Dr. Bill Atwood

Civility matters, in wildfires and in short-term rentals

Last week an event played out across the street from my home at Bass Lake. Many of the houses on my street are summer rentals. When I first moved here in 1980 everyone changed on Saturdays. The people departing had to be out by 10 a.m. and the arriving families could take over their cabins at 3 p.m..

Over the years things changed as more people want to use cleaning services instead of cleaning the cabins themselves. Now some cabins rent Saturday to Saturday, others Sunday to Sunday, and a few offer Friday to Friday vacation availability.

The Bechtel family has been coming to the place across the street from my house for the past 20 years. This was going to be their final time at Bass Lake as the family is moving to Idaho and so the Bass Lake tradition was being enjoyed and celebrated one last time. Friday evening was to be the final BBQ and a time to share remembrances of the past great years at the lake.

The Bechtels know the owner so they have never used the local rental agent that the owner uses to handle the summer weekly rentals. The owner is getting older and has asked his daughter to handle some of his business dealings. What happened this week was due to a failure to communicate.

The owner had not realized that the rental agent has been renting the place out on a Friday to Friday basis and the owner’s daughter had rented the place to the Bechtels Saturday to Saturday. When the cleaning service arrived on Friday around 11 a.m., the error was discovered.

The Bechtels were informed at 1 p.m. that they had to vacate in two hours in order to minimize the delay to the incoming folks. They were disappointed as they had plans for boating that afternoon, then the dinner, and then packing up Saturday morning.

A flurry of phone calls started to figure out the mess and the owner told them they needed to leave as the rental agent had a contract to adhere to along with preserving his reputation for having the home ready on time.

The civility on all sides was a pleasure to watch. The rental agent contacted his incoming people, explained the mix-up, and they understood and agreed to delay their entry into the house a few hours. The Bechtels’ teenage grandsons, along with the adults in the group all swung into action and packed up the gear, loaded up the cars and trucks and made a hasty exit.

As they were packing up, they graciously allowed the maids to begin cleaning the upstairs rooms of the cabin to give them a jump on the job.

Needless to say a “bomb” had gone off on their vacation final day and others had been inconvenienced as well. There was something missing in this equation that probably would have happened with other folks but not the one’s involved across the street from me. There were no threats. There was no cussing, there were no tantrums, and there were no unreasonable demands.

Everyone involved made it work because they acted in a civil manner. It was a surprising and slightly upsetting end to a 20 year tradition of Bass Lake vacations for a wonderful family. The children in that family saw in the adults in their lives how to handle problems in a responsible way.

I will always remember their friendliness toward Carol and I over the years and I will talk about their civility in this situation for years to come.

To help out our neighbors affected by the Detwiler Fire in Mariposa, a “Neighbors Helping Neighbors” event has been planned for Aug. 9. The Eastern Madera-Mariposa Counties Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) encourages the public to visit downtown businesses and restaurants to help show our support. The Sierra Star has small “Neighbors Helping Neighbors” tickets you can pick up and hand out to the businesses to let them know how much we support them.

Be sure to stop by the Sierra Star office (across from Sierra Telephone) to get some of those tickets to pass out to the Mariposa businesses on Aug. 9.