My Landlord is a Clown

As a travel PT, I have learned that interesting housing situations present themselves frequently. I thought living in a camper for 5 months this summer was the great housing tale of the summer. Maybe not…

10/13/15
It’s Tuesday evening, the campground closes tomorrow morning and we have to move from our camper for one month before this assignment is over. The camper has sold, tentatively on Craigslist… the plan is to grab the cash for the camper when we move out tomorrow morning and have the buyer tow it away. Until then, the Craigslist ad will stay active.

The place we’re moving into is a small one bedroom cottage in Oak Bluffs, housing and rent are brutal on Martha’s Vineyard, that’s what pushed us into the camper in the first place. We had heard from our new the landlord that there was a septic issue that was being fixed earlier this week, today, we learned more.

The landlord said, “I hope the septic is done by the end of the week, but the plan still needs to be approved by the town.” Well folks, I know a developing story when I hear one. We’re stuck, housing is awful here, there’s no choice but to move into the toiletless cottage. We can’t use running water, but luckily, the landlord lives in a house across the driveway with various renters. Looks like we’ll be walking over there for cooking, bathroom, showers, etc for a while. I hope this is a short story, but I’ll be entering journal-style entries until this saga comes to an end. Fingers crossed, wish us luck!

South Beach on the left, wrapping around to Chappaquiddick. We spent many-a-weekend on South Beach grilling and chilling. Took this picture on the way over to Nantucket for a weekend visit with a travel PT/friend over on the neighbor island.

South Beach on the left, wrapping around to Chappaquiddick. We spent many-a-weekend on South Beach grilling and chilling. Took this picture on the way over to Nantucket for a weekend visit with a travel PT/friend over on the neighbor island.

10/14/15
It’s move-in day. We have cash for the camper and no longer own it. An unattended backhoe sits on a pile of dirt beside our otherwise quaint and cute little cottage on Martha’s Vineyard.

Our landlord, a professional clown (no, literally), has given us a tour of the main house where we will be doing anything involving water. Funny tangent: Kate told me one of her patients who lives nearby had asked who our landlord was. When Kate gave her our landlord’s name, the patient replied, “Oh, I think she is the clown.” At the time, Kate left it alone not knowing exactly what the patient meant.

There’s one tenant staying in the main house until Friday (two more days) named Nefertiti who the clown says is from, “Serbia, no that’s not right. Hungary. No. I don’t remember.” We’ve been in and out for two days now and have no sightings of the other tenant. The sun is setting, we’re moved in, a normal work week goes on, I’m pooped.

10/16/15
It’s been a busy week. We’ve worked a normal week, moved out of the camper, sold it, moved into the cottage, and been otherwise generally busy in life. I’m slowly adjusting to going over to the main house to use the bathroom and wash dishes. I’ve avoided taking a shower there and instead used it as an excuse to hit the gym before work and shower at the gym instead. I routinely showered at the gym when we were getting the camper shower water-tight earlier this summer. Kate has been showering in the main house and calls it, “a mild inconvenience.”

Last night, I met Nefertiti on her last night renting in the big house. She came downstairs just as I was standing in the kitchen chopping avocados and holding a giant knife. I saw her and said, “Hi I’m James.” She quietly and nervously introduced herself asked if our landlord was around. Our landlord was not around. “Neffy” quickly headed back upstairs, leaving me in the kitchen with the avocados and the knife. I think she is used to random renters being in the kitchen, but I can’t help but wonder if I startled her.

Today is Friday, and our landlord said she had been calling the town planning board, but hasn’t heard back yet. I guess hope for the septic tank being completed by the end of the week is a thing of the past. I feel like the walk across the driveway to the bathroom and kitchen is what it must be like living in a mansion, walking really far to get to other rooms. We’ve started referring to the main house as “The West Wing”. I doubt any developments will happen over the weekend, to be continued on Monday…

Our small, but quaint cottage peaking out behind the mounds of dirt and constant ground work.

Our small, but quaint cottage peaking out behind the mounds of dirt and constant ground work.

