It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Just a Bus

Video gets 28,000 hits and counting; Jitney not amused
A satirical video made by and starring Nina Katchadourian has taken the Hampton Jitney to a broad and growing Youtube audience.

     Nina Katchadourian is a visual artist and sometime musician from Brooklyn whose sarcastic YouTube video “The Jitney’s Just a F*cking Bus” is well on the road to viral this week, having received 11,802 hits on Monday alone.
     The video begins with Ms. Katchadourian extolling the virtues of her native California in song, her voice very Joni Mitchell. The left coast was nice, but when she moved to New York City, she sings, “I saw my childhood had been hell.”

Click to See Video

     In California, “there were the redwoods, there was coastline, there was sun and there was skiing, there were cable cars and Vespas and ultimate frisbeeing. Oh sure there was Lake Tahoe, Big Sur, and Yosemite, but I never saw the Hamptons, and I never rode the Jitney.”
     “Would it be winged, supersonic, would it have gleaming polished sides, and if I got lucky one day, would I see it from the inside? I grew up dreaming of this Jitney but knew not what it was, so I was shocked and so surprised to learn” — (dramatic pause here, the songstress close to the lens) and in a droll, dream-shattered voice: “The Jitney’s just a f*cking bus!”
     Fast switch to punk rage and fast, psychedelic cuts of the Jitney with Ms. Katchadourian screaming the refrain.
     Then back to the sweet Joni voice recalling how she traveled to the Hamptons to work on her tan when the Jitney was just a van. Now you need a reservation, she complains, “watch out for the vicious elbows,” whispered conversations on illegal cellphones, pretzels, party mix, and free wi-fi. “It’s the Concord of the 495, so over-the-top luxurious. It’s a bird, it’s a plane,” and then back to head-in-the-oven voice with the screamed refrain.
     The video’s sardonic wit might conjure Frank Zappa, or more recently, David Carr who opened his hilarious monologue at Guild Hall last month with a stab at the Hamptons bubble using the “f*cking bus” beneath the Jitney facade as a pin.
     Ms. Katchadourian’s video includes a postscript that reads:
     “Actually the Jitney is not just a f*cking bus. Founded by Jim Davidson in 1974, and owned by the Lynch family since 1988, the Hampton Jitney promotes and practices a wide array of environmentally smart policies and procedures.”
    Carley Shephard, a spokeswoman for the Hampton Jitney, said yesterday that the kindly postscript was “stolen from our Web site,” and that the company is not amused, and no, the video was not a clever marketing ploy. “It’s not okay with the people here. At one point you can see she was in our offices.”
    Legal action? “I don’t know,” Ms. Shepherd said. “Our president and vice president are aware of it.”
    “I’m not sure what the point was. Is it an attack on the Jitney? Is it another objectification of the Hamptons? Frankly I’m sick of that,” said Steve Haweeli of the WordHampton public relations firm in Springs.
    “But, if you take the view that all publicity is good publicity,” he said, “this is great. I’m grateful for the Jitney on the off-season. I’m not a rah rah guy for the Jitney, but I enjoy the service.”
    Reached yesterday, Ms. Katchadourian said: “The paradoxical thing is it’s actually not a song about the Jitney at all. It’s about my displaced California sensibility. I’ve been here for 15 years, but I still feel like a foreigner. For years I heard about the Jitney. I had this vision, this funny culture thing, summertime in the Northeast, the vacationing elite, and my own California self — a coming of age story, the kid moves east.”
    A friend sparked the idea when she said the Jitney was like a bus that wants to be a plane, Ms. Katchadourian said. The song was written and the footage shot last summer, she said, calling it, “a backburner project. I made it for fun.”
    “It’s interesting to have this minor viral moment. YouTube has this thing where you can see where people are watching it. I don’t know if people in Egypt know what a Jitney is.”
    Ms. Katchadourian said she had only ridden the Jitney four times. “I think it’s a well-run company. I was early  every time.”