things.
I’m gripped by the immense need to clear my house and immediately a sense of something sacred rinses through me. All at once the house I’m heading towards, my house, is a temple. I picture myself rifling through jackets and skirts, the piles of discarded ones a shrine to a past self. I think, “I’m heading east to ‘The First Church of the Final Clearance Sale.’”
I notice that I want to charm the attendant with an especially elaborate smile of thanks when she arrives with a black plastic bag to collect empty spring water bottles, old shopping lists and movie ticket stubs found at the bottoms of handbags. (Did I mention what an ideal opportunity a ride on the Jitney provides for reorganizing a handbag?) I thank the attendant way too lavishly for doing her job. I realize that for my whole life I’ve been desperate for receiving attention and approval, inclusion, admiration. Pathetic.
I review my life in relationships with both intimates and acquaintances, even with people I might see only once, such as a waitress or store clerk. I want to cheer them, engage them so they will provide reassurance that I’m lovable. It seems to take only milliseconds to review thousands of these interactions that beg for love.
I’m beset with the kind of exhaustion that comes when assaulted by a deeply accurate realization about oneself. I just want to sleep. I’m tired, weary of becoming hungry and needing to eat, tired of being tired and needing to sleep, tired of begging for love. I need a retreat from myself. Fortunately, thanks to the Jitney, I’m not driving, so I can nap, using my scrunched up faux- but–fabulous leather motorcycle jacket as a cushion for my head as I rest it against the “Emergency Exit Only.”.