In the last couple of weeks I have had several sets of renters in my vacation apartment and I have met a fellow blogger face to face. New people in my life, quickly in and out of it, at least for the present.
My house is a duplex. Jerry and I live in the back and I intermittently rent out the front unit on a long or short term basis. This summer I have it advertised on a site called “Vacation Renters by Owner” and the response has been good. It has been occupied for most of July and is booked for the first half of August.
We have had adult family groups, families with young children, young couples and older couples. Since I have decided to be “pet friendly” I get a lot of dogs as well.
I had a family of 5 with 2 big dogs (the rottweiler type). There was a boy of 4, a girl who looked about 3 and a baby in diapers — perhaps a year. The father, tall, good looking and fit, was an officer in the air force. He told me he would be deployed to Afghanistan in a month and they had a vacation until then. They were proceeding to the Olympic Peninsula after being here. They were cheerful, noisy tenants. The dogs barked, the extremely active children shouted, the slender, muscular mother smoked (outside). The kids followed me around as I gardened, peppering me with questions and wanted to “help” doing whatever I was doing. They stayed for 5 days. A couple of times they went off for the whole day and left the dogs loose in the house. Jerry dealt with a mountain of rubbish and a lot of beer bottles.
After a day off from that lot my next guests appeared. What a relief to see a couple in their 60’s with no dog. Ken and Heidi were wonderful guests. They were quiet and seemed pleased with everything. They wanted to look at real estate here on the island. We had late afternoon wine with them twice sitting in the sunshine on our patio. We exchanged stories about our lives and loves and our politics were compatible. We all deplored the lack of daily New York Times on the island.
We had a quick succession of young couples. There was a young man named Ben who looked nervous, with a partner I never saw. She stayed in the bedroom. Ben’s email was styled “onenationundergod.” The weather was not good for their visit, but he seemed satisfied with his stay. The next young couple was athletic; they asked for directions to all the hiking spots on the island, went running every evening and rented bikes at the Willows to tour the island. They reported having a wonderful time.
then there were 3 hefty young women who slept late and cooked out on the deck. There were sounds of merriment. Jerry recycled a lot of strange beer bottles. They seemed delighted with their stay.
We had a quick turnover when the 3 young women left and Tammy came to clean. She said that one of the young women surprised her while she was vacuuming; she came back to retrieve sunglasses. Tammy said, “I was so startled I forgot to tell her I found a pair of underpants under the bed.” A few minutes later, Tammy said “I turned around and behind me was a big fat guy with a voice like a chipmunk.” He asked a lot of questions about how far the beach was and said he would come back later when the cleaning was finished.
That was the father in the next lot of renters. He came with his wife — she had booked their stay over the phone and she and I had 2 long telephone conversations about the place. I told her the walk to the beach took 5 minutes. It turned out that was a mistake. It actually takes 10 minutes.
They moved in on Sunday afternoon. The father, a large young man in his late 20’s, was a doctor, an ophthalmologist from a nearby town. His wife was of Asian extraction — perhaps Philippine. They had two children, a boy of 4 and a little girl of 2 ½ who rushed in and began to rock the rocking chair violently. The ophthalmologist’s father was with them. I had forgotten about Granddad so I had to find sheets for the futon.
Tammy wrote me an email that said, “I think these people are going to make a mess.”
Since they had booked by phone at the last minute they had not paid before they arrived. The next morning I thought it might be a good idea to take them a bill. The weather looked unfavorable. At 10 AM I presented ophthalmologist with a bill the for 4 days his wife had booked. He began to stumble and stammer and talk about how long it took them to walk to the beach and mentioned “other problems. It wasn’t what we expected;” he said they were going to leave. Immediately. It dawned on me that they were planning to leave without paying.
As they were preparing to depart I presented them with a bill for one night (with a charge for the extra person.) The ophthalmologist took the bill and walked away from the door. They continued preparations to leave. I decided to maintain my position in the doorway until they paid. I maintained a pleasant manner, chatted with the grandfather and the children, but didn’t move until I had a check. I hope it clears the bank. A sad experience.
Our current renter is a biology teacher from Portland, Stacey, with her dog and kayak. I asked her whether she taught evolution and how the textbooks handled it. (Texas is a big text book market and they do not teach evolution in Texas schools. Text book companies have modified all high school biology texts because of this.) She told me that evolution is discussed in only one chapter at the back of the book. She is required to teach evolution, but has opposition from some of her students, particularly boys.
Mostly our encounters with renters are fleeting. Except for people like Ken and Heidi we hardly get to know them at all. Jerry says he only knows them through their garbage.
I know a lot about bloggers whose blogs I read even if I haven’t met them face to face. Meeting the writer of a blog I follow is great fun and we had a chance to do that recently. It was Hattie (Hattie’s Web). From her blog I know something about how she thinks — but not as much as I thought. Her blog is spontaneous. She posts often, sometimes only a line or two. I knew she was politically liberal and intelligent.
Hattie is not Hattie she is Marianna. She, her husband, Terry, Jerry and I spent part of a day together when they stopped by my island on the way from Vancouver to Seattle. I had seen a picture of her on her blog, and one taken by Marja-Leena in Vancouver and posted on Marja-Leena’s blog. Jerry and I had to go to Bellingham so we arranged a rendezvous with Marianna and Terry at the ferry parking lot; they rode over to the island with us. I recognized them immediately from their pictures but still I was surprised. Marianna was tall, taller than her husband. She was much prettier than the pictures. She said later that she isn’t photogenic.
We stopped at our house first and then went to lunch at the Tap Root, a small eatery in the basement of the island‘s high end restaurant. We talked about Hawaii, where Marianna and Terry live, about politics, about courtship, marriage and children, about aging — Marianna said when she was young she was thin and nervous. I‘m sure she was a willowy beauty. Then we talked about blogging and how we get to know people.
When I combine the two ways Marianna and I have met — on line with written conversations, and face to face with rambling conversations — I feel that I am getting to know her. Terry and Jerry are both engineers and engineers are less easy to scan, because they talk mostly about impersonal things — motors, building construction, flying airplanes, generation of electricity.
Marianna and Terry went back to Seattle and Jerry and I returned to our life of harvesting wood for winter heat and vegetables for summer dining, worrying about Bert, managing the rental and so many preoccupations of living that our pleasant encounter with a blog friend is quickly fading into the misty past. I am sorry for this.
There are so many ways of knowing people. I know and love my children as a mother, and yet there are lots of things about them I don’t know (and don’t want to know). The way one knows a husband changes with time. Sometimes love flies away, and one feels deceived. Sometimes love grows and changes: becomes quieter and deeper.
As a child I saw my parents as powerful and wise. I thought my father knew everything, I thought my mother was safety. During my adolescence they were adversaries; when I grew up my feelings for them were ambivalent — sometimes they were friends, sometimes helpers, sometimes people who had failed me. When they were old and vulnerable they needed me and I found a new tenderness towards them.
Long ago when tape recorders were a novelty I first heard my own voice from outside my own head. That can’t be me, I thought, I don’t sound that awful. I don’t have that silly New England school girl accent.
I guess we don’t actually even completely know ourselves because we are always inside looking out.