If I can afford to retire when I am eligible in five years -- I took a vow of poverty when I went into journalism, so I may be working posthumously -- I'd like to be an innkeeper.
My wife, Sue, who is a teacher, thinks it's a great idea -- that I retire, not that I continue to work even after I am dead -- because she'd like to quit, too.
Then we can be like Bob Newhart and Mary Frann, who played the husband-and-wife owners of a Vermont bed-and-breakfast that was frequented by kooky characters on the old TV sitcom "Newhart."
To B&B or not to B&B -- that is the question Sue and I have been asking ourselves. To find the answer, I spoke with Neil Carr, 83, a lovable character who owns the Sea Beach Inn in Hyannis, Massachusetts, where Sue and I stayed when we spent a very pleasant weekend on Cape Cod recently.
"I love people -- that's why I am in this place," Neil told me. "You have to have a positive outlook."
"Do you ever get any kooky characters here?" I asked.
"You mean like you?" Neil responded.
"Yes," I said.
Neil chuckled and said, "You're not kooky. In fact, you're normal compared to some of the guests I've had. One of them is here right now."
He was referring to an exceedingly fussy woman who had traveled from Missouri to watch her daughter play in a field hockey tournament.
"She's a pain in the butt," Neil explained. "She wants bacon and eggs every morning. I told her that we serve only a continental breakfast. She said, 'Is that all I'm getting?' I said, 'That's it, honey.' She's also been driving the cleaning girls crazy. One of them came down and said, 'What's going on in Room 2?' I said, 'She's here for six days. It's good money. Humor her.' That lady has been avoiding me and I've been avoiding her. And where's her poor husband? Back home. He's probably been drunk since she left."
Neil has also had his share of crazy adventures since he and his late wife, Elizabeth, bought the Sea Beach Inn in 1987.
"About 10 years ago I decided to add a prefabricated garage with a room on top," Neil recalled. "I had a spot cleared off and the footings put in. Then I got a call from a guy on Route 6 who said he had this building in a big dump truck. Part of the building brought a wire down, so now I had the cops on my hands. This guy was a terrible driver. He had to turn the truck around in a parking lot and come down the street, and there was traffic piling up behind him as far as you could see, and it looked like he was going to wreck the lawn of the people across the street. The woman who owned the house used to own the inn. She sold it to me. So now she wanted to kill me. She said, 'Now you can look down into my living room.' I said, 'Who'd want to look at you anyway?' She moved into a condo, but I hear she's still alive. She must be 98. She used to pop out from behind trees. She could have been in a cartoon."
"Or," I added, "a sitcom."
"This is just the place for one," said Neil.
"Would you ever sell the inn?" I inquired.
"One couple recently asked me that," Neil replied. "They followed me around. The wife said, 'This must be a wonderful life for you. We'd like to get a B&B.' I said, 'Really? I'll tell you what. I'll call the bank and find out what I still owe them. You go upstairs and get your checkbook. Pay me for what I still owe on the place, add two dollars to it and I'll be out by 5 o'clock this afternoon.' "
"Maybe my wife and I will buy it in five years," I said. "Until then, we'll come back as guests."
"You and your wife are always welcome," Neil said. "I could talk to you until the cows come home. We don't have any cows, but two horses used to live here. They could have been in the sitcom, too."