10/17/15

Today, we evolved. We got a large wash bin to use in the kitchen sink. That way we wash dishes, or whatever, in the sink, when the wash bin fills up, it gets dumped in the bushes out front. It’s nice to have a sink. Still no Toilet.

10/19/15

We’ve really settled into the situation here. The landlord has been away at a conference… clown conference? Nefertiti’s season has ended, and she is gone. So, we’ve had our little cottage and the big house across the driveway all to ourselves. The walk across the driveway in the morning for a shower has become casual. I feel truly suburban for the first time in my adult life as I stroll across the driveway in full view of neighbors wearing my plaid bathrobe and LL Bean moccasin slippers. This isn’t a bad set-up, but I wish the work would get underway to fix the septic.

10/21/15

Today, the septic guy showed up, and it’s game on! He says we’ll be without plumbing for a couple hours while he hooks up the new tank tomorrow, but then we should be good to go! He got the back hoe up and running today, and, as far as I can tell, just pushed some junk around in the yard, might have smoothed out some dirt too. The backhoe is in the yard directly beside the cottage, it is also just about the same size as the cottage. Should be an interesting process.

10/22/15 – PM

Houston, flushing is go. All our plumbing needs are being met. Today the septic guy, Vinny, had me flush some toilet paper inside. We rushed outside and we saw the TP happily float into the tank. A clear sign that Vinny, as he noted, “has enough pitch in the tube. Shouldn’t have any problems.” Very relieved to be done with the West Wing and my morning strolls across the driveway for a shower – hopefully, this story is over.

Two weeks later… 11/4/15

Vinny and his rig at work just off our front deck.

Vinny and his rig at work just off our front deck.

I thought we were done. When this tale started, I thought I saw a developing story and would write because it would probably turn out tragic… entertaining, but tragic. It hasn’t been tragic, but the story isn’t over either. The day after the cottage was hooked up to the septic, the main house got hooked up. Every day since, I have thought it would be that last day of excavator work in the yard. Except now, the holes in the yard and piles of dirt by the cottage are getting bigger. Apparently Vinny is working on the leach field now. While it is kind of educational to look in the hole every morning and evening and see the process, there is a little wear to having construction vehicles in the yard everyday. We leave the island for a little R&R today before our next assignment in 10 days. The race is on, Vinny. Who leaves first? Is it us? Or is it you?

Post-script

The kind of movie I hate the most is the kind that isn’t a story. You know, movies that are just a snippet of time and don’t really have a beginning or ending. The most recent one I saw like that was Silver Linings Playbook. What the hell was that, Bradley Cooper!? No ending to that movie, just ends mid-story. Oh wait, did I just ruin the ending for you? No, because there isn’t one.

Anyways, I feel like this snippet of time needs a conclusion, consider this the special content after the credits have rolled. When we ran into trouble with this place, we didn’t really have any other choices for housing. This was it. We could either worry about the constant work going on around us or just accept it and live our lives in our cute little cottage. We could have worried and battled our landlord to hurry the process up, or give us money back, but we didn’t. We accepted it and thrived. I think this is a vital survival instinct that anyone who is a healthcare traveler needs to have – don’t stress, just cope. Most of the travel therapist life is smooth, but if you travel for more than a couple years, you’re bound to run into some sort of adversity: a contract gets cancelled, you go unemployed for several weeks looking for a job, your new assignment isn’t what you had thought it would be, or, ahem, your housing has no working toilet. The bottom line is, if you can roll with it, it will pass. The nature of life as a traveling therapist is that things are constantly changing, progressing…. moving on. If every bump in the road gets you in a tizzy, you’ll struggle. But, if you accept these situations for what they are – passing inconveniences – you’ll move along quickly to the next stage. Hopefully, at that next stage, you’ll find that things are going better than you had hoped: your new job is better than expected, your employer wants to extend the contract, your new housing has an awesome shower.

“Just Roll With It” was the alternative title to this blog. That’s the conclusion. In traveling, roll with the punches. If one assignment has troubles, the next one is bound to be awesome. Good luck out there in your ever changing world!

Vinny did get the hole closed up and grass seed down 2 full days before we left. Strong work, Vinny.

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