At the end of the month Mike, MJ and I will be going on vacation to Hilton Head, South Carolina. Mike’s immediate family — a fantastic, hilarious group — is having a reunion there. It’s going to be great; we’re all quite excited. The only downside: the cost. The plane tickets were quite expensive. And there was going to be another vacation-related expense: boarding our dog. In Los Angeles, this can be an exorbitant proposition. Oh, the places are swanky — you’ll be able to watch your canine via live web stream, treat them to a Swedish massage, even send them on day trips to the ocean while you’re gone — but this luxury comes dear. And if you don’t avail yourself of a single amenity? You still pay through the nose.
Wagville, the place we have used in the past, is great. It’s also fifty bucks a night. Their website attempts to justify this in all kinds of ways:
Dogs staying for the night will spend the day in daycare, and at night may either snuggle in fluffy beds and on comfy cots together, or sleep with their very own attendant in a snuggly bed. Fully alert staff are on site through the night to make sure your dog gets everything he or she might need.
Look, this is is more than Mina gets at home. I think the last time I was “fully alert” was in 2008. Still, we were looking at another $400 just to board her. Added to the plane tickets, this was an expense we could ill afford.
Then, a solution appeared. While reading my e-mails one day, I spotted a post by a member of my MOMS Club. She said a friend was coming to town in June. She had no space for her. She was wondering if anyone needed a house sitter.
Well, looky there!
A few e-mails were sent back and forth and, before I knew it, we had a responsible, well-spoken, travelling-on-the-perfect-days doglover coming to stay in our house the week we were gone. She seemed genuinely thrilled about the arrangement. And I, suddenly four hundred dollars richer, was overjoyed.
Until I had time to think about it. Doing so has made me, with passing time, grow positively leery.
For one thing, bedbugs. They are on the rise everywhere. In New York especially, but in many major cities. We have a stranger coming to stay in our house. I have no idea where she is from. I forgot to ask! How stupid can you be? Now I am paranoid. Will her suitcases be riddled with unwanted visitors? How can I know? Is it rude to ask? “Um, do you happen to know if you have any sort of transmittable insect infestations?” Or, if that’s too specific: “Are you from New York City? Because if so, I’d just as soon you found a hotel…” But of course I can’t ask that. No matter how coyly I phrased it she’d figure out what I was implying. And God forbid I should offend a perfect stranger!
I’m worried about other things, too. So much could go wrong! There’s the burner on our stove that makes you think it’s turning off when it’s actually on “low.” Fire waiting to happen. There’s Mina’s propensity for trying to kill other dogs, and the outrageous lengths to which she will go to do so. Lawsuit waiting to happen. There’s the air conditioning. What if our guest can’t make it work? What if there’s a heat wave and it breaks? What if she dies in our house, like a shut-in? Scandal — and big mess — waiting to happen.
And then there’s the shame factor. Our “ghetto” kitchen? Very embarrassing. I had a new friend come over for dinner a few weeks ago. She walked into the kitchen, looked around and said — and I quote — “I couldn’t rock this.” It has been haunting me ever since.
So there’s the unrockable kitchen. Then there’s the crazy cracked cement on the driveway, and the apron so high it’ll can-open the bottom of your car if you drive anything smaller than a Sherman Tank. And the street noise! Our bedroom is downright cacophonous at certain times of day. We live on a well-travelled street. The walls have about as much insulation as a dogtent. The windows actually serve to amplify noise, not reduce it. I’m used to it now, but the first few weeks in the house I felt as if the Indy 500 were driving over my head in the morning. Mike says I exaggerate. Greatly. He wonders how I ever survived living in Brooklyn. Earplugs. That’s how. Earplugs I am no longer qualified to wear, being the already non-alert nocturnal guardian of a young daughter, a house, and apparently a dog as well. You can be sure no one at Wagville wears earplugs!
The point is, this is no Four Seasons. But it is our home. I’m embarrassed of it, but I also need it. And I kind of love it, noise and all. And now I will worry about it the whole time I’m gone.
All things considered it might’ve been cheaper, at least in the peace of mind department, to just pay the four-hundred bucks.
Maybe I should take that money and set up a web cam for the house. You know, live streaming? Throw in a “snuggly bed,” a Swedish masseuse and maybe an exterminator and the place will be paradise for anyone staying here. At the very least? I’ll make sure there’s a set of earplugs.