25 May 2010

House Exchanges

I mentioned in a post a couple of weeks ago (I slept in Marilyn Monroe’s Bed …) that I’d exchanged houses with a lady in San Francisco.The house exchange I featured in that Blog was in fact my second time and, I have to say, was significantly more successful than my first.

There I was, sitting in my BT office in 1993 wondering what I could do for a holiday. I don’t know how it came to me but the fact that we had a business in the San Francisco area made me wonder if I could arrange a house swap. I sent an e-mail to the company’s HR asking them to put an advert in their staff restaurant and that very afternoon I got a call from Wanda.

To cut a long story short, Wanda, who lived in Freemont (about 45 mins drive outside San Fran) was up for it. We agreed a date and my brother, my two youngest children (Ross and Timmy) and yours truly flew out to San Francisco on the 4th July.

Wanda’s flight wasn’t until the next day, so on the first night I slept in her lounge. The following morning I drove her to the airport and that night I looked forward to a bed after a first night on planes and the next night on a sofa. As my head hit the pillow, there was an almighty ‘clunk’ and when I lifted the pillow, there, lying in all its ‘wild west’ glory was, what I would have called a six-shooter – a gun!

I called Wanda (she was 8 hours behind) and asked her why she had a gun under her pillow. ‘It’s in case somebody breaks in and tries to rape me. I’d shoot the ******* she said’.

Well that was alright then! But then Wanda had a complaint. During the ‘negotiations’ about the details of the house swap, Wanda had said she was reluctant to swap cars as hers was some sort of classic Cadillac or something similar. Eventually, I insisted and the exchange was to include cars – mine was a company sports coupé so I wasn’t too worried about it but on that first day, she said she’d spent 2 hours in the airport car park trying to work out how to engage first gear. She’d never used a manual gear box before!

If that had been the only car related problem I’d have been delighted but in addition to running down the battery on that first day, she managed to reduce most of the offside of the car to a wreck as she attempted to get closer to the side of the road, completely forgetting she was now driving on the left!

However, apart from the car problems and Wanda phoning me in the middle of the night to see how things were going (completely oblivious to the 8 hour time difference), the house exchange was a great success. She had a hot-tub in her garden and my abiding memory is seeing my brother sitting in the steaming tub after a long day’s sightseeing with a Miller Light in each hand, just bubbling away!

Now Freemont is a bit inland from the coast and each morning we set off for a drive we’d see that the temperature (on the car computer) was well over 100 degrees – sometimes 120! As we headed off towards San Francisco or Robin Hood’s Bay the reading would drop and drop until it reached 50 degrees when we hit the coast. Bizarre!

Other great memories – trying to buy a smaller than 3 litre bottle of wine in the supermarket. And conversely, trying to order a 2nd bottle of wine in a restaurant where the waitress insisted we had to be ‘interviewed’ by the manager before it was served! The ‘largest sports store in the world’ which was absolutely deserted until you reached the gun department where there was a queue at the counter!

Overall, it was a great holiday which convinced me we should do it again a couple of years later, which we did with a friend of Wanda’s. Thankfully, that holiday went without a hitch.

J and I are determined to do it again, having set our sights on some friends of Tan and Angie who live in Sarasota, Florida. Maybe – just maybe.

By the way (or BTW to texters) – the picture is of the Transamerica building in the heart of San Francisco.

1 comment:

Timmy said...

No empty wine cellar or broken trash compacter put in this blog too painful memories haha started smiling at the title.