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Prepare the Way for Saturday Renters

Jackie Quillen

(August 2010)  Brrrring… Brrring… "Thank you for calling Sandy Beaches," says a cheerful and energetic beach realtor. "This is Polly speaking. How may I help you today?"

"Hi Polly my name is Deborah Down and I will be arriving to shore tomorrow, Saturday, around noon. Will I be able to check-in to the beach house at that time since I paid for early check-in?"

In the back of her mind Polly thinks, "Oh dear, not another early-check-in group." She forces a smile and tells the flustered woman on the other end, "Yes ma’am. We look forward to seeing you tomorrow, Mrs. Down."

The two women hang up their phones. Polly turns to her friend working at the desk next to hers and says, "Get ready darlin’. We have a long week ahead of us."

"Why is that?"

"The Downs arrives tomorrow. We just have to make sure everything goes smoothly according to plan to limit the amount of phone calls we will inevitably get from them during the week." Polly looks at the clock and sees it is time to head home. She dreads having to come to work tomorrow, when Saturdays are usually her days off. It is the busiest time of the season, the beginning of July, so Polly has to work more to accommodate all the vacationers heading to the Outer Banks.

At the Down residence in northern Delaware, Deborah and her three children run around the house doing last minute preparations for vacation while Mr. Down packs the car. Packing the car is a major ordeal that no one wants to be a part of, and in fact, no one is allowed to be a part of except Mr. Down.

First he hoses down all of the beach gear – chairs, umbrellas, toys, games – even though none of it has been used since it was hosed down and stored away after last summer’s vacation. After everything is hosed down it sits out to dry before Mr. Down packs it in the exterior cargo. Mr. Down requires all luggage to be on the porch by 5 p.m. Friday evening. This way he can visualize the amount of luggage and the size and "squishability" of each bag before packing the car. Any person without a bag on the porch by 5 p.m. the night before departure can forget about even going on vacation.

Mr. Down made one exception to this 5 p.m. deadline, and was not happy about it. His daughter, Caroline had a friend coming on vacation with them. Caroline’s friend, Margaret, could not make it to the Downs house until her parents got home from work, which was well after 5 p.m. Instead of telling Margaret she messed up the whole packing system, Mr. Down just told Caroline to choose better friends who can work with the flow of his packing system.

At precisely 5 p.m. Mr. Down approaches the Chevy Trailblazer, all doors open, with a plan. No one in their right mind would so much as even think of interrupting "the master-packer" during this time – not even to tell him about the hot plate of supper waiting for him on the kitchen table.

First, he eyes down the vehicle for all potential luggage areas – trunk, window curvatures, and unnecessary foot space. Within ten minutes Mr. Down has the larger luggage strategically placed in the vehicle with enough open spaces for the smaller and oddly shaped objects. Somehow all the luggage of five people fits perfectly in the car, filling the trunk from top to bottom so that the rearview mirror serves no purpose on the trip. Miraculously, there is still enough space for the passengers to sit and stretch.

At 5:23 Mr. Down calls Caroline outside to help him load the beach gear into the exterior cargo container, and then hoist and secure it on the top of the car.

By 6:00 p.m. Friday evening the car is packed tight and ready for take-off. By this time Mr. Down is in vacation-mode, singing his favorite tunes loud enough for all the neighbors to know that it is vacation time for the Downs.

On Saturday morning the Downs file into the car and wave goodbye to Delaware. At the same time only 400 miles south of Delaware beach realtors wake up for another day of work. Vacationers look forward to their week of paradise – no work, nice weather, and first-class treatment. Beach realtors have to deal with hundreds of vacationers per day, who all think they are the most important people on earth since they are on vacation.

