Have I Ever Told You This "Vacation" Story?

Published: July 15th 2015
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Life could NOT get any better unless Oprah adopted me, or Brad and Angelina hired me as their nanny & I got to travel the world in style. Yeehaw.

We are really enjoying our time here, (when do we not though?) and of course we've had amazing weather since we arrived. Ray & Pat (Al's parents) arrived late yesterday afternoon. We greeted them with cold beer and a plate of deli meats & cheese (no foie gras, no Champagne, and that won't happen till Oprah adopts me, but hey, it was tasty) and they seemed very happy to be by the ocean too and side-by-side their grandchildren.

We got caught up on the goings on in the past year since we've seen them, all the while eventually seeing the sun set over the sea. Fabulous. Later we picked up some finger-lickin' amazing rotisserie BBQ chicken with rice and tortillas. A simple but quite enjoyable dinner, while being serenaded by the sound of the waves. We heard the band on the beach playing some music which was really low key. We managed to stay up past midnight and finally headed off to the peaceful land of zzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

We woke to a stunning morning; the sea has been so calm that it's the first time I've ever seen so many kayakers and windsurfers out there. Al was up early to go diving, and by 10ish I had headed out for a stroll, and hit Walmart to buy a big beach umbrella for the balcony as it's hot enough to fry bacon & eggs on the table, and frankly I prefer frying my eggs up in a pan.

When I was in Walmart, a torrential rain came down. But luckily by the time I went to leave, it had stopped. I guess if I had to stop for a drink on a bar swing out of the rain it wouldn't have been the worst part of my day. Plus I did have that big beach umbrella to protect myself; although that would've been quite the look. I'm sure the wind/rain would've launched me & my grand umbrella somewhere near Belize I expect.

Once back at the condo while relaxing & waiting for the rain to blow out, I had a little time to sit and and reminisce about one of my first adventures renting a cottage that went off in the ditch so badly I was almost traumatized to rent another cottage again. Ahh, isn't it amazing with time how we can almost look back fondly on a vacation disaster? Well I can easily do that as I lounge by the Caribbean while snogging back a few tropical drinks. I will say it taught me a few life-lessons along the way despite it all.

If you have the time, pull up a chair, position your laptop and grab a bevvy and I'll tell you all about it. If you're at work, read this at home. I don't need anybody getting fired over reading my blogs!

My ex (Mike) and I spent many a' summer at his parents cottage on the Ottawa River and one year we decided it was time for us to rent our own cottage for 2 weeks with no in-laws, no family, just the two of us. In the end we decided to invite our good friends Donna May & Mike to join us for one of the two weeks.

Given I was in charge of the cottage rental, I took my sweet time pouring over ads, quickly bypassing the ones that did not meet my standards. I was being particularly fussy about which cottage would be the chosen one. By late May I finally spotted one that looked ideal. I called up the owner, and we made a date to meet so we could take a look at his pictures. (Keep in mind this was about the same time the internet was really taking off but he didn't have his cottage on-line.) We met the owner at his hosh posh apartment (a good sign right? He wasn't living in a hovel)...met his sweet 80 something-year-old mom, and basically decided on the spot that the pictures of this cottage was exactly what we were looking for. So we handed over a deposit with a post dated chq for the balance. All was sunny and bright. This was not going to be any cheap rental; Mike and I were going to go all out for this cottage rental. Yahoo vacation, here we come. Nothing could go wrong right? RIGHT?

I don't know how I did it for so many years (and continue to do so to a degree) with packing up our kids up to go to cottages, but given it was just Mike and I, it seemed like I was planning for months, packing for weeks, and grocery shopping and all the necessary house/pet arrangements which seemed to take on a life of its own. (Mike was oblivious to it all; I do believe he was just was going to show up with his bathing suit when I honked the horn to get in the car to go to the cottage). Mike if you are reading this, you are still a great guy!!

So the big day came & we were up and at 'em to pack the car and close the house up. It must've been 100 degrees that day, stifling hot, with the sweat dripping off of us in buckets. It seemed like we loaded up our entire house; I tried to fit in the kitchen sink but had to forgo it for the bathroom sink (smiley face) The bleedin' car was stocked to the hilt - coolers of shrimp, lobster, steak, beer, wine, sundries for the 2 weeks away. Our car was starting to resemble the old toppling unbalanced truck out of the classic movie "The Grapes of Wrath".

Mike was hot and impatient waiting in the car for me to finish up the last chores. The push was to get on the road to get to the cottage by check in time. 1 PM. We were going to milk every moment out of this vacation. Yahoo...our own oasis was awaiting us!

So now we have a 3 hour drive up past Mont Tremblant to find our dream cottage, with Mike & Donna May following us. Winding roads, beautiful scenery, sun shining on a summer day, and the anticipation of long sultry days on the lake, followed by bonfires at night filled the air. We were in the land of milk and honey.


