At 9:30 in the morning last Thursday, I trudged out of our apartment into the vicious snowstorm that was underway at that time in the city. My destination was the Hampton Jitney stop at 86th Street near Third Avenue, where at 10 a.m., I hoped to board the bus that would take me out to Southampton.
I wore six layers of clothing. T-shirt. Silks. Sports shirt. Sweater and another sweater. Jacket. Scarf. With the scarf, seven. It was well below freezing. And because I would be crunching my way around snow mounds, through slush, past snow shovelers and others on the street at that hour while carrying a suitcase, I allowed myself a half-hour for what’s usually just a 10-minute walk.
I arrived at about 10 minutes to 10 a.m. There’s a strange thing about the location of the Jitney bus stop there at 86th. It’s directly in front of the Victoria’s Secret store halfway between Third and Lexington. You stand there on the sidewalk in front of the 10-foot show windows with nine-foot-tall posters of larger-than-life-size models in various stages of undress, mostly involving lingerie. You stand next to the revolving door, which, until they open at 10 a.m., is locked shut. People show up. There are those who arrive to take the Jitney, mostly well dressed. And there are people who show up wanting to go into Victoria’s Secret. They come, they rattle the locked revolving door, they look at their watches and they go away.
Sometimes it’s fun to try to guess, among these people coming over, whether they are there for the store or they are there for the Jitney.
A few minutes after my arrival—it was now five minutes to ten—I got a text. The bus is almost always a few minutes early, though on this day I didn’t expect it would be. I took the phone out, brushed off the snow that had quickly accumulated on it, and read it. It was from my wife, still toasty warm at the apartment. She would be taking a later bus that day. Weather permitting.
“You’re on the Jitney?” she texted. She was worried I’d had a problem getting there.
I considered the situation. I was standing beneath posters of some very large breasts.
“Waiting wet in the snow in front of ‘the jiggly boob place,’ which is locked.” I wrote.
“Oh dear, poor you,” she replied.
No one, at this time, other than me, was waiting for this bus. But now a few people wandered over. A woman all in black came over, went to the revolving door, tried it and walked away. Another woman came over with a piece of rolling luggage and, without trying the revolving door, waited on the other side of the revolving door. A Jitney lady.
Then a shabbily dressed man with a set of keys on low-rider pants tried the revolving door and walked off.
Then a beautiful woman of about 40 came over. She had long blond hair, furs, jewelry, high cheekbones and, with her head held high, a Kennedy smile. She would be a Jitney lady, I thought. For a moment, she caught my eye. I was looking at her admiringly. She smiled back, thanking me for the compliment. But then she walked over to the revolving door, found it locked, frowned and walked off. Not open, darn it.
I thought, well, I was wrong about that.
A few moments after that, from the inside, a sales clerk unlocked the revolving doors. Victoria’s Secret was open for business.
I’ve seen them all over the years, going into that store. Young men, trying not to show the electric heat they feel as they shop for their women. Young women with high heels knowing exactly what they wanted. Two or three women together, giggling. I imagine pole dancers in there, women of the night, lovers in clandestine relationships. Determined wives.
And with that, the workman with the low-rider pants went through the revolving door, and, after him, the high-fashion lady with the furs and jewelry who looked so nice. I thought, she’s a kept woman. Or, she’s for sale. Or, maybe she’s the CEO of Yahoo.
Funny the things you think of when you are waiting for the bus.
At that moment, an older man, about my age, appeared. He was carrying plastic shopping bags, he wore a camel hair coat with a hood up and he had a scarf. I stood with my back to the nine-foot ladies, close to the show window where there was less snow. He faced me, further from the storefront, the snow falling on him.
“Excuse me,” he said, “you’re Dan from Dan’s Papers, aren’t you?”
“I read you all the time. I love the paper. You’re famous.”
“Well, maybe for 50 miles,” I said. I looked him over. “The snow is piling up on you.”
“It’s alright, I don’t even notice. I have the hood,” he said. And he brushed some of the snow atop it off.
It was now about five minutes after the hour. He and I talked about the Jitney and the Hamptons for a while. He told me his name, but he said, “I like to stay under the radar, unlike you.” And I thought that was surely true.
Then I told him about what had gone through my mind during the prior 15 minutes, about the posters and the lady in black and the other high-fashion lady about 40 with the Kennedy smile and how you never know what they are up to and how I had admired her, and he said his wife was just like that—I had described her to a tee and so he knew exactly what
We talked about a few other things for a while, about which Hampton he was going to, and how he had bought some vegetables and fruit from Whole Foods so they could be set up in their house even if the snowstorm had them socked in.
And then, just 10 minutes later in this snowstorm, I saw the bus coming up Third Avenue, coming to the light and stopping, and I saw the blinker go on for the turn.
“Here’s the bus,” I said.
“Oh, I should get my wife,” he said, and he looked past me and into the store. I turned too. Inside was the beautiful lady.
“That’s the woman I was telling you about,” I grinned excitedly.
“That’s my wife,” he said.
“Well, you have a beautiful, tall wife, too,” he said.
How did he know my wife? I had never seen him before in my life.
We all stood in line, waiting to talk to the attendant with the clipboard who would usher us on the bus. The man’s wife was in front, the man was in the middle, I was behind him. He turned.
“You should write this story for the paper,” he said.
“Oh, I can’t do that.” I was so embarrassed. “Please. If you want to tell this story to your wife, please wait until after we get off the bus. Please?”
His wife was getting on. And I had another thought. “You know, when all is said and done, she was the only one of us smart enough to wait indoors.”