A Lesson in Patience as Hamptons Summer Crowds Wane

Road Rage
Irish Typepad, Flickr

I was trying to be patient, but there is a long slog uphill through the rude mountain, a perilous pass, before “the days dwindle down, to a precious few.” September is here, offering relief from this festival of un-civility on the East End, especially on the roadways, where the price of a vehicle over $70K almost ensures a “center of the universe” personality behind the wheel.

But September was not here yet when I was driving on Bay Street in Sag Harbor recently when a delivery truck slowed to a stop, leaving just enough room for me to ease past him. If you’re thinking of cursing at these guys, slow down in your head and try to imagine the logistics of trying to deliver anything through this traffic, anywhere near on schedule.

As I started to ease past the driver, trying not to hit him if he leaped out of the truck, a Bentley swung into my lane, causing me to break so hard that I was within inches of his bumper. He was so close that I couldn’t see if he was touching the front of my pickup truck. He then waved at me, instructing me to back up, so he could finish his intrusion into my lane and right of way. I responded with the international hand signal that conveys rejection of any motion proposed.

Maybe I should not have reacted so heatedly, but when he replied in kind with his own international symbol from behind the wheel of a Bentley while squeezing through his left turn, I felt the righteousness of class warfare was enjoined. After he turned, it was then easy to pull in behind him, alongside where he parked, where I was able to give him a primer course on New York State Motor Vehicle Regulations pertaining to right of way, and how a person of his physical stature really should have a large body guard making those gestures for him, if he was to insist on driving like a nincompoop.

Some stronger language may have ornamented a not-very-intelligent exchange, but I did stop short of clopping him, as I pictured myself in court with the judge saying, “I don’t care what he said to you, you’re at least a foot taller then he is.” Even judges tend to exaggerate when admonishing; they probably got that from their parents, the perennial judges.

Let me confess to having one more, smaller explosion: I went to mail a check this morning, doing my usual, careful, legal U-turn on Long Island Ave. With my right turn signal on, heading into West Water St. going about 10 miles per hour, a couple with a golden retriever, walked right in front of me, not a car length away.

Okay, generally a pedestrian may have the right of way, but no warning, no crosswalk— they could have been dead if I was going faster, or if my foot slipped off the brake. As I was going past them, the guy gave me a dirty look, like it was my fault! Finishing my U-turn, I was now driving parallel to them and wanted to say something really clever, but all that came out was, “That’s really smart, moron, using a street like a sidewalk.”

The wife looked at the hubby as if to say, “I told you not to cross there!” It looked like the typical vacation communication, because they don’t usually spend all day together. The golden retriever knew it wasn’t a good idea when I was bearing down on them and was the only one who didn’t expect traffic to stop for them; these people should spend some time in the city.

It just dawned on me, why I resent all of this rude behavior: it reminds me of the crowded tension of Manhattan. That’s it—it’s that street tension, where people act like they’re never going to see each other again, so they’re dispensable objects.

The older I get, the less tolerance I have for intolerance, especially when it makes me intolerant of other people’s rudeness. “Oh the days dwindle down…” Here’s hoping we can all be a little more patient, especially driving—otherwise we may end up telling it to the judge.

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