Car talk: How three teens are social distancing while staying in touch  

  • As the weather warms, Erin Reynolds, 17, Megan Costin-Shaw, 17, and Ella Lepine, 16, keep up with their social distancing car visits on the corner of Sylvester and Chesterfield roads on June 15. All three just finished their junior year of high school and meet here often. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Erin Reynolds, Meghan Costin-Shaw and Ella Lepine at their regular meeting spot, at Sylvester and Chesterfield roads in Northampton, during a rainstorm Friday, May 1, 2020. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Ella Lepine, Erin Reynolds and Meghan Costin-Shaw (not shown) at their regular meeting spot, at Sylvester and Chesterfield roads in Northampton, during a rainstorm Friday, May 1, 2020. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Erin Reynolds, Meghan Costin-Shaw and Ella Lepine (not shown), at their regular meeting spot, at Sylvester and Chesterfield roads in Northampton, during a rainstorm Friday, May 1, 2020. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Erin Reynolds, Meghan Costin-Shaw and Ella Lepine at their regular meeting spot, at Sylvester and Chesterfield roads in Northampton, during a rainstorm Friday, May 1, 2020. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Erin Reynolds, 17, huddles in her trunk to avoid the wind while visiting with Megan Costin-Shaw, 17, and Ella Lepine (not shown), 16, all three in the trunks of their own cars, on the corner of Sylvester and Chesterfield roads in Northampton on Thursday, April, 23, 2020. All three just finished their junior year of high school and meet here often. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 6/29/2020 9:58:23 AM

The empty gravel lot at the end of Chesterfield and Sylvester roads in Northampton didn’t offer much shade in the sweltering 90-degree heat on Monday afternoon. But Ella Lepine, Meghan Costin-Shaw and Erin Reynolds didn’t care. They talked and laughed while social distancing in a wide circle, with Lepine sitting on top of her car and Costin-Shaw and Reynolds relaxing in portable chairs.

For months, the trio has been coming to the lot at least once a week to spend time together, 6 feet apart, through rain, snow and sunshine. On Monday, they wore Teva sandals in different colors.

When COVID-19 began to spread in the U.S. and schools closed in March, the friends wanted to find a way to safely see each other and decided to meet in the lot, which is nearby their homes. “I think it’s the safest thing to do,” said Costin-Shaw. It’s better than FaceTime, they said — though they do that, too.

When they first started, the girls would sit in the trunks of their cars and talk. Lepine remembered wrapping herself in a blanket in the trunk of her car. Back in March, “I swear there was snow on the ground,” Costin-Shaw recalled.

The friends met several years ago at Northampton Community Rowing. Costin-Shaw’s car sports a HAMP CREW bumper sticker. Lepine, 16, and Costin-Shaw, 17, just finished their junior year at Northampton High School, and Reynolds, 17, just wrapped up her junior year at Hampshire Regional High School in Westhampton.

Sometimes, they mix it up and go to Mustante Beach or find a quiet spot on the Mill River, but the empty gravel lot has become their go-to meeting spot. A car honked at them as it drove by the nearby intersection on Monday. That’s a benefit of the spot — it’s public, and often they see friends pass by, the girls said. They’ve invited other people before to hang out socially distanced, but “I feel like this is the core group,” Costin-Shaw said.

At the empty lot, “we’ve had some epic dance parties,” Costin-Shaw said. They’ve danced to “Cotton Eye Joe,” and once, Reynolds brought her trumpet. Why? “It’s always nice to have music,” she said drily.  

At first, some of their parents were skeptical. “I think they definitely thought we would hug,” Costin-Shaw said. “Now it’s normal — ‘I’m doing cars with Meghan and Erin,’ my parents know what I’m talking about,” Lepine chimed in.

The friends are looking forward to when they can hug and spend time together normally. “It’s basically all we talk about,” Reynolds said.

“The day we see each other for real is going to be epic,” Lepine said.

“Maybe we’ll run away,” Costin-Shaw joked.

Greta Jochem can be reached at gjochem@gazettenet.com.


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