Standing in Line

Lenny Ackerman

Before we left Kennebunk for camp I promised Patti I would get up early on Saturday and be first in line at the Boulangerie bakery in the village.  Good to my word I was at Provisions market for my newspapers and first coffee at 6:30am and hurried over for the bakery’s opening at 7:00 am. Little did I know that a dozen or more people had the same idea.  Not too bad I guess since I had my New York Times and could read in line.  It would be the last newspaper I would dirty my hands with for a week, since there is no delivery up at camp and the nearest stand is 45 minutes away. The line of people extended into the parking lot and I joined the queue behind a young, friendly-looking couple.  Of course, I struck up a conversation instead of reading the news of the day.  I caught the woman’s eye and asked, “Are you local?”

“Yup” she said.

“Kennebunk?” I asked.

“No, Wells.”  Wells is an adjoining community down Route 1 south.  Her companion was not participating in our chat at all – not caffeinated enough to talk I guess. I was deep into my large coffee and continued:

“Is it always this busy before they open?” I asked.

“Yup,” she said. 

As you can tell I was not making much headway with my small talk, so I upped the cross-examination: “What do you both do in Wells?”

“My husband,” she said, looking up at him, “is a psychologist.” 

Oh well now I knew why he wasn’t answering me.  He didn’t want to have to offer any free advice.  Now that the husband was exposed, he had no choice but to enter the conversation.  He turned toward me.  “What do you do?” he asked, looking me in the eye. 

“I am visiting here,” I said, “but I practice law in East Hampton, New York.”  

That got him interested. 

“You mean the Hamptons that I read about where all the rich people from New York go for the summer?”

“Yes,” I responded.

“And what area do you specialize in?” he asked.

“Land use,” I said. 

He shook his head.  “That’s a waste of time—soon there will be no land to use at the rate the ocean in rising.” 

Well now we were talking.  I explained there is very little land to use in the Hamptons already, rising oceans notwithstanding.  He wanted to know more, so I talked about how the town was late to preserving open space in the 1980s.  By the time they adopted a zoning code, most of the waterfront including the ocean, bay and pond frontage had by then been built upon.  The release valve is variances–my line of work.  The process is a log jam of administrative review, as the climate is very anti-development now.  The majority of the applications are to rebuild on demoed property.  He told me Maine started conservation of wetlands and open space many years before development and because the demand was less than on eastern Long Island, Maine was able to preserve much of its environmentally sensitive open space. 

By the time we discussed the current state of land use and preservation in both states we were at the front of the bakery line.  I left with a loaf of sourdough and some croissants – and that good feeling that comes with having an engaging, impromptu conversation with a stranger.  

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