OK I know nothing about Honey Boo-Boo (the reality show) but what I do know there is a bit of red-neck-ness going on. Well honey boo boo had nothing over what was coming at us.

So we arrive at the lake side dream-of-a-lifetime-cottage and no cottage to be found. I look at the directions, again, yep made the right turn, went past the little depaneur, & went past the 3 docks on the lake and then we took a left and there's supposed to be a road up the hill to the cottage. But there's no road to drive up. There's a goat path up the hill, but surely that can't be right cause he told us we could pull up to the cottage. So OK, optimistic me (yep that died right after that experience) said well we'll just park and go up the goat's path to check it out.

Holy toledo. We finally get to the top and there it was. There it was. Our oasis. Our beacon of holiday-living-it-up paradise. And then a big PFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFT.

It was a broken down hell-hole that made our jaws drop in disbelief. I truly believe the term "gob-smacked" was coined at the exact moment I saw this cottage. It was a hillbilly ho-down circus going on right before our eyes. The people who rented it the week before were still there. The picnic table was loaded with crushed beer cans and cigarette butts piled high. Wild dogs were running around barking, kids were dirty and screaming (I swear the kids had tattoos & piercings but perhaps it's the left over trauma talking now), and garbage was littered everywhere. The grass was knee high, and flies were buzzing around a heap of something that I did not care to know about.

Then the piece-de- resistance. A 300 pound man sitting at the picnic table wearing a stained muscle shirt, bushy beard, hair standing on end, and smoking, was staring at us like "who the hell are you and you'd better git before I come after you"!

I explained who we were before we got shot, & that we rented the cottage and was told check in time was 1PM. He grunted and finished his beer with a look that basically said "I'll leave when I want to leave", then he turned and kicked the dog under the table. (I could see how it would be hard to pull yourself away from such luxury (insert sarcasm right about here).

Basically the cottage looked like someone took a two-story house and cut the bottom right off of it and plunked it on the ground. The impressive view of the lake we were promised? NONE. The beautiful landscaped yard? An illusion. I suppose the shock of it all would've put someone flat on their back if they had a weak heart, but something drove me to actually want to check out the inside. Must've been the heat that had gotten to me. (As if the inside would fair any better?!) Heaven's to Betsy, lord have mercy.

We walked in and there's big brute's wife with a smoke hanging out of mouth, holding a baby with a beer can in her other hand. She gave us a big smile, and it looked like every second tooth was gone. My dentist says only floss the teeth you want to keep. In her case that amounted to about 8 exactly that she decided to keep. (At least she didn't look like she'd shoot us).

It looked like a food fight had happened in the kitchen. The sink was overflowing with dishes, the stove was a grease pit, and the fridge door was slightly open emitting a smell that made my eyes water. The living room faired no better- the windows were SO dirty that I wasn't sure if they were windows or plastic thrown over a wall with windows drawn on to resemble windows so you could pretend you were looking out at those "spectacular lake views". The bedroom beds were all mattresses on the floor, and what appeared to be dog droppings over/around them. The bathroom - well I am using that phrase loosely, was beyond disgusting and after merely walking by it I had the urge to shower but alas, there was no shower that I could recall. I actually took the time to pull out my camera and take pics of the place. Frankly we really should have been vaccinated when we left there.

We took the goat path back to our car as fast as our feet could carry us, & booted it into town to re-group & call the owner. Well that went really well. The owner answered & when I told him we'd been duped by him and we wanted our money back due to the horrid condition of the "cottage" (slum) he balked, then it became very heated, then he hung up on me. Of course everyone's upset & disappointed, and we got back in our car and spent the next three hours in our car fuming all the way home. Get home in the miserable heat, and unpack everything we had just packed the same morning. WAH! Our friends followed and stayed at our place for 2 nights, eating and drinking all the cooler contents while we grumbled miserably while watching movies.


Over the course of the next few days I continued to make contact with the owner. It went from frustrating to down-right ridiculous with the back and fro'ing, his hanging up on me, and me continuing to call him like I was on a mission from God. We went to his apartment and knocked on his door & I left him notes under the door saying "See you in court".

I guess once he realized I was like a bad case of shingles that would not go away, he started to take me "seriously" and started calling us to offer us his assets in lieu of money. HUH? First it was a vacuum cleaner, then a desk, odds & ends of personal items, (I think he offered up his mother too and maybe a pair of underwear?...). Finally Mike said to him, "Have you met Sal"? I guess not because she won't let this drop. Be prepared". It was pay me back my rental fees or be prepared to go to court. He did not comply.

