The third week of Hampton Polo took place at Two Trees Farm in Mecox on Saturday afternoon. The team White Birch Farm was on one side, the team Heathcore was on the other. The match began at 4 p.m., but I’d had the time wrong. I thought it began at 2 p.m., so I got there at 1 p.m. I had a job to do at the polo match.
The job wasn’t for the polo operation itself, but for the Bridgehampton Child Care and Recreation Center, a nonprofit facility on the Bridgehampton- Sag Harbor Turnpike. The BCCRC collects the parking fees for those attending and gets to keep half of what we collect. I say “we” because I’m the Vice President of the Child Care Center. I’m also on the board. All of us pitch in to collect the money at Polo.
Arriving at 1 p.m., I wondered why I was the only person at the place set aside for us, on the driveway going back to the field where the game was going to be played. I parked and looked around. Alongside the road there was a table with some folding chairs, a small tent for our crew, and a sign reading $30 Parking Fee Benefits the BCCRC. I sat down in one of the folding chairs to wait. I figured they’d be right along.
At that moment, a Volvo pulled up, the driver’s window came down and a hand held out two $20 bills. So I got up, ran over and collected the $40.
“I’ll be right back with the change,” I said to the driver.
I ran back to the table, turned away so the driver couldn’t see, and took $10 out of my wallet. As I handed that back, another car pulled up with the money out. So I collected that. Soon I had bills sticking out of all my pockets.
Nobody came for a while after that, but after about 10 minutes, with nobody from the BCCRC, either, I called Bonnie Cannon, the director of the BCCRC, and asked where everybody was.
“We’re not supposed to be there yet,” she said. “We get there at 3 p.m. The match is at 4 p.m.”
“I thought it was 2 p.m.,” I said. “Well, they’re coming in, they’re paying. Here comes another one.”
“We’ll get down there at 2:30 p.m.,” she said.
I can’t say there was some thundering herd of cars between 1 and 2:30 p.m. for a four o’clock match. Sometimes, nobody came up the road for 20 minutes. I thought I’d drive away and come back, but then thought better of it. There was some money to be made. Furthermore, there were several horses in a pasture just beyond our tent. It was a cool afternoon. I had a folding chair. When I could, I’d sit here, watch the horses in the pasture and write up this account on my laptop. And so I did that.
After a bit one of the horses, curious, trotted over. I patted his nose. Then a groom unlocked a gate and went into the pasture to get the second horse, and on the way out, seeing me looking at this second horse, brought him over. Without my asking, he handed me the lead and a carrot, and I held it out. Crunch, crunch, crunch. When the horse got down near to my fingers, I pulled away. The groom laughed and then led the horse off.
By the time reinforcements arrived, I had collected $210, although in making change with my money in my wallet I was not quite sure if it was really $230 or $190. I’d also waved on through an ambulance, a man who said he was the referee, some players who had team costumes laid out in the back seat, and an Italian man with a heavy accent, aviator glasses and a black helmet who told me he was just driving his motorcycle up to see what it was all about and he would be back shortly so he shouldn’t have to pay. I agreed. Indeed, he did soon come back and out.
Soon, everyone else arrived. There was Bonnie and her mother, Gloria, Roslyn King, Linda Bird Francke, who is on the advisory board, and also my wife, Chris, also on the advisory board. Also Harvey Loomis and Susan Lazarus Reimen.
In some ways, until others arrived, I felt as if I were a bum panhandling there beside the driveway. I was just sitting there, or wandering around on the side of the road, and people were driving up, and it made me think I ought to have a piece of cardboard and some crayons. HOMELESS AND HUNGRY. HELP ME GET BACK ON MY FEET. $30 A CARLOAD.
I sure was happy to see the reinforcements. Now everyone was handing out the leaflets, thanking people, asking questions. I sat and listened to some of the conversations. Most people gladly paid the $30. But a few refused. “I’m part of the band,” one of them said, which did not get him through. Others, who said they were caterers or grooms or just looking, got through without paying. One man slowed down to a crawl, said that the people in the car behind him would pay for him, and then roared off—a cruel, cruel joke. And we didn’t get his license number.
Bonnie told me it had been quite a scene on opening day three weeks earlier, when the place was jammed and in a bad temper because of the 95° heat. Many people were nice, but some weren’t. There had been a man in a Rolls-Royce she would not let through. He said he had free parking. He mentioned the name of so and so, who gave him that promise. He was very VIP. Bonnie held her ground. He then took out his cellphone and called “this person,” then handed the phone to Bonnie.
“The person on the other end didn’t know anything,” Bonnie said. “So I still wouldn’t let him through. The man looked me in the eye. ‘Are you trying to steal my cellphone?’ he asked. Well, yes, I was still holding the phone. I handed it back.”
“How did it end,” I asked.
“He paid,” she said. All this for $30.
We now watched a young woman in shorts and T-shirt wearing a backpack, pedaling up the road on her bicycle toward us. We waved her through. She smiled sweetly.
A man in a black Maserati pulled up and Linda Bird Francke handled the transaction. But coming back to the table, Linda Bird apologized to Bonnie because the driver only had $26 and she had let him through.
“You did fine,” Bonnie said.
“He wanted to know if I knew where there was an ATM,” Linda Bird continued. “I said I did not know.”
A security guy with a walkie-talkie not far from us had heard Bonnie’s conversation about the Rolls-Royce.
“I’m surprised a rich person would try not to pay like that,” he said.
“That’s why they are rich,” I said. “They hang onto the money.”
When everything seemed under control,
I left and went in to watch the polo match.
It’s always a wonderful, elegant scene. I’d like to thank the polo committee for making this arrangement with BCCRC. They’ve done it every year, last year, we had rain practically every Saturday, and collected only about half of what we did the year before. The polo
committee said keep everything. This was a gracious thing to do, let us keep their half while they took nothing, and we very much appreciated it. Good people running the polo event.