The Mast-Head: The Blame Game

A couple of incidents in the public sphere in recent days got me thinking

   We have met the enemy and it is us. That is the conclusion I reached this week as summer 2013 began to reach full fever pitch.
    Here’s my epiphany: Those of us who consider ourselves local like to think it is folks from away who need a little attitude adjustment. Perhaps they do, what with their expressions of entitlement, boorishness, and piled-on demands, but frankly, it is those of us who should know better by dint of living here year round who really have no excuse.
    A couple of incidents in the public sphere in recent days got me thinking. The first came early Sunday on an ocean beach, where I watched large dogs pounce on a woman’s beach towel and personal possessions as she sat at a distance near the water’s edge. She leaped up, and I heard the dog’s owner offer what sounded like a half-hearted apology. A moment later one of the dogs stomped across my surfboard, leaving sand in the wax and a fresh scratch in the fiberglass.
    “What the hell?” I said to the dog owner, “If you can’t control your dogs . . .” He shrugged this off, and gave me a repeated middle finger as he headed away, the dogs ambling ahead. I admit to thinking that he was probably from points west, but, I learned later that, like me, he was a resident, and that his dogs were well known on the beach for being less than obedient.
    It is convenient, if not satisfying, to blame the season’s daily frustrations on out-of-towners, and sometimes they are indeed at fault. I think of a woman both I and East Hampton Village Mayor Paul F. Rickenbach Jr. saw at midday on Monday apparently urging her leashed lapdog to relieve itself in the middle of a Newtown Lane crosswalk as traffic waited. That she was from a place where such rudeness is acceptable was my too-easy reaction. I pulled out my cellphone and took a photo. The mayor, having seen the whole thing from his car, got me on the phone later to commiserate, later sending me a fax expanding on his frustration.
    The next day I had passing words with a jaywalker, who had been affronted that I had not come to a complete stop to allow him to cross Montauk Highway near Brent’s store in Amagansett. By the cut of his jib, this time I figured he was local, but that did not stop me from rolling down my window and yelling, “What is wrong with you?” I could not hear his response, but it was equally impolite, I could see.
     I also have to report that an East Hampton woman I know caused two nearly identical fender-benders in the village in the last few weeks of the sort I would have thought only non-locals would be involved in.
     Speaking for myself, I could be more magnanimous in dealing with these summer faux pas. But so too could a lot of us, even us locals.