Arriving at their Harbor View condominium and setting it up for the season is a big chore, Mom says. Almost as big as packing up the home they have just left. Each year when Mom and Dad get to Florida, they have to first clean up their apartment, which gets filthy very quickly in the Florida humidity. Then they have to unload all of their belongings, which have been up North with them all summer. Lastly, they have to turn on the water and all of the appliances that that have been off all summer. Let me just inform you here that Dad is as good at doing these small handyman jobs around the house as he is at understanding driving directions. He is a smart person, but one of his strengths is not doing mechanical tasks. In the past, he has called to ask me where the knob is to turn on the water to the dishwasher, how to reset the breaker in the fuse box, and even how to set the alarm on their clock radio. So I can understand why setting up the condo is a big deal for them.
One year Mom and Dad arrived to find hundreds of dead ants scattered throughout their apartment. The ants were on the floor, in their bed, and in the kitchen cabinets. Mom and Dad spent more than three days trying to get rid of them. That season Mom swore she was selling the place, but after a few days in the nice weather, and hearing about the snow and ice back home, she changed her mind. Except for that year when it took a full week to get rid of the dead ants, it is usually two or three days of hard work before Mom and Dad have the condo set up for the season.
But setting up the condo is not even the end, Mom says. Next, they have to deal with the incompetence of the phone company, she tells me. Each year, Mom temporarily stops her phone service in Florida and then has it turned on when she gets there. She usually asks to have it turned on a few days before she arrives just to be sure it’s working. Yet in three out of the past four years, she has gotten there to find the phone not connected. She is able to make local calls, but not long distance calls (fortunately, she can receive them, however). So, if Mom ever wanted to get in touch with me in those first days (it is usually about five or six more days before they turn on the phone service), she had to call Flo to call me to call her. Luckily, Mom and Dad bought a cell phone this year, so they can use that while the phone company works out its problems.
But the worst offender of all, Mom and Dad complain, is the postal service. Mom and Dad have their mail forwarded from their home up North to Florida for the time they are residing there. It should be a neat and orderly procedure, as the post office has forms particularly for this purpose. However, each year it takes weeks, if not more, to get mail forwarded to their place in Florida. One day last year in late-January Mom called me to say she had just gotten a holiday card from our cousins in Texas – nearly five weeks after they sent it. But at least it came. Two years ago I sent pictures to Mom and Dad at their address in Pennsylvania a week before they left. What arrived at their Florida address about three and a half weeks later was a ripped envelope with a handwritten note on it that said, “This is how these materials arrived at our post office.” The envelope was empty. This year Dad received a magazine cover in the mail – yes, only the cover. I suppose some postal worker up North is enjoying planning his retirement using the rest of Dad’s ‘Retire Young’ magazine.
Before they went to Florida this year, I tried to tell Mom and Dad that they should rely on their computer for communicating, as they can do a number of things online – send and receive e-mails, instant message people, and read online magazines. I informed them that there would be little need to depend on the phone and the post office for those first few days they are there.
“Great idea,” Dad said. “When you come to visit, you can set up the computer for us.”