In the end as promised, I took him to court. I did my research, checked files in the court house to find out if he'd stiffed other people and yes indeedy he did. I contacted these people and got their same sad sack stories, but no one had won against him. What would one have to do to finally stick it to this guy I wondered?

The day of the trial the four of us went to court. Mike didn't want to go on the stand. Donna May agreed to be my witness; however, when she was cross examined by the owner, she got very nervous & fumbled her words. He asked what color the walls were to perhaps infer she hadn't even been there as a witness. He even went so far as to say that we actually "stayed at his beautiful cottage for the two weeks and then wanted our money back after the fact". It almost led me to a fit of violence against this man. If looks could kill, I would've been a weapon of mass destruction.

Poor Donna May, in the end was not very helpful. We teased her after that she was like Rosa, OJ Simpson's maid and the only "witness" to the fact that he was home the day of his wife's murder & therefore could not have been the killer. (I'm sure many of you watched the OJ Simpson case all those years back). Poor Rosa in the witness box was a total disaster - she backtracked, got caught up in lies, cried on the stand, refused to co-operate and she also didn't speak English and had to have an interpreter. Rosa on the stand was a circus act. She was just not a credible witness. Therefore the funny Donna Maya/Rosa comparison! (Donna May if you're reading, that was ONE of the funniest moments to me of the whole dang fiasco!) From then on, I always called Donna May "Rosa".

I on the other hand showed up fully prepared in my business suit (maybe I thought I was Johnnie Cochran - OJ's slick lawyer & legal legend who got him off the murder charges in the end.) You must remember the phrase Johnie used, "If the glove does not fit, you must acquit". And acquit they did. (OK sorry I was sidelined by that!)

Anyhow I got up on the stand and when he tried to cross examine me he got an earful. I asked if the dog urine was included in the rental, or was that just an added perk? Color of the walls? Well if you take white and combine it with slime, grease, cob webs I would say it was the perfect color of disgusting. I had kept credit card receipts to show we actually had been at home the entire time as a backup. I had taken pictures of the cottage which I showed to the judge. I told him about the time invested to research the cottage, that his pictures were fake, that our holiday was ruined, etc etc. Despite being nervous, I felt duped enough to see it through right to the end. I've read that tenacity is the ability to "hang on" when giving up is most attractive, and I will admit to always having an extra tenacity DNA when the going gets rough.

So in the end, I won. The Judge liked me and felt I was well-prepared and truthful about the situation. He had harsh words for Mr. Loser. I won back the original rental fee, plus my legal fees covered, and I was given interest on the money from the date I gave it to him till judgement day, AND an extra amount for the loss of holiday, stress, pain/suffering, etc etc. When we left court, Mr. Loser hightailed it out of there as if his underwear was on fire. I truly believe this lad was a few pickles short of a jar when I think back to my dealings with him. Regardless, thereafter we celebrated out with dinner (I paid) and I bought Rosa er, Donna May a drink!!!

Now here's the kicker; once you win, the onus is on you to get the money from the debtor. So I started with the written request for him to pay me by a particular date etc etc. He did not send payment. (Did you reallllly think it would be that easy with Mr. Loser?) The next step was to garnish the settlement. Well how am I going to do that without his bank information? A light went on; I called my bank & got my cheque that I had paid the cottage with & of course it had his bank details on the back. YES, thank you Jaysus, Mary & Joseph.

So I called his bank and told them that I had his "chq" to cash and did he have sufficient funds to cover it? (Not allowed to ask how much is in his account but you legally can ask if there's funds to cover it). He did, and I submitted the documents to the court & almost lickity-split they acted and had the money withdrawn from his bank account. I tell you, it was a MOMENT to savor. I did my own marching band through my house with Mike looking on in total amusement. It wasn't a walk in the park by any stretch to get back what I was owned including the hassle of all the trips to the court house, reams of paperwork, legal fees/parking, and constant pressure on this butt head, but there was NO way I was letting him win. It's not like I was lounging on the Riviera Maya back in those days & could afford to lose that money...

It was a real eye opening experience, and since then I am always leery about "deals" of any type especially rentals.

But all of this is forgotten as I sit on the oceanfront balcony of an exquisite condo with the sparkling Caribbean waves sparkling and shimmering with soft sounds of beach music playing, with a tropical drink in hand, and a gentle breeze that clears away any thoughts of the rental from hell 😊

May your summer vacation rental be a dream-come-true! And if not, & something goes wrong with your 'rental', please call me & I'll try to use my "razzle-dazzle" Johnnie Cochran skills, and I'll bring my friend Rosa as your witness (wink wink)

Signing off from (not a broken down hovel)

PS photos of the last few days of the condo, beach, dining out, drinks, family!

*FYI: in all my blogs, you can hit "next entry" or "previous entry" to read along to my other blogs

Sal & her "sidekicks"

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