Dan Rattiner's Stories

Early Summer Messes: Speonk Train Wreck, East Hampton Gas Pump Pileup and More

Half a million new people flooded the Hamptons over Memorial Day weekend.

So Saturday morning of Memorial Day weekend, just as things were winding up after a 24-hour inundation of half a million city people arriving in the bucolic Hamptons, the door suddenly got slammed shut, bottling everybody up.

There had been a train wreck. In the early hours of Saturday morning, a Long Island Rail Road train with a few people on it going one way sideswiped a Long Island Rail Road train with nobody on it going the other way at Speonk, causing both trains to derail. The rails on both sets of track were unusable, and then came the announcement to all the media that nobody would be going anywhere by train until they could get this mess fixed.

Speonk, for those not in the know, is the last suburban town on Long Island before the Hamptons begins. Just to the east of it is the wealthy estate section of Remsenburg, and after that, posh after posh downtown until Montauk.

The rest of this short story is addressed to those people with claustrophobia. It’s okay. Yes, the cork has been shoved back into the bottle. Yes, you and all your friends who came out here by train are stuck. Try to enjoy it.

It’s true there are long lines at restaurants. It’s true the beaches are crowded. It’s true the shops are jammed. It’s true that half a million people are now shoulder to shoulder.

I personally, on Saturday morning, participated in a huge mess at a gas station in East Hampton. There were two sets of pumps on one gas station island. Surrounding it on all sides was a group of eight or nine cars facing the gas pumps with drivers arguing that they had got there first—you other guys wait because I am turning around, and too bad for you.

The gas pump operator tried his best to keep everybody calm. Nobody was actually getting any gas. It was a long 10-minute stretch of grim silence as everybody waited for somebody else to make his next move. Some people just backed out to return later. Others got their gas.

How long this will go on, I do not know. There is probably enough food to Tuesday. After that, it might just be everybody making a salad out of the weeds in the backyard. Could be worse.

So, hang in there. We’ll get you back to the city eventually. I promise. Running low on cash? The ATMs are all still working. Just get to the back of the line and wait your turn.

And if this goes past Tuesday, all the local people have promised to open their hearts and invite in as many as they can handle. Sleep on the sofa in the living room or a workout mat in the library. We do what we have to do.

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