Litchfield Hell: An Attempted Road Trip to Connecticut

Last week some people we know in New York City invited us to drive up to Litchfield, Connecticut. They have a house there and love it. They’d been raving about it for years. We told them we love the
Hamptons.

“How can you love the Hamptons?” the wife asked. “Traffic’s terrible. Takes three hours to get there. For Litchfield, an hour and a half and zip, we’re there. Come on up for the weekend.”

The night before, we took the Jitney to the city to our apartment. Then in the morning we walked to our friends’ apartment, three blocks away. We wanted to be on time for the 9:30 a.m. departure.

They weren’t ready at 9:30 a.m. They weren’t ready at 10:30 a.m., either. They’d been up late the night before. There were cell phone calls, packing. One conversation they had was whether to call the Hertz dealer on East 94th Street to tell them they were running late, as the car was reserved for 9:30 a.m.

We arrived at Hertz at 11:30 a.m., bringing just our shoulder bags, but the wife didn’t like the car they had, because it was smaller than their usual car. She wanted this bigger car, a Volvo. Husband, meanwhile, was ensconced behind the wheel of the smaller car, ready for go.

By the time they got the Volvo down from an upper level, it was noon. We drove back to 85th Street and picked up the heavy luggage, then found a rare parking space available right outside Dean & DeLuca. This gave us an idea. It was lunchtime, we could run in and get sandwiches to go.

Anyone have quarters for the meter? Among the four of us, we had one quarter. It bought us eight minutes. We got in and out with a minute to spare.

Now a discussion involved whether to take the FDR on the east side up to the Hutch or go through Central Park and up the West Side Highway, because, on the cell phone, traffic was shown as tied up on the FDR with a blue line.

“With two choices, one is always not tied up. It’s not like with the Long Island Expressway,” said the wife.

So we took the West Side, and that was fine until we got into a traffic jam behind an accident on the Saw Mill Parkway. It wasn’t on the cell phone.

“Must be a new accident,” she said.

We inched along. It made for good lunch eating because the Volvo didn’t jump around. After a while, things eased up and we headed up the Henry Hudson, turned right on the Cross Bronx and into another traffic jam, but soon after were heading up Route 684 when, around Katonah, the husband asked if we’d check that his shoulder bag was there in the backseat, where he said he’d put it. It wasn’t there. The husband has sleep apnea, he said, and uses a mask. The mask was in his shoulder bag.

“It’s life threatening to sleep without the mask,” he said.

We got off the highway and, on a leafy side road, emptied all the luggage from the trunk. No bag. A driver coming by in his car the other way slowed and asked if we needed help. We said no.

“Where did you last use it?” his wife asked.

“It was on my shoulder when we went into Dean & DeLuca,” he said.

We called Dean & DeLuca, but it wasn’t there. Then we called the Hertz dealer and asked the woman there if the smaller car was there, and she said it was, and so we asked if she could look to see if there was a black shoulder bag in the backseat of that. She said she was with a customer. We waited. After a while she came back to the phone. Yup. She had it in the office. It was 1:30 p.m.

So back we went to 94th Street, this time on the FDR because the blue traffic-jam line wasn’t there anymore, and at 2:30 p.m. we were happily reunited with the bag. But this time, in spite of advice from the phone, we headed up Second Avenue to the new Willis Avenue Bridge and back to the Major Deegan, where—all phones were out and in use—there was still another unnoted traffic jam.

“Why don’t these map people get these right?” the wife asked.

Things went well after that, but then around 3:30 p.m. we got stuck in an absolutely massive traffic jam on 684. It lasted an hour. And by that time, practically all the phones in the car were either dead or dying. The wife said she had calls to make and decided her husband should take the cigarette-lighter charger out of his bag. He looked, but it was not there. It was still in the lighter hole at Hertz. But we could buy another one.

“You can get them for about $12,” the husband said.

It was also decided not to call Hertz and tell them it was there, as that would consume further battery life from one of the already nearly dead cell phones. Just let whoever found it keep it.

“It would be a charitable thing to do,” the wife said.

At 4 p.m., the wife wanted to stop for coffee. She asked if either of us had been to Chappaqua or Bedford, which were nearby, and we said we hadn’t, so we headed for one or the other, failed to find a café open, but did find an old movie theater that was open, sold coffee at a counter downstairs according to the ticket taker, and was in the middle of showing its 2 p.m. matinee movies. We weaseled our way in without paying and went downstairs to the lobby below and drank coffee and ate $6 popcorn for half an hour. Playing were The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and The Grand Budapest Hotel. Sounds of fighting and explosions emanated from the theaters. I peeked in. Nobody was in either of them.

“Isn’t this exciting?” the wife said. “The Clintons live here.”

Soon after this, in another terrible traffic jam just before Danbury on the Grand Army of the Republic Highway, we saw that, on our right, we had just lurched past, about 100 feet back, the entry driveway for an auto parts store. We couldn’t back up. But we could turn into the driveway of the yoga barn next door and go through the bushes to the auto parts store. At this point it was 5:30 p.m. and we all remained in the car while the husband trotted through the bushes, to soon happily emerge holding up the charger plug like a prize, after which the wife insisted on being the first to use it.

At this point, a call went out to a restaurant in Litchfield, because it looked like we were going to be another hour before getting there and the reservation was for 6 p.m.

“They said just get here when you get here,” the wife said. “So Litchfield.”

Just past New Milford, a minivan directly in front of us blew its right rear tire. We almost hit it as it wobbled its way over onto the shoulder and to a stop.

“Seatbelt check,” wife said.

It was 7:30 p.m. when we finally arrived in Litchfield. Dusk was settling in. So we went directly to the restaurant for dinner, where, after ordering, I fell asleep sitting up.

It’s around 10 p.m. now. Dark. We’ll get a tour of Litchfield in the morning.

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