To the Editor:
I always enjoy visiting my in-laws at The Villages. And what’s not to enjoy: my in-laws are wonderfully warm and interesting people; the weather is great – especially in the winter; the preferred transportation for many is a golf cart (more than 90 miles of golf cart pathways), and much to do even during the pandemic.
The Villages consists of 78 different communities (each called a village). Each village clustered around one of 50 separate golf courses, or in close proximity to one, each has a swimming pool and racquet sports courts. There are three town squares with shops and restaurants, and daily occurrences of music, dances, and other community events.
The Villages are advertised as the “friendliest active adult 55+ retirement community.” I believed that to be true based on my past experiences as a visitor, and what The Villages is offering.
This year my husband and I decided to rent the house at The Villages for two months of winter to visit my in-laws safely (pandemic), and to escape the cold of our home state of Pennsylvania.
So, we packed the car and drove with our two dogs to The Villages. The house in the Village of Calumet Grove was, as described on the website, comfortable for people and dogs – with a fenced yard big enough for our Border Collie mix and the Hound mix to enjoy the fresh air while we worked from “home.” I mastered driving the golf cart and navigated the golf cart pathways around The Villages; we hiked 2.5 miles to/from the dog park on Saturdays and Sundays; we visited with my in-laws outside on the restaurant terraces to relish fine dining or to have coffee; walked dogs during work breaks around the neighborhood lake, and even danced on the sidewalk of the town square – safely far from other people.
Life was quite good, and we started thinking about buying a house at The Villages as a vacation home.
A few weeks into the idyllic life we encountered the first crush of my “rose-colored glasses.”
The population of The Villages is predominantly white, and the next few incidents could be connected to my husband being an African American: checking only our IDs at the dog park while there were about seven other people; the Sumter Landing sales office greeter told us that we cannot use the bathroom (which I used two prior times without any problems when my husband was not with me) and pointed the way to the public bathrooms.
The Villages continue further to prove that this place might not be a friendliest hometown.
The neighbor next store came to complain about our dogs barking and mentioning that he had an option to go to police (!). But first question he asked was “are you renting?”
Dogs bark for several reasons: to greet people and their pets (the neighbor has a small dog that barks as well); to engage you or other dogs in playtime; excitement or fear (not our dogs’ problem) – not much you can do about the bark.
Thus, trying to be considerate of neighbors we kept the dogs inside, and increased the break/walking time to take them out.
The next day, another neighbor came over and without any civilized greetings asked the same question: “are you renting?” Following, he told me that the streetlight by the garage is on during the cloudy day. I pointed out that the streetlight is solar powered, and I cannot turn it off. Grouchily he insisted that this is a problem, “The owners pay for electricity,” (for the solar energy?!), and he will call the owners of the house.
The day after, while walking our dogs to the lake, I had to step off the road on the grass because the golf cart was driving straight into us. The golf cart stopped, and, again, without any greetings the men told me that this is his property and I should not walk the dogs here. My attempts to explain that I was forced to get on the grass to avoid him running us over did not help much.
Week #4 at The Villages brought mostly pleasant encounters: meeting two nice people at the lake was a breath of fresh air, and both told me that The Village of Calumet Groves not the most friendly place, and we should look for house in different parts of The Villages.
We have another month to live here and discover if The Villages are “friendliest” hometown or not. More adventures await us – good or bad – only time will tell.
Village of Calumet Grove