At 11:50 a.m. the Downs pull into the Sandy Beaches parking lot to check-in and get the keys from the realtor. Polly looks out the window and sees the black Chevy parked out front and Mrs. Down getting out of the car. She yells to the others, "THEY’RE HERE! Man your station!" The realtors rummage around trying to find their minds to stay sane for the day of Saturday Renters, beginning with the Downs. It is not even noon – they have ten hours to go until a peaceful night’s sleep, and then another round of renters the next day. Luckily Sunday renters are not as bad. Mrs. Down goes in to the realty building while the others anxiously wait in the car.

Two minutes later she returns with no keys. Mr. Down sees his wife exiting the building with a frustrated look on her face. "What’s the problem?"

"We’re too early," she responds in a high-pitched tone trying to hide her sneering attitude towards the realtor. "This is just incredible! We paid extra for early check-in but they are still cleaning so we have to wait. I want my money back."

As she makes her way back to the car, Caroline and the others prepare for her entrance trying to pretend that nothing is wrong. Mrs. Down jumps back into the car. Everyone is silent. Mr. Down pulls out of the parking lot and suggests driving by the house to check it out. Shouts of approval come from the peanut gallery in the backseat. Everyone is still in good spirits and looking forward to a week in the sun, completely unaware of what surprises lie ahead.

As they pull up to the bright blue, 3-story house that rests just a few blocks from the beach everyone gets ready to jump out of the car to go exploring. They don’t have keys to unlock the house, but the cleaning crew lets them in without hesitation.

Mrs. Down steps onto the upper deck to catch a glimpse of the ocean. She breathes in the fresh air thinking how utterly perfect this view is – clear blue sky, glistening ocean, a hot tub below, next to a – wait a second – is that pool…GREEN? "DAVE," Mrs. Down shouts to her husband inside. "Can you come here? I think there is something wrong with the pool."

The Downs always prefer to have a beach house with a pool so the little kids can escape from the hot sun on the beach. Mr. Down comes rushing to his wife on the deck and asks what’s wrong. He glances down and sees the discolored pool. He looks around at the other houses on the block and notices the bright blue pools. "I’ll call the realtor," he says and heads back inside.

"Well this is just great. Of all things to go wrong, we have a GREEN pool," says Mrs. Down as she turns away in disgust and roams the rest of the house in search of more problems.

A few moments later a pool maintenance man arrives to check out the pool. He tests the water, makes a few phone calls to his supervisor, and then tells the unsatisfied vacationers that they will have to wait another day to use the pool. Before the Downs arrived to the Outer Banks, the island went through some storm damage, which caused the pool to change colors. After adding chemicals to the green algae-filled pool the maintenance man quickly packs up his tools and heads to the next problem-house.

The week flies by for the kids as they spend the days catching waves, playing beach volleyball, and napping under the sun. Every day the little ones ask their parents if they can go swimming in the pool. Every day the parents reply, "No, it’s still green."

Mrs. Down spends time every day calling Sandy Beaches Beach Realty to inquire about the status of the pool and suggesting ways in which they should compensate for the green pool. When the phone rings at Sandy Beaches everyone quickly finds something else to do. The beach realtors count down the days, hours, even minutes until the Downs vacate the island.

During the next four days the pool slowly changes color from green to blue, just in time for the next fiasco. On the fourth day Mr. Down heads down to the beach early in the morning with his coffee. He crosses the dunes to find the tent that he set up the day they arrived is gone. All the other tents around him are still in place. At the Outer Banks it is very common to leave chairs and umbrellas on the beach overnight to avoid the hassle of lugging them back and forth each day. Mr. Down wonders why his tent is the only one missing. The week goes on like this, and good spirits begin to dwindle. A green pool, ants, a stolen tent, what next?

On Friday afternoon Polly hangs up the phone and drops her head to her desk after a 45 minute long conversation with Deborah Down. Poor Polly…she didn’t color a pool green, or steal a tent, or set ants free at that house.

Only twenty hours to go until this batch of Saturday renters are gone. Hopefully next week the storms will pass normally without changing the color of any pools. And hopefully, next week people will put up tents with extra weight attached to the poles to make them more secure. And hopefully by next week the Downs will be long gone.

Read other articles by Jackie Quillen