Views Of The Water, Wise Landlord Included

Commentator Amy Dickinson rents an idyllic cottage on Block Island, R.I. i i

Commentator Amy Dickinson rents an idyllic cottage on Block Island, R.I. Courtesy of Amy Dickinson hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy of Amy Dickinson
Commentator Amy Dickinson rents an idyllic cottage on Block Island, R.I.

Commentator Amy Dickinson rents an idyllic cottage on Block Island, R.I.

Courtesy of Amy Dickinson

Amy Dickinson writes the syndicated advice column Ask Amy, which appears in more than 100 newspapers.

This year for our beach vacation, the local real estate agent rented us the Miller cottage, a lovely place with a view of sailboats bobbing in the bay. The Millers rent out their place during much of the summer. We've never met them.

The house's decor is generically beachy — rattan couches with striped canvas cushions, the occasional rendering of a sea gull on driftwood. You get the picture.

Bob, the house's owner, has left carefully written instructions taped on various surfaces throughout the house:

"The garbage is picked up on Tuesdays and Saturdays," says a sign in the kitchen.

"Please — no grilling in the garage," says one sign. Posted, helpfully, in the garage.

Tiny signs are taped onto the toilet tanks: "To flush solids in one flush, hold handle down for 12.5 seconds," they say.

Thank you, Bob.

One night before a tournament of Bananagrams, I devised a game I called What about Bob? I gave the kids 10 minutes to go around the house, find out everything they could about Bob, and then tell a story about him.

A family photograph sits near the TV. Bob and his wife and their three children are all so slim and good-looking that they look like the photo that came with the frame.

Amy Dickinson is the author of The Mighty Queens of Freeville. i i

Amy Dickinson is the author of The Mighty Queens of Freeville. Courtesy of Amy Dickinson hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy of Amy Dickinson
Amy Dickinson is the author of The Mighty Queens of Freeville.

Amy Dickinson is the author of The Mighty Queens of Freeville.

Courtesy of Amy Dickinson

There's a memento of a long-ago sailing race. Bob came in first.

We decide that Bob is successful. Bob loves his wife, Barb, and their three kids — Billy, Bridget and Bobby Jr. Bob is distinguished. Bob is kindly.

Bob knows things.

I've come to think of Bob as our vacation oracle. Sunblock? Bob says to go with the SPF 50, just to be on the safe side. Surf or turf? Bob says seafood tonight, burgers tomorrow.

Bob prefers bikes to mopeds. He likes the local gelato. He has a remedy for poison ivy.

At night, I lie awake, listening to the sailboats slap against the water.

Lately, I feel like I have a lot of big questions. Life questions. I thought I would leave them behind on the mainland, but it turns out that they came along with me on vacation, like little stowaways.

Naturally, I turn to Bob.

He instructs me. "Take them down to the dock. Place them into a big bucket of chum — those nasty fish heads they use as lobster bait. Screw the lid on tight. By next summer, all will be well."

Because Bob has never steered me wrong, I will do as he says.

When we come back here next summer, I assume that new questions will have replaced the old.

But, fortunately for me, Bob will be just as wise.

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