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The Mast Head: People, Just Be Nice

Wed, 05/24/2023 - 18:28

Drawing a blank about this week’s column, I asked one of the front-desk staff at the library what I might write about. “You should say, ‘People, just be nice,’ “ she replied, thinking about the Memorial Day weekend onslaught to come. Or not. My source also said that no one around here had been able to rent out their places yet, that AirBnb was saturated with South Fork listings, and that she thought that everyone was going to Europe instead.

AirBnb and VRBO (pronounced roughly “ver-bo” in a further diminution of the English language into baby talk) are nearly impenetrable boxes from which little statistical information can be gleaned absent a court subpoena. Nonetheless, my source said that the number of available properties was staggeringly high. Her own listing — the second-least expensive listing in East Hampton, she said — had gotten only a single inquiry and no bookings.

At the high end, it is easy to see why some would prefer to jet off to the South of France. The costliest July rental within East Hampton Town, a five-bedroom number on the ocean in Montauk, was $462,000, or $15,000 a night. At the other end of the ver-bo rainbow was a two-bedroom cutie in Springs coming in at $10,000 for the month; for about the same money, two people could book round-trip airfare to Rome and stay in a terrace apartment down the coast in Anzio for the month instead.

As to being nice, previous calls for summer-season civility did not go so well. I dimly recall a “Be Nice” campaign from maybe the late 1980s. I think the guy who organized it had buttons made up — I can picture him vaguely but don’t remember a name. I believe Mr. Nice Guy is no longer on this mortal coil, which may be a good thing, seeing how aggressively entitled much of the present has become. But who to blame is the question.

It is not clear to me where the fault lies, that is, with them or us. In fact, it could be argued that the ver-bo people just passing through are on their best behavior, unlike those of us year-rounders who think ourselves so put upon by it all.

Myself, I try not to be too much of a grumpus. One might as well shake a fist at the ocean waves and insist that they stop crashing on the shore.

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