It was not long ago that going to New York meant driving down to the Hampton Jitney stop across from The Palm restaurant here in East Hampton, parking the car, getting on the bus and leaving the car there overnight, sometimes for days.
Now it’s different. My wife Chris and I had to go to New York for the day last Wednesday, so I reserved Jitney seats on the 7:05 a.m. from East Hampton, with plans to leave the car further down on Main Street for the day, return from New York around 6 a.m. and drive home. We believed you could park all day at that end of Main.
We woke in the dark at 5:45 a.m., dressed and headed downstairs. On the way, she casually asked if I’d called the village the day before to confirm that parking on that stretch of Main Street between the Jitney stop and The 1770 House, a distance of about 300 yards, was still okay.
“No, I forgot,” I said. “But I’ll find out.”
Much of the town nowadays is under the spell of a parking ticket company based, I think, in Omaha, that gets information from surveillance cameras and issues summonses if you exceed the parking limits of one, two or three hours most places in town, however that works.
Dawn was breaking. I thought the best thing to do was call the police. I called, told the woman who answered that this call was not about crime at this hour but about parking.
“I think you can park there,” she said. “But let me consult with somebody.” After a brief hold, she was back. “My colleague and I both think there is a sign just west of the Jitney stop that says you can park down that way all day. We’re pretty sure.”
“But that’s not completely sure.”
“I don’t want to mislead you.”
“Well, I appreciate the time.”
From here, on my phone, I went on Google Maps. I typed in a destination of 1770 House, clicked on the pin and saw all the information about how it’s a cozy inn and restaurant and here’s their address which was 143 Main Street.
I then typed “141 Main Street” as a search and got a photograph of the mansion just next door to the 1770 House. From here, I could go to street level and, using arrows, get a series of photos that marched you along the street toward the Jitney stop. You could see the curb and the street signs. Would one of them be a No Parking sign? I couldn’t tell because marching eastward down the street all you could see was the backs of the signs.
I’d have to go to the western end of that stretch and march back the other way to see them. I took a guess. I typed in 100 Main Street. A mistake. That took me to the other side of the street, to the even-numbered locations, where the photos marched along and again only allowed you to see the backs of the signs, but the other way.
I tried 41 Main Street to fix that, and it gave me BookHampton, one of the stores in the center of town way down, but on the proper side. I marched west, but the photos petered out near John Papas Café. I would have to use a higher number.
“What the hell are you doing?” my wife asked.
“I’m getting there,” I said. “Just eat.”
I tried 95 Main Street, but got the Ladies Village Improvement Society Bargain Box Thrift Shop, which has 10 rooms of used books, toys, clothing and other objects for sale. But no street side view.
I found the proper street address for what I had in mind at 117 Main Street. It had a good view west from the Jitney stop heading toward The 1770 House and the ability to march down the street toward it.
The first street sign I saw, now from the front, was a historic marker for May Groot Manson, 1859 to 1917, whose home was on that spot and who had been the leader of the Women’s Suffrage League of East Hampton. And then I saw something that brought me up short.
Attached to every light pole about 8 feet up was a white sign that read “No overnight parking.”
Years ago, I had gotten a ticket for parking overnight on this stretch of Main Street and, complaining about it, talked to Larry Cantwell, who was the village administrator then, to tell him what I thought.
“It doesn’t say anywhere you can’t park overnight,” I told him.
“Yes, it does,” he said. “There’s a sign at every road entering the town. You can’t get in without seeing those signs.”
“Well, what about we who live inside?” I asked.
As a result, Cantwell purchased 60 of these little white signs and bolted each one of them halfway up a light stanchion on both sides of Main Street for half a mile of downtown. I was horrified. We had windmills, town greens, town ponds, saltboxes, war memorials, colonial churches and little white signs on every lamppost.
I asked him to take them down. But he wouldn’t. They remained up for years until around two years ago when a new mayor ordered them removed.
And that’s when I realized I was looking down Main Street at photographs taken at least two years ago. No telling what signs were up now.
“Are you going to eat?” my wife asked.
“One more minute.”
It was time for a Hail Mary. Call The 1770 House. They’d know. I’ll pretend I was staying upstairs, calling down to the desk. Is there parking out front?
A voice message said they took dinner reservations as much as two weeks ahead and outdoor dining two days ahead, and someone would answer the phone after 9 a.m.
So that’s my story. We went. We parked. No signs were seen as we rode off in the Jitney. Still on it at 9:15, I called Village Hall to ask about parking regulations. If the car had to be moved, our cleaning lady could drive down and move it. We had a second key for the car in a jar on top of a bureau in the bedroom.
But they said we could park there. Maybe.
I guess we will find out later in the day.