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Line in the Sand

People come to the Hamptons to do nothing. These days, they seem to do nothing but wait.

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I don't know where these people come from," huffs Southampton's Mai Hallingby, who admits she reserves weekday afternoons for sneaking around Southampton. D.J. Samantha Ronson has her own set of tactics for avoiding the nameless hordes. "I drive out at four in the morning," she says. And rather than endure Hamptons restaurant-reservation roulette, she tends to hit McDonald's drive-through (It's just as well, though, that she heads out late; at around 10 p.m., the Manorville McDonald's drive-through can take about twenty minutes.) As for fashion designer Nicole Miller, she's worked it so that she almost never has to leave her North Haven compound -- except for parties, that is. "I did go to Cromer's on the Fourth of July, and twenty people were on line to pay," she remembers. "I walked in, and I walked out."

Yes, we've reached that moment in the summer when anticipation of what's new and what's hot in the Hamptons has given way to communal griping about crowds, traffic -- and now the waiting list. In the past, the cream of East End society has found its household help highly useful for insulating it from such mundane concerns. ("Lines? Do you mean clothing?" asks one socialite who must have unusually tall hedges.) But this season, there's a funny strain of democracy in the air east of the Shinnecock Canal: The crowds are so insane that even those who used to be above the fray are feeling cramped. The pace in the Hamptons is more leisurely than ever -- and not in a good way.

Get Outta Town
Short of investing in your own Sikorsky helicopter, there's no easy way to reach the South Fork. Two days after Sound Aircraft released its seaplane schedule in April, almost every seat on every summer Friday flight to East Hampton was sold out. Attacking the Hamptons by sea can be equally frustrating: You certainly won't touch land at the Sag Harbor Yacht Club -- most moorings were booked by early spring, and there's a ten-boat waiting list every weekend. Even catching a ride on the lowly Hampton Jitney requires some foresight: Commoners who want to leave on a Friday evening before 8 p.m. must call early that morning -- at the latest -- if they want a seat on an evening bus. Which leaves the L.I.R.R. for last-minute travelers, where there's no orderly waiting line to get the choicest seat -- you'll just have to scramble.

And don't expect to end your public-transportation headaches by buying a sparkling new silver-blue Mercedes CLK Cabriolet convertible on the East End. Fork over the money and Southampton's Country Imports Mercedes-Benz will attempt to get you one a full year from today. You won't be able to slither behind the wheel of a Saab 9-3 convertible before Labor Day or a Porsche Boxster before Thanksgiving, either, says a sales manager at nearby Storms Motors. "Everything we have coming in is sold before it gets here," he explains.

You'll likely have to wait even if you travel under your own power, at least if you want to do it in high Hamptons style. The bike du jour, a Litespeed titanium mountain bike that costs $4,000, is already on back order at BikeHampton. "We're having trouble finding certain sizes," admits the manager.

Best-Seller Bookings
Looking for a charming country-style hotel room with an antique four-poster bed, Egyptian-cotton sheets, and a claw-foot bathtub? It's still possible -- if you're booking for next summer. "Try somewhere bigger. It won't be as nice, but . . ." suggests the manager of Southampton's 1708 House, who adds that Labor Day weekend 2000 is already booked. You might still find a spare bed at the American Hotel and the Maidstone Arms for next Labor Day weekend if you act fast. But not this summer -- both sold out their summer weekend rooms in the spring.

The swankiest restaurants in the area tend not to take reservations more than two weeks in advance. But keep one eye trained on the calendar if you want to eat between 7 and 10 p.m. at Bridgehampton's 95 School Street or East Hampton's Della Femina's or Nick & Toni's. At Nick & Toni's, would-be diners know to call for Saturday-night reservations as soon as phone lines open at noon ten days ahead. "On Wednesdays, we come in early, drink a lot of coffee, and answer the phones," explains a staff member. "Tables are gone in 40 minutes." Even Wainscott's unassuming Alison by the Beach is booked two weeks ahead for Saturday nights, says an assistant manager.

Late-planners know to call the American Hotel, where nonguests are allowed to reserve tables in the restaurant downstairs one day before they want to eat. Even so, says a manager, "be sure to call in the morning." Find yourself with no reservations whatsoever? Line up for toro and yellowtail at Sag Harbor's Sen -- one of the few sushi restaurants in the area -- but get there before it opens at six. Show up at eight, and you might stand on the sidewalk for almost two hours. Even takeout's a hassle: Picking up a $48 pound of lobster salad at Loaves & Fishes on a Saturday afternoon means sweating it out on a half-hour line behind a bunch of Italian tourists in sarongs; getting a breakfast sandwich at the dusty, dim Sagg General Store takes half an hour on the weekends.

Keeping Up Appearances
Many a commuting female wouldn't dare be seen with curly hair, even on the weekends; that means popping into a salon somewhere between Gibson Beach and Bridgehampton Polo. But most early-evening blowout spots at even the cheesiest salons have long since been booked, "by June at the very latest," confides an employee of Southampton's La Carezza. Prefer to rub shoulders with Southampton's high society before the next big benefit? Secure standing hair and makeup appointments at the Kevin Maple Salon in May. "A dozen or so people do," Maple says. "That's all my appointments." By the weekend, there's also an eight-to-ten-person waiting list. And if you're considering taking your Westie to the Artists & Writers softball game, book his trim at Wainscott's Pet Details or Southampton's Classy Canine at least ten days in advance.

If your share started in July, you never had a prayer of acquiring the right clothes. On Memorial Day weekend, 28 girls wiped out Scoop Beach's entire first shipment of three dozen $195 Free Love halter tops in a mere three hours (25 more are biding their time on a waiting list). By the second weekend in June, Scoop also said good-bye to $155 Shoshanna strapless dresses in pink and blue and those $52 red Susanna Monaco tube tops. Unless you can wait up to twenty minutes for a dressing room on a Saturday afternoon, you'll have to eyeball the fit. ("I've got five

of them," sighs the owner. "And I've still got these girls changing out in the open in my store.") Next door, at Calypso St. Barths, the summer's hot items -- $150 sari Capri pants, $175 bustle skirts, and $210 thong sandals -- are long gone in most colors. The truly desperate are on a 100-person waiting list. Now they're after a new $200 metallic-pink mule -- 21 pairs were sold last weekend alone.


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