The Mast-Head: On the Road

There are real costs to the success the South Fork is experiencing as a vacation destination

   By mid-July out here, you tend to lose track of how many times you get the “hand,” the gesture other drivers make when they do something they shouldn’t. You see it all the time, like when someone pulls out of a parking space without looking, and by raising his or her left hand out the side window seems to be seeking some kind of absolution for the transgression.  There are variations, to be sure.
    I received another kind of hand on Saturday evening as I was driving to Amagansett from Montauk on Montauk Highway. A guy in a black pickup was tailgating aggressively as I came down the hill toward the Napeague stretch.
    Approaching the parking tangle at Cyril’s Fish House and gin mill, I slowed way down. It was a good thing I did, as a loaded Jeep with Jersey plates made a sudden U-turn from the right shoulder in an apparent attempt to nab a choice parking space on the other side of the road.
    I hit the horn and brakes simultaneously, and leaning out the window, yelled a few gratuitous insults in the young driver’s direction. For my efforts, I earned a hand with an upturned palm, as if to say, “What’s your problem, man?”
    The next evening, as a light rain began to fall, a friend and I made it through this general area of the highway only minutes before a four-vehicle pileup closed the road, sending a couple of people to the hospital.
    And so it goes on the South Fork’s roads. This week’s letters to the editor start with a number of missives about avoiding trouble, following the deaths of a young pedestrian in Amagansett, of a Montauk woman,  and of a nun on foot in Water Mill. There are too many cars, too many conflicts, too much danger, and no attention being paid to trying to reduce the summer population.
    There are real costs to the success the South Fork is experiencing as a vacation destination this summer — costs measured in terms of lives and injuries and in the frustration of those who live here year round. No wave of the hand is going to make that go away.