Traffic between East Hampton and Bridgehampton just after 4 one afternoon this week was heavy west of the Stephen Hand’s Path intersection with Montauk Highway. At this time of year, when it gets dark so early, the roads fill up at dusk, the day over for those who work outdoors, while others are rushing home or to the market.
I was headed to pick up one of our daughters at a play rehearsal, and as I turned onto Woods Lane, a light rain began to fall. In Sagaponack I turned off onto the back roads to avoid the backup from the Bridgehampton light. I am one of those who, even if it’s going to take the same amount of time to get someplace, would rather be moving than creeping forward in a stop-and-go line.
The difference once I got in the woods north of the highway was remarkable. Instead of the multitude of red taillights, there was only one other pickup on the road. It was as if I had driven somehow back in time, or to another, less-crowded place. The trade parade, as some call it, is more than that really. Whether tending oceanfront mansions or keeping a restaurant going, many jobs in East Hampton are held now by people who live somewhere to the west.
I was looking this week at the Census 2010 data for East Hampton Town and was struck that despite all the building during the past decade, the number of year-round residents had not grown all that much. The population has moved around, abandoning East Hampton Village to second-home owners, for example, while filling in the outlying areas.
Three decades ago, when I was in high school here and lived in a house behind the Star office, I had school-age friends in the neighborhood and an ample supply of other kids with whom to gin up rivalries. I doubt there are more than a dozen kids within a half-mile of the office now, even though the school population has grown. December’s onset tends to make me nostalgic.
I loaded my daughter in the truck, and we headed east. The westbound traffic had not let up, but it was light going east. By the time we left the Amagansett I.G.A. with something for dinner, there was only one other vehicle on the road.