Letters to the Summer Tenants
The lament of a self-martyred landlord.
We're fast approaching the gloomiest time of the summer: The day of departure for the placid summer cottage renter and the day of return for the unsuspecting cottage landlord. In 1997, Jodie T. Allen wrote a few notes to the anonymous every-tenant, offering some acerbic advice on how to keep from completely destroying her property before summer's end. The article is reprinted below.
It struck me this morning that you can see water from every window of the cottage. I noticed this as I was moving the furniture on the second floor back into the bedrooms. It's easy to sort out—as you've probably noticed, when restoring the paint on all the old pieces, I color-matched them to the bedspreads and rugs. Oh, and don't worry, I did finally find all the rugs. No doubt they'll dry out in time and be as good as new. You know, it's not a bad idea to close the windows when it rains.
Oh say, I don't want to be intrusive, but if your guests do get into another knife fight or whatever, it's really easy to get the blood splatters out of the white frilled curtains if you wash them in cold water right away. (You can just throw them in the washing machine, if the kids' sandy clothes haven't stripped the gears yet.)
All the best, etc.
Sept. 3, 1997
I just thought I'd drop another line to remind you for next year that the cottage is made of wood. The shingles, the tongue-in-groove paneling, the polished-pine floors are all old wood. That means they burn very easily. So: Do not lean the pleated shade on the bedside lamp against the bulb while it is lighted. As you have no doubt noticed after two such experiments in consecutive years, when you do that, the shade melts and finally burns. Left long enough, the burning shade will set the house on fire. I assume you leave the house when you conduct these little trials, but there is always the chance that someone else may have lingered.
By the way, if you think of it next year, don't let the kids remove the front legs of the pedestal sink in the east bathroom and fill them with Q-Tips—children are so imaginative these days! And if they must do it, try not to discard the peculiar bolt fittings, so that I can put them back—they don't make that kind of sink anymore, so parts are hard to find. Ditto the handles on the bureau drawers. I know they are old and can come unscrewed. But the nut will always fall inside the drawer, so all you have to do is thread it back on the screw and then tighten it. Well, I suppose that's a bother on a vacation, but wouldn't it be just as easy to put the whole thing inside the drawer as in the wastebasket? Speaking of screwing—no, no, I'm not concerned about the mattresses—but did anyone ever show you how to replace a light bulb? There are lots of brand new ones in the sideboard in the dining room, and I would have thought you'd find it inconvenient to read or wash dishes in the dark.
And, speaking of washing dishes in the dark, the Italian cook you brought with you this year must be a great chef. Of course, great cooks don't usually make great cleaners. But not to worry, I'll get the grease off the pots and pans before we close the house for the winter. What a good thing, though, that I happened to look under the cast iron stove while searching for the corkscrew. Otherwise I'd never have found the six bags of garlic and onions. They'll help fill up the composter, which is really very empty after such a busy season—I guess you didn't have time to mind all those recycling rules posted at the town hall.
Well, have a great winter.
Jodie T. Allen is the senior editor at the Pew Research Center.
Illustrations by Michael Sloan; photograph of the beach house on Slate's home page by Kevin R. Morris/Corbis.