by Gordon Hughes
For years we rented a lake house in upstate New York early in the summer. In April of this year, however, we found out it would not be available, so we arranged instead to rent a house on the North Shore of Long Island, which has majestic rocky cliffs, historic homes, New York City zillionaires and Gold Coast mansions.
We negotiated with the owner by phone and email and were assured the house would be in tip-top condition for our arrival in late June. It cost a fortune, but we did not mind because you have to pay the most to get the most.
Before going to Long Island, we visited our daughter, Lucille, in North Carolina. Then on to the long drive to New York state, a very handsome state trooper in Maryland gave me a ticket for speeding, even though I thought I was just keeping up with the traffic. That mistake cost me $156.
When we finally reached our destination, we were delighted to see so many great looking homes high above the beach, built on hills and edged by cliffs. When we got to our rented home, though, thick, wild underbrush was everywhere. The owner, Frank, told us he was “a little behind” in his “homework” because of a recent hospitalization.
Entering the house, we saw rooms piled high and deep with furniture, books, newspapers and assorted trash. Frank apologized and offered to reduce our tab by $100 per day if we would stay at a motel for a few days. So that is what we did.
We came back after three days, but the outside was still an eyesore of tangled foliage and underbrush. The first night there, my wife put on the light to go to the bathroom and was greeted by several cockroaches scurrying about. Her heart almost attacked her. But there was no way we were going to pack up and leave again.
A couple days later, we went to a supermarket. When I went to pay at the checkout, I discovered my wallet was not in my back pocket, where I always keep it. We wound up at a police station, where an officer told us that a few other tourists had had their pockets picked in area stores in recent weeks.
So now I had to say goodbye to my credit cards, driver’s license and about $400 in cash. And believe it or not, when we left the police station, a torrential thunderstorm started, as if a higher power was trying to send us a message.
On the way to the car, our umbrella broke because of the high winds. When we got into the car, it would not start. Water had somehow gotten under the distributor cap. We wound up with a $423 repair bill, and all we had was $58 in cash, which my wife had in her wallet, but she paid with a credit card she had in her own name.
If that was not enough, we were in the middle of a horrific, record-breaking heat wave, and — you guessed it — our air conditioner stopped working.
Remember when I said the beautiful homes were high above the beach? Well, there were 89 steps from the house down to the beach. Going down them was no problem, but climbing back up in 100-degree weather was torture for our 77 and 74-year-old bodies.
So Frank, who felt sorry for us, got a sticker for our car that enabled us to drive to a walk-on beach. The problem, though, was that it had only rocks, not sand. Under the fiery sun, the rocks must have been at least 125 degrees. There were rocks underfoot in the water, too. It was not fun. The rocks were playing havoc with our feet.
So we finally went into the water, but that night I read in the local newspaper that some medical waste and garbage had been washing up on some area beaches. That was the end of the beach-going for us.
We were so fed up at this point that we decided to leave for home two days early and forfeit the rest of the money we had paid. We figured if we stayed any longer, we’d probably be struck by lightning or eaten by an alligator.
So we packed our stuff up and drove home very, very carefully, obeying the speed limits and all other rules of the road. We knew that if we so much as changed a lane without using a turn signal way in advance, we were bound to be pulled over by a state trooper hiding behind a billboard.
When we got home, I went to the bank the next day and discovered one more thing that was gone with my wallet — a key to our safe deposit box. I was informed it would cost me $50 to replace it.
It was great to be home.
Gordon Hughes is a retired engineer who lives in the Flourtown area.