I’ve been poring over the back issues of Dan’s Papers, looking for good articles we could run in a “Years Ago in Dan’s Papers” column in the paper. For some reason, I have been hoping to come across an unsolicited article we got in the mail many years ago. I haven’t found it yet. Yet, it’s got to be there.
It was a short piece. It was written by a woman. If you are the woman who wrote this, please step forward. I have never forgotten it.
The story in its entirety takes place in the parking lot in front of Waldbaum’s Supermarket (then the A&P) on Newtown Lane in East Hampton. It is a Saturday night. It’s about 8:30 p.m. The woman and her husband come out of the supermarket with their packages—they’ve picked up coffee, some bread and some cereal—put them in the back seat, get in the front seat, where the man turns the key and the car won’t start. The husband opens the hood, fiddles with some wires, and still the car won’t start. He gets under the car and tries a few things, and still there is no success.
This story, written in the 1980s, was from back in the day when cars were not as reliable as they are today. It was also before cellphones and also before iPods and Sony Walkmen, something which, as you will soon see, is important to know for the story.
They go to a payphone and call a mechanic friend they know, and he is home and he says he will drive over.
At this point, another couple, along with a houseguest, comes out of the A&P carrying packages. They know the couple with the car that won’t start. Hellos are said, the broken car is presented. There is an offer to drive the couple home, but then the houseguest friend of the second couple says he thinks he knows what’s wrong and gets under the car. He also re-opens the hood. But still it won’t start.
The two couples haven’t seen one another in a long time, and they begin chatting about what they’ve been doing since they last saw one another. Another couple comes out of the A&P who it turns out knows the houseguest and they come over to ask what is going on. Everyone is introduced all around.
At this point, the mechanic arrives to fix things. He also is introduced around. He’s got a tool box and a portable radio, which he says he listens to while he works, and so he turns it on to a rock and roll station and looks under the hood and then gets down on his back and goes under the car and he’s there for awhile.
At this point, there are seven people standing around, and wouldn’t you know, still another three people come out of the A&P. It’s 9 p.m. A&P is about to close. They see the people standing around and come over to see what’s going on and are introduced around. People start talking about jobs, hometowns, children, colleges, whatever.
The mechanic comes out from under the car and says he’s found what’s wrong. But he needs a part. He’s going to go off and get it at his shop and he does, but at the request of what is now these ten people, he leaves the portable radio there so they can listen to the music until he gets back.
The A&P is now closed. The lights are turned off. Nearly all the cars in the lot now clear out, leaving the 10 people around the car in the center of the lot there by themselves with the music, along with the three other cars in the lot of the others nearby. The sun sets.
Walking down the street at this point is another couple who see someone they know in the crowd.
So they come over too. “Satisfaction” by the Rolling Stones now comes on the radio. Dancing begins. Somebody opens the trunk of his car nearby and takes out a Styrofoam cooler for the grocery items that might spoil. Cold beer is put in there to keep them cold. Other cold beer is handed around. Also at this point, folding beach chairs come out and get set up.
The mechanic returns. He says he can’t find the part he needs, but will return in the morning when he finds it at another gas station. He offers to take anybody who needs a ride home. Nobody wants to go home. They say they have plenty of cars and can deal with it. The mechanic, seeing what has happened at this point, now graciously offers to leave his radio there and when they are done, put it in the car in the back. Everybody cheers. Then he’s off with his toolbox.
The party goes on well into the night. A few others join in. The police come over around 2 a.m. and ask what’s going on and when they learn everybody knows everybody, go off since there are no laws being broken. It’s just a wonderful time and it goes on and on.
And that’s the story.
And then THIS happened. At 3:30 last Thursday afternoon, I am in my car with my dog driving eastbound on County Road 39. The traffic is wall to wall. About a quarter mile behind me is my wife in her car with Marilyn, a longtime friend of hers from Mill Valley, California.
I pass the intersection with North Sea Road. Shortly after that I pass the Hampton Jitney building, and then seeing the traffic is even worse up ahead, make the left on to David White’s Lane to take a back road. But the traffic is bad here too. I am about a mile down David White’s Lane going stop and go through the farm fields when I get an idea.
Both my wife and I are driving home to East Hampton. But I need to make some stops for groceries, while she is going direct. It’s a hot day. Maybe she should take the dog.
I call her on the cellphone and she agrees this would be a good idea, and so I pull over to the shoulder of the road by a field on the right, tell her exactly where I am, turn off the engine and wait. With the traffic being what it is, I expect she will be along in about 10 minutes.
As it’s now getting hot in the car, I put the dog on a leash, hop out and take her for a little walk. She sniffs a few bushes. I decide to walk close to the road just in case my wife doesn’t notice the car.
Two minutes into this walk, a grey Prius pulls off into the field in front of my car. Two people are in it. I wonder why they did that. This is a quiet area except for the line of the cars. Then a second car pulls over to park in front of the Prius. The people get out of the first car and it’s people I know, Bob and Ina Caro. They wave, I wave. “We thought that was you,” Bob says. “Everything okay?”
“Oh sure,” I say. “I’m just waiting for my wife to come by. She’s in her car, and she’s going to take the dog.”
“This is a nice spot,” Bob says, looking around. There’s a red barn about 100 yards off into the field.
A man gets out of the second car and comes over. He looks familiar but I can’t quite place him.
“You may not remember me,” he says. “I recognized you. Thirty years ago I had a surf shop. I used to advertise in your paper. Tom Connor.”
He holds out his hand.
“I haven’t seen you in years!” I say. Then I introduce him to Bob and Ina, and they shake hands.
Now I see my wife’s car pulling over onto the shoulder.
“I live just up the road,” Conner says. “I do sculptures now. Dan you ought to come to my studio. Not just now of course. But sometime.”
“I’d do that,” I say.
My wife and Marilyn come out of their car and come over, and I introduce them all around. Now there are six of us here and a dog by the side of the road.
I think you see where this is going.