No one has ever been more nervous than Billy Davis was last Saturday, as he waited on Montauk Highway in Sagaponack for the Hampton Jitney from East Hampton to come.
He tried to relax on a sunny bench in front of the Wolffer Wine Stand. No Jitney yet. He pulled his cell phone out from his shorts pocket. No messages. Checked the time: 4 p.m. Any minute now…well, no, probably more like 4:15. His fingers drummed the bench, he dabbed at his brow, shiny not only from the jitters but from the near-90 degree heat. He stood up and ambled inside, where the shop was already bustling with wine customers. Pacing among the cases and display bottles, he peered out into the parking lot.
Back outside. Kicking pebbles in the parking lot, he’d look up to see lots of cars crunching their way in, but no familiar tall green bus. Back inside. Back outside. Finally, a text message that she was on the bus.
At long last, the Jitney rumbled into the parking lot. Now his secret plan was finally going to go into action, and Billy, 27, was going to make the speech he had been working on for three months. As people inside Wolffer crowded around the windows to get a look (some had been tipped off by Wolffer Estate Manager, Suellen Tunney, as to what was going on out there), the big bus’s door opened, and one sole passenger stepped out, a long-haired young woman in a lacy white Lily Pulitzer dress that showed off her tan, clutching her chic Chanel bag, and looking completely confused.
After all, Dawn Aversano, 26, had expected Billy to pick her up for their date at the Blue Parrot happy hour. Instead, a Jitney had pulled up to her East Hampton home. The driver, all dressed up in a vest and a fancy shirt, had ordered her into the enormous, completely empty bus, and the thought crossed her mind that this could be some sort of a weird abduction, until the driver, Adam Piazza, assured her that her boyfriend had arranged this.
When she saw Billy, they threw their arms around each other and kissed. Then, laughing and looking very dazed, she said, “What is going on?”
Billy snatched her hand and ushered her through the wine stand and back out past the people sipping their glasses at tables, and he hurried her back toward the rolling field of endless grapevines. In front of a row of chardonnay vines, Billy knelt down, just like they do in movies, whipped out a little box from his pocket and flipped it open. An exquisite diamond glinted in the sun. Dawn gasped. He asked, “Will you marry me?”
The tender moment could only barely be heard from the tables, where the imbibers tried to focus on their crudités and rosé or vin blanc and not stare, but it was pretty hard to ignore such a romantic scenario unfolding across the clover. The ad hoc audience grew silent, waiting for the magic word, and when it was “Yes!” followed by three other magic words, “I love you,” they broke into happy applause.
A champagne cork popped, and the new fiancés strolled over to a blanket set out for them with a plate of pretty cheeses and the bubbly.
Concocting a singular and relevant marriage proposal is not the easiest task in the world, especially when it involves two busy commuters and the Long Island Expressway. This story began three years ago, when Billy Davis broke his routine of heading back to the city from his family’s Bridgehampton house. He liked to get back to Manhattan early to prepare for his work week in sports advertising sales, but he and his mom had been having a heart-to-heart about why he wasn’t bringing home a nice girl for her to meet. Billy dated a lot, but he had a busy life, and he didn’t really have a good answer. Not that Mom was worried, maybe just a bit impatient. “My mother’s advice was, ‘When you’re not looking for it, is when it will appear.’”
Everyone knows that mom knows best, even when she does make you miss your usual Jitney. He finally hugged mom good-bye later that day and encountered a long line at the Bridgehampton Jitney stop across from Candy Kitchen. Multiple busses were needed. The one he got on was jammed. He scoped out the few empty seats. Never mind the one next to the elderly man, Billy didn’t want to disturb him. And the seat next to the large lady with her food all laid out didn’t look very appetizing. But there was one three rows back that a young woman, intent on her book, seemed nevertheless to be guarding with bags all over the place. “She was clearly a veteran Jitney rider, hoping for the elusive ‘double-seat’ trip,” Billy said.
Well, too bad. She was much too beautiful to sit alone. Billy thought, “I like her stubbornness, and I like this challenge.”
“Excuse me, would you mind moving your extremely large pile of stuff?” he asked as politely as one can say that.
They made eye contact—“a decent start, but I wasn’t sure she was actually going to relent.”
Well, she did, and he met Dawn Aversano, who worked in financial services in Manhattan. The rest is history. For three years, they rode the Jitney together, he to Bridgehampton and Amagansett, she to her family’s home in East Hampton, and as Billy tossed around the idea of marrying Dawn, he tried to also think of a unique and appropriate place to propose. As a result of all those two-hour commutes, he came up with an idea, a plan to whisk her away in a romantic manner, not on a white horse, not in a pumpkin-turned-carriage, but on a Hampton Jitney.
Good idea, he thought, anything but cliché—but a jam-packed bus full of tired type-A New Yorkers? Shouldn’t the transportation be one thing, the setting another? So he sat down and wrote a letter to Geoffrey Lynch, president of the Hampton Jitney, asking if he would be a co-conspirator. Lynch happily agreed.
His plan solidified. “I would make it so Dawn would head out to East Hampton by herself and stay with her family on a Friday night this summer. I would say I have to work late and would meet her on Saturday evening. On the Saturday, after seemingly arriving in Bridgehampton on the Jitney, I would tell Dawn that I would drive and pick her up at her East Hampton house to go to dinner.
“However, as Dawn waits outside her house in East Hampton for me to drive over, she will be shocked and surprised when a Hampton Jitney rolls in. The Jitney Captain will get out, say her name, and invite her on to the bus saying that she’s been requested. Dawn will walk onto the bus and take a seat…excited and curious…and alone. The Jitney won’t go very far. It will just take Dawn to the Wolffer Wine Stand on Route 27. When Dawn gets out at the vineyard, I will be there will take her hand, walk her to a scenic area, and ask her to marry me.”
And voila, end of the story of love on the Long Island Expressway. Or actually, this is just Chapter One, because the engagement is just a beginning.