Mr. T and I just returned from Hawaii where we celebrated 20 years of wedded bliss and all that falls on the left and right spectrum of said noun. As always, Hawaii is and was amazing. Thanks to the internet, it’s fairly easy to find and rent a great place with a spectacular view, a private pool and the peace and quiet we seek on our rare vacations. This time, all seemed in perfect order…until the creepy caretaker.Continue Reading
Morning came early, yet there’s something about the tropical sounds of the island and constant glow of that orb we’ve had limited exposure to lately in the PNW. It does wonders for jet lag. After a couple cups of coffee, I grabbed my first vacation book, The Rosie Project, that I’d nearly finished on the plane. I headed to the backyard equipped with a small, lovely pool, a coiffed tiered lawn, a few palm trees, a giant Koa tree, tropical flowering plants, the sounds of paradise and a lounge chair with my name on it.
Creepy encounter #1
I was about 15 minutes into my first full sun of the year when I hear knocking on the back gate of a tall fence that surrounds the backyard. “Hello, hello, I’m just stopping by to say, ‘hi.’ I’m your caretaker.”
Caretaker? Nobody told me there was caretaker. We’re used to an owner that leaves instructions for the lockbox, and details of when the pool guy comes, the garbage is picked up and the lawn is mowed. There’s always a name and number of who to call with questions or issues. Beyond that, it’s our rental house for the week. Simple. Straightforward. Unobtrusive. And, that’s how we like it.
The “caretaker” is pulling on the locked gate while I’m scrambling to put on my cover up. Truth time. I only wear a bikini when I’m not in public. Honestly, age brings on the inevitable and it’s not helped by my lack of beach-body exercise leading up to this vacation. But hey, it’s vacation, and nobody is around, so I’m going for it. As I jump up and head toward the gate, still trying to throw on my cover up, I hear, “That’s okay, I’ll come around.” Before I could say “palm tree” there he was.
His name was Tom and he was the caretaker of the owner’s 2 ½ acres. I conducted small chit chat. Turns out he grew up in Sequim and had previously worked for the owners at their business in Port Angeles. He said he would wait for the “big guy.” That would be Mr. T, who he had spotted earlier in the morning when he was already roaming the grounds. I made it clear we’d rented before, we had no questions, all was good. Mr. T., who was on the phone, finally comes down from the house. At this point, Tom sits down.
His chatting continued, sharing how much work it was to keep up the grounds and that he lived in the Ohana (guest cottage) up behind the main house. The roofline was visible from the fence. He assured us he was quiet while he did his work and drank his tea. He instructed us not to park in front of the garage because he was in and out during the day. What? Then, he proceeded to deliver a history lesson about the rows of stacked lava rock that the owners were required to keep in its place and other bits about how men used to eat separately from women. Oh, and he mentioned he was looking for a girlfriend. TMI. It went on way too long, and he seemed way too familiar. We just wanted some peace and quiet. Finally, he made his exit. We both shook our heads, recanted the experience and agreed he was a bit creepy. If only it ended there.
Creepy Encounter #2
After a few hours of sun, we moved inside. Between the jet lag and sun, I was wiped out and a nap was calling. While I was napping and Mr. T was doing some work, Tom was taking a dip in our pool. WTF? At that point, his creepy factor was creeping higher.
The next morning, I went for a run, and Mr. T. picked me up at the end so I could get an Acai bowl at the Basik Café. The Puna is my favorite! When we returned, there was Tom lurching around the garage. Weird. Since when does a rental need constant caretaking? We exchanged greetings and headed up the stairs, trying not to be friendly and encourage him.
On night two things got even creepier. We lost the internet that afternoon and when we returned from dinner in the evening I decided to reset the modem to see if I could bring it back up. While I was successful, it wiped out the owner’s name as the network name and replaced it with Linksys. No big deal, I thought. It worked, and that was the goal.
The final creepy encounter
I headed to bed in the separate building next door, and night owl Mr. T. proceeded to watch a little more TV and eventually embarked on a round of sit-ups on the floor. On one of his ‘ups’, there was Tom, staring in the window. He’d come up two flights of stairs to an all-windows-across-the-deck-house to ask if he could come in and restart the modem. Mr. T. startled and without contacts, told him ‘no,’ and to come back tomorrow. Tom pushed back, saying it would only take a minute. Mr. T. was annoyed and reinforced that he should come back tomorrow.
But, from what we learned earlier, Tom was pursuing this girl on the other side of the island, and my guess is that internet access at 10:30 was crucial to his continued success. He questioned what we’d done, but Mr. T. wasn’t going to reveal that I’d reset it. He said I was sleeping, but he’d ask me in the morning.
Tom didn’t give up questioning why Mr. T was so put off by him, as he was simply being a caring caretaker. So, Mr. T. shared his frustration and annoyance with Tom’s unexpected and unannounced visit, his afternoon dip in the pool, and his general ongoing presence, comparing that to our past experiences. Voices raised to a decibel that woke me from my slumber where I heard Tom defending his pool time since he is “sharing the grounds” too. Wait, we are renting a house, but sharing it at the same time? At some point, Mr. T’s 6’ 4” frame must have been enough to deter 5’9” Tom from continuing to talk his way further into a tenuous situation.
The next morning Mr. T texted Tom to tell him I’d reset the modem and in doing so the network name was replaced by the modem name. Tom’s response was gushingly apologetic, saying he was still learning the ropes as caretaker. You think? His 360-degree change in behavior was most likely linked to his fear of losing his job and a place to live in paradise. And, given that he could see when we came and went, we never saw Tom again. But we knew he was watching.
Once at the airport on our way home, Tom texted Mr. T. again, apologizing all over himself and finally admitting we were his first “guests.” Just our luck; we experienced a no-boundaries caretaker in training. If I was a betting woman, I would bet the next guests will see very little of the creepy caretaker, and they will surely not find him in their pool.