I was stuck in traffic, going west — on that part of Montauk Highway that slows down after Stephen Hand’s Path and before the way off the highway to take the back road.
I was creeping along, looking around, of course. Behind me were two guys on huge motorcycles. The first thing I thought was,“Marlon Brando in ‘The Wild One.’ ” It’s a reflex. Sorry. The next thing I thought was basically the same thing. But we weren’t moving and my mind wandered, not far from how menacing they appeared — metal helmets like upside down pots. They could have gone around and snuck up the verge. Many do.
They didn’t. Would they fall off, I wondered, if we came to a complete halt rather than creeping along? Do they put their feet down? Are they wearing scary boots and things? Let me remind you, my mind was wandering around, entertaining itself, but I could hear their motors, the “Wild One” motors, so I kept coming back to feeling just a teeny bit threatened by their big motorcycles that were right behind me in traffic. Next to each other. In my rear-view mirrors.
Traffic began to move a tiny bit and one pulled up on my passenger side.
I roll down the window a smidge. Is he going to go by or what? He motions to roll it down more.
Okay, is he an undercover cop and I’m being pulled over for having catnip in the car? I smile, of course. You want to be nice when you are nervous and of course the news makes anyone in a car nervous, with a motorcycle pulling up. Hi.
“Your gas cap is hanging,” he said.
Uhhhhhhh, not expecting that.
“Oh my,” I said, “I don’t know what to do about that out here on the highway.”
“I’ll fix it for you,” he said, stayed put as I crept a bit forward, and he tightened the cap.
“You are my hero,” I said to him when he pulled forward to give me a thumbs-up that it was all fine.
And it was all fine, and I got off the highway at the back road and tooted to the guys and waved.
Thanks, gents, whoever you are. I learned a thing or two out there in traffic.
I have passed that slowdown almost every day since and I haven’t failed to think of them, hanging back, noticing my gas cap, wondering if they should do something — easy not to — deciding to help the dame in the silly car.
So grateful to them. Godspeed.
Durell Godfrey is a contributing photographer for The Star and an illustrator whose work can be seen in the first two issues of The Star’s new magazine, East.