I am here to report that East Hampton is on the brink of being the first town in America to have a street change its name because of a computer glitch.
It was bound to happen here. The town has so many interesting street names. There’s Abrahams Path, Widow Gavit’s Road, Stephen Hands Path, Eli Brook to Hand’s Creek Road, Springs-Fireplace Road, Highway Behind the Lots.
Some years ago, 19 residents of Highway Behind the Lots said that they didn’t like writing Highway Behind the Lots. They didn’t know it went back to colonial times, when people selected parcels of property by lot. They thought it was more akin to Empty Lot. Nineteen residents is pretty close to all the residents on that one-block-long road. The town took notice. There was a road called Toilsome Lane just to the west after you crossed Buell Lane. Normal names, these. The village board voted that Highway Behind the Lots should be thrown in the dumpster. That one-block Toilsome Lane would now be two blocks long and include what used to be Highway Behind the Lots. Too bad.
Incidentally, after that change, the way to describe getting from the railroad station to the Montauk Highway heading west got shortened.
Before the change, you’d go one block on Railroad Avenue, one block on Race Lane, one block on Gingerbread Lane, one block on Highway Behind the Lots and then two blocks on Toilsome. Each of these roads came to an end after just one block, or in the case of Toilsome, two. Now Toilsome would be three. And you’d skip Highway Behind the Lots.
Where goeth charm?
I should also mention a name that was changed in Southampton Village not long ago. At one time, there were two roads named Gin Lane (named after the Old English term for a common grazing area—“gin”—not the booze), not connected to each other, that appeared twice to run along the beachfront.
Gin Lane at the eastern extremity started at the Murray Compound and Old Town Road, and headed west until it ran into South Main Street. South Main Street curved west and ran down to the Southampton Bathing Corp. Then Gin Lane picked up again and ran further west along the oceanfront until its name changed to Meadow Lane, which ended at the Shinnecock Inlet.
After the change, Gin Lane ran along the ocean and met up with South Main Street, which dead-ended at Gin. Gin Lane then continued along to end at the Southampton Meadow Club, after which it was all Meadow Lane to the Inlet. They removed the second Gin Lane, and they had South Main Street end at the T of Gin Lane. Much simpler.
Before all this, all the roads from Foster Crossing ran right down to the ocean. Foster Crossing was the road parallel to and closest to the beach off South Main Street.
The road that is about to have its name changed because of a computer glitch is Three Mile Harbor Hog Creek Road. I live on this road. Write the whole thing out on my stationery.
When I first moved here, before computers, I’d tell a workman delivering a new refrigerator these words on how to get to my house.
“Drive up North Main Street until you get to a fork. The right fork is Springs-Fireplace Road, the left fork is marked Three Mile Harbor Road and that’s the one you take. From that point, go exactly two miles up the road and you will see that the house numbers end at 300 and then start over from 1 a second time. My house is at 26 Three Mile Harbor Hog Creek Road, which is what they call the road when the numbers start going up that second time even though it is straight as an arrow.”
“Got it,” the workman would say, and soon a refrigerator would arrive.
When computer navigation began to arrive, I’d try to describe where I live to a refrigerator man and he’d say, “No worries, I have a GPS.”
Half an hour later, he’d call me and ask where the house was. I’d ask where he was. He’d tell me he was on a street that is four miles from my house called Three Mile Harbor DRIVE. (Drive is capitalized for emphasis.) And there is no 26.
GPS did not recognize “Three Mile Harbor Hog Creek Road.” That’s the name of the road. Somebody, perhaps working for $1 a day in India, had never entered the name of this road correctly.
And these problems continued on. Things sent by UPS went to this destination four miles away. Also during this time, another odd thing happened. One day I got a letter in the mail informing me that I had a new house number. It would be 28, not 26. I could not understand why they did this. But they did it. Somebody had moved in between 1 and 26 and needed a new number, so they shoved everybody up two.
In any case, as it has turned out, there may not be a house at 26 Three Mile Harbor Drive, but there IS a house at 28 Three Mile Harbor Drive. And this person was now getting my UPS parcels, my refrigerator men and, sometimes, my mail. For example, I found that even though I told AT&T that my address was 28 Three Mile Harbor Hog Creek Road, their computer changed it to Three Mile Harbor Drive. Some smartass thought that since there was no Three Mile Harbor Hog Creek Road, then this address should have been 28 Three Mile Harbor Drive. (Note: There is no house at 28 Three Mile Harbor Road.)
In any case, I have found a workaround. If you abbreviate the Hog Creek to HC, the computer will agree that is my house and direct things to me at that address. THAT is what the internet thinks is the name of my street.
And now I have started using it.
And I found neighbors who have started using it. And I know where this is going.
The sign on our street reads Three Mile Harbor Hog Creek Rd. I think sometime during this coming year, that sign will come down and a new one will be put up reading Three Mile Harbor HC Road.
And people will ask “What does HC stand for?” and I will say, “Hacked Computer. But just abbreviate it to HC. It’s too stupid for words.” And thus the first road in America ever changed because of a computer glitch will be right here in East Hampton.