My wife Chris and I spent last Saturday at a bay beach in East Hampton, then, at 5 p.m., headed out to an opening at the Monika Olko Gallery in Sag Harbor to look at some paintings. Our plan was, after that, to have an early dinner at the American Hotel at 6 p.m., then end up the evening back in East Hampton at Guild Hall to see a performance of Murray Schiscal’s LUV.
Neither of us had any idea of what lay ahead.
As we drove into Sag Harbor on Route 114, it was immediately apparent that this was not usual. Usual in Sag Harbor late on a Friday meant hordes of strollers up and down Main Street with lots of traffic and lots of cars. We were prepared for that. But this was not usual. We drove around, in massive traffic jams, looking for a place to park. There wasn’t any. It was, we realized, a great getting ready for the fireworks that would take place that evening. We saw people with blankets and beach chairs and flashlights. Some were carrying coolers. It was wall to wall cars.
“Uh oh,” I said.
We thought about what to do. Go home? We decided on this: I would drive down Main Street—we hadn’t even been on Main Street yet—and when we got in front of the Monika Olko Gallery, Chris would hop in and go inside. I’d go around the block, just one block, which we estimated would take 20 minutes. We’d stay in touch by cellphone. Then when I came back around, she’d come out, I’d get out, she’d get in and then she would drive around the block while I went in.
We drove across Union Street to Madison Street, turned right and there, laid out in front of us was a Main Street that was beyond belief. It was a sea of cars, in full gridlock. After five minutes I merged into it. At about one minute intervals, the cars would move a few feet.
There were about 20 cars parked diagonally on our side of the street down to as far as the eye could see in front of the American Hotel. Cars filled every spot. About halfway down was the gallery. I figured it would be at least five minutes to get down to the gallery. We moved along.
Then this miracle happened. It did not appear to be a miracle at first. What it was was the tail lights on this diagonally parked red Mercedes blinking on. Somebody, in a parking space ahead of us, was going to be backing out.
We moved a few feet. In the road just behind this Mercedes was this red car which was two cars in front of us. I did figure, from my knowledge of geometry, that the red car would let the Mercedes back out and then take the spot. But apparently, they were just a few feet too far down to do that. Also, this white car directly in front of us, was not going to let them do that. This was their spot.
The clock ticked on. The red car moved forward, and I was about to move forward to the back bumper of the white car when the white car began to back up. Apparently, it needed a few more feet to let the Mercedes out. And it was there. I hadn’t yet pulled up.
A few minutes after that, the Mercedes did indeed back out into this open space provided. Then the lights on the Mercedes went off, and the Mercedes moved forward, with certainly enough room for the white car to take the spot.
And here came the miracle! The white car did not do that! The white car did not want the spot! I couldn’t believe it. The white car wanted only to follow the Mercedes down Main Street.
There it was. An actual diagonal parking space on Main Street in Sag Harbor on July Fourth directly in front of the Monika Olko Gallery.
But was it really ours? I felt fear. Was this possible? I looked at cars coming the other way up the street I was going down. Would the driver of one of them grit his teeth, cross the double white line and snatch the spot from me? He could. I fumbled with the steering wheel. And as that did not happen, I moved into the space and came to a halt.
We just sat there in our car, wide eyed, staring out the front windshield. The cars on the road were in complete gridlock once again. Yet we had this. It was ours.
“So you don’t have to drop me off?” my wife asked.
“I don’t need to drop you off,” I said.
And so, we got out and strolled in to the Monika Olko Gallery hand in hand.
The Miracle on Main Street Sag Harbor.