An Ode To The Hampton Jitney

Hampton Jitney founder Jim Davidson with his first van. Independent/Rameshwar Das

It’s the Hampton Jitney’s 45th birthday and it’s holding a story contest asking riders to share and be a part of its campaign. The quote used in the promotion is “I fell in love on the Hampton Jitney.”

The Hampton Jitney is basically my third residence as I shuffle each week between my apartment in Yorkville, my house in Hampton Bays, and the Indy office in East Hampton. One of the main reasons I live where I live in Manhattan is because of the close proximity to the Hampton Jitney. There’s a bus almost every hour and I take it at least once a week. The Jitney never fails to get me where I need to be in a timely fashion.

While I’ve never fallen in love on the Hampton Jitney — when I was 18 an attendant asked me on a date, but the relationship was short-lived — I do have stories.

For me, it’s not one story that sticks out but a handful of musings, if you will, of my time spent on the luxury motor coach over the years.

One day, after a Tuesday deadline at the paper, I rushed to catch the 2 PM. Since it was a crazy deadline day, I decided to skip lunch, thinking “I’ll be home in two hours.” Along came one of those out-of-nowhere snowstorms, where commuters end up sleeping in their cars on the LIE. It took seven hours to get to Manhattan.

I hoarded Goldfish snacks and water thinking we might have to spend the night. If it weren’t for the driver keeping everyone calm and giving us minute-by-minute updates, there would have been a few nervous breakdowns (myself included). The driver was our biggest cheerleader that day: “We’re going to get through this,” he said multiple times. As we arrived in Manhattan, it was like an MTA apocalypse, with many NYC busses abandoned in the middle of Third Avenue. I jumped off that bus and took myself out to dinner and glass of wine at Dock’s before continuing my commute home in some of the most treacherous weather I’ve ever experienced.

I was on the Hamptons Ambassador and there was a man enjoying a croissant. He dropped it on the floor and it slid across the aisle. This included a good amount of floor time. It was definitely not your five-second-rule situation. The woman across from him kicked it back with her shoe — a shoe that had presumably touched a New York City sidewalk. The man picked up the croissant and continued to eat it like nothing had happened.

While I can always appreciate someone’s love for a fine French pastry, when you’re riding a bus that serves unlimited snacks, you won’t go hungry. Leave the croissant, take the party mix.

The average Hampton Jitney patron is a nice and respectful one. But I once encountered an extremely horrible woman on the Ambassador. She stood over me, screaming at me to get out of her seat. The attendant came and nicely pointed out that I was not in her seat, she had reserved the seat in front of me. She continued berating everyone around her, even calling the girl next to her “Euro trash” after she bumped her arm. She later spilled her entire coffee on herself, in a little case of something I like to call karma.

There are unspoken rules on the Hampton Jitney, similar to those on an airplane. Keep to your space, keep conversation to minimum (unless of course you’re in the process of meeting your soulmate, then by all means chat away), and avoid food that smells (please opt for something other than tuna).

There are spoken rules as well. Do not try to use your cell phone on the Jitney. A few weeks ago I saw a woman verbally get her head chopped off by her surrounding seatmates for being on a conference call. She wasn’t following the rules, and I can’t say she didn’t deserve it. Last week I had a conference call of my own during my ride and had to whisper into the phone “I’m just going to listen in, I’m on the Hampton Jitney.” Everyone understood.

If you take the Jitney long enough, you begin to know all the tricks. I know that the seats with the most legroom are three-quarters of the way back. And I’ll share that secret, since I’m always the first one on the bus. Although now that I’m living in Hampton Bays, I’ve become one of the people who has to “switch busses in Manorville.” Many riders will pretend to sleep and spread out to try to avoid sitting with someone (guilty as charged!). Now, to be on the receiving end of this, there’s nothing more unnerving than waking someone from a fake slumber to let them know their dreams of a sprawling double seat are just not going to come true.

For as long as I can remember, the Hampton Jitney has been a part of my life. When I was in school, we took field trips to the city on the Jitney. My mom would take me to Broadway shows on the Jitney. It took me to and from college when I would come home for vacations or weekends. The Hampton Jitney even shuttled our guests to and from our wedding. Many guests had way more fun knowing that they didn’t have to drive at the end of the night. Basically, the Hampton Jitney made our wedding the most fun it could be.

So, to the Hampton Jitney, I’d like to say, thank you for the memories. Now please remain seated and watch the last step, it’s a doozy!

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