Not to be a misanthrope, but I find I'm at some pains to avoid contact with other people. To follow my drift, picture yourself among subway riders de-training at Times Square during rush hour. At such moments the greatest luxury is space.
New Yorkers zealously patrol their space. The other day at the Citarella fish counter a man angrily informed a woman "you're in my space." I could detect no infraction, but apparently she'd violated some invisible border. I, too, become exquisitely aware of space infractions in a packed subway car when confronted with a wide-stance, balls-airing sitter. On the Hamptons Jitney my space-o-meter is as sensitive as a North Korean border guard when my seat mate's thigh, LL Bean bag, body fat - and worst, hair -- strays into my zone.
And space is on track to become even scarcer. Behold the pregnancy epidemic in the city. In such 'hoods as Brooklyn's Park Slope, without a big belly or stroller you're the village pariah. City-wide, double carriages plus a clutch of toddlers are a common sight. This ain't China, though maybe it ought to be. Has no one heard of zero population growth? (Not the folks who say or think extremely un-P.C. things about increasing the number of babies in their -- fill in the blank -- religio-ethnic clan.)
I eye with foreboding the apartment towers getting built on the Upper West Side by greedy developers - even with the downturn; and in lots that might serve citizens better as pocket parks. How will anyone get into Fairway? There's no good time any more. Evenings after work, forget it; mornings you get the triple strollers and the motorized wheelchair brigade - and God bless them, I'm glad they're getting about before, sez Palin, Obama's health care plan and socialized medicine kills them off.
So come the weekend, people escape to places promising space. They think that because they've logged four hours on the LIE they'll find it in the Hamptons. No such luck. Further Lane, a country road with no shoulder, is home to bikers, joggers, baby strollers - though the bladers have mercifully vanished - oh, and a stream of cars using the "lane" as a service road to the highway.
And let it be said, riders on the 2/3 IRT at 5 PM are more spatially evolved than some Hamptons-ites. Such as the bikers who pedal three abreast, oblivious to the logjam behind them. Beach mavens display a similar obtuseness. We were sitting on a vast near-empty beach contemplating the ocean, when an extended family set up camp directly in front of us. Then a couple with a mewling infant settled in directly behind. I pointed out to the family that we might all enjoy the afternoon more if they could move down the beach a bit, but the suggestion seemed to puzzle them.
At least the investment bankers and other VIP's out here don't do the beach. It's so, well, public. And they don't like sand. It's, like ... sandy. Hey, if you've got a customized Tortorella gunite pool with waterfall and other "accents," why bother with nature? Nature is something you pay the Latino underclass out here to install, trim, air condition, and otherwise tailor to your specifications.
Which brings me to the worst space infraction of the post-downturn Hamptons: noise pollution in the skies. The sky! It seemed like the last democratic stronghold, a vast blue for the enjoyment of all, an occasional flylane for wedge-shaped gaggles of geese.
But now, come Thursday or Friday, the afternoon is punctuated by the roar of private jets homing in on the East Hampton Airport. The bankers are coming! The tranquility of the shore is poisoned not only by noise and jet fuel, but by a pointed reminder of my least favorite euphemism: Compensation. That went to execs of banks that would have gone belly up without the help of our tax dollars. With each roaring jet you find yourself wondering: is it that the energy trader due $98 million and exempt from federal review? The "unidentified trader" who received more than 30 mill? One of the Goldman guys who divvied up 4.8. billion in bonuses?
You're reminded all too vividly of a financial system in which we're still being held hostage by the banks. Oyy, and I'm on vacation here. I think of the N.Y. Post headline, referring to Lloyd Blankfein's suggestion not to flaunt the lucre: "Silence is Goldman." Let that silence apply to the skies as well.