When I was growing up and planning my future career (cowboy, astronaut, superhero), I never once thought about becoming a landlord. As an adult, I knew “landlord” carried negative connotations, like heartless slumlord or pompous proprietor. I wanted to be the hero, not the villain.

But four years ago, when my wife and I were thinking about our retirement and what to do about a dilapidated, sagging structure on our property that once, long ago, was a small garage, we decided to rebuild it as a summer cottage. A place we could rent by the week in July and August to make a few extra bucks to pay the property tax and the sewer bill.

Little did we know this decision would alter our lives, in ways wonderful and bizarre. Building that cottage completely changed our relationship to summer and to those strange, peripatetic creatures that swarm our seaside villages and beaches like clouds of mosquitoes in the late-summer months: tourists.

We’ve discovered, as landlords, that tourists are actually human beings, and many of them are quite nice. But we also have been witness to some really quirky behavior.

Like the middle-aged couple that never left the cottage, not once, as far as we could tell. The siren calls of sun, sand, surf and shops — nothing removed them from their nest. We began to wonder, and worry. Were they still alive? Were they terrorist plotters? S&M fetishists?

When they finally appeared, packing their car to go home, they told us they’d had the best vacation ever. Apparently, they loved to read, so that’s all they did, for seven days and nights.

Then we had the young Manhattan couple scared senseless by the discovery of a small brown field mouse under the dishwasher in the kitchen, coming out at night to search for food.

From the look of terror in their eyes, you’d think a baby velociraptor had chewed and clawed its way into the cottage, in search of easy prey — them. When a mousetrap ended the horror, they calmed down a little, but seemed skittish for the rest of their stay.

For the most part, however, our tenure as summer landlords has allowed us to meet a lot of really wonderful, interesting people. Mainers have a love-hate relationship with tourists, but that’s largely because we experience them in packs, clogging our freeways, crowding our beaches, flooding our local shops and eateries. As individuals most of them are, well, pretty decent. And sometimes better.

Last winter we rented the cottage to a couple of sailing enthusiasts while the husband attended The Landing Boat School. Over their nine-month stay, we grew to be close friends, enjoying their company on road trips and dinner get-togethers. When they left in mid-June to return to their yacht in Malaysia, we all cried.

If there’s a moral to this, I guess it’s to give people a chance. Even tourists and other from-away visitors. You might be surprised how nice they are.

Steve Price is a resident of Kennebunkport.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.