Kat and I have been retirement home shopping lately. The big day is several years still on the horizon, but we decided to get an early start so we could actually plan something in our lives for a change.
This led us to check out the new Latitudes Margaritaville in Daytona Beach, Florida a few weeks ago. If Margaritaville rings a bell, then you know this over-55 retirement community reflects a Parrothead lifestyle, complete with streets named after Jimmy Buffett songs and a bar called Changes in Attitude.
It seems like an idyllic place and it is for the 350 or so homeowners there. We talked to more than two dozen of them and everyone gave glowing reviews of the community, the amenities and activities, and the developers.
We liked it so much that we did what they call a Stay and Play. We stayed for two nights at Latitudes and enjoyed full ownership privileges, right down to a golf cart that we got to drive everywhere, even to the local Publix Supermarket down the street.
We were pretty sure this would be our landing spot in our Golden Years. That is until we thumbed through the 194 pages of homeowner association covenants that guide your use of the property. There were an awful lot of rules, especially for a guy who is pretty rules adverse and prone to mutiny at the slightest provocation.
But it did get me thinking. In some ways, the government operates as a homeowner’s association, giving us all covenants that we must live by. There are local, state and federal laws/covenants about what you can and can’t do as a citizen and as a “homeowner” (property owner). Some of the rules and laws are pretty basic. Others are pretty restrictive and downright invasive.
As “owners,” some of us are good with having even more covenants. We don’t mind having the government telling us what we can and can’t do and we’re attracted to perks like free college and universal healthcare, even if it means Uncle Sam is going to have a bigger say in our lives since he runs the “homeowner’s association.”
In homeowner associations, this is akin to being told what color you can paint your house, what plants you can plant, and even what flag you can fly from your flagpole, if you’re even able to have one.
Other “owners”, however, want fewer covenants. They don’t want to be told what to do and how to do it. They want to be able to add a 20-foot flagpole to their front yard and proudly fly a pirate flag if it amuses them or turn their deck into a pirate ship. They don’t want the homeowner’s association (re: government) telling them what they can and can’t do on their property or in their lives all the time. They want to have that wonderful freedom called choice.
I fall into this latter camp. Historically, I have not played well in an HOA world, either as an occupant of a home or as a citizen of this country. I really don’t like being told what I can and can’t do, at least when the rules at hand seem arbitrary or unduly restrictive.
It’s not that I reject all law and order. I religiously stop at stop signs. I always use my blinker. I have a license to drive my car. I pay my fair share of taxes. And I try to be a thoughtful neighbor, both in my own neighborhood and in the community, state and nation at large.
As such, I don’t try to foist my own views or covenants on others. I don’t expect them to march to the same drummer I’m groovin’ to.
For instance, the same people who want us to embrace Biblical laws say Sharia Law is the work of the devil. Frankly, all religion-based law is the work of the devil in my opinion. I really think the Golden Rule – treat others as you yourself would like to be treated – should be sufficient.
As we approach election time, I can’t help but wonder how the elections will affect our nation’s covenants. As I’ve said, I’m not big on more regulation, more rules and more laws. I can barely remember a small number of them at any one time.
Me? I am coming to find that I am pretty much a laissez-faire type of guy. I don’t want more government control of my life or interference. Hell, even after being on this earth for 62 years and being a government employee, “the man” still doesn’t have my fingerprints. There are job interviews I have turned down over the years because that fingerprints were required. I simply didn’t want “the man” to finger me that easily. If I haven’t done anything wrong, then why should they want to see what I’ve been up to?
As I read through Latitude’s covenants and as I drove through Florida’s more rural parts, it dawned on me that these folks, those with the Trump signs in their yards (and they are plentiful there) weren’t yokels or zealots. They simply want the government to leave them alone.
Quit telling them what to do with the land, quite requiring a permit or inspection for every little thing, quit taxing them to death for programs they didn’t ask for, want and will never use, and stop telling them that they have to live a life that is politically correct and all-inclusive when to them, that is unwarranted overreach into their personal and private lives. They don’t want to sign the covenants. They certainly don’t want to be PC. They just want to live their life without being told how to live it.
After coming so close to signing my life away at the bottom of 194 pages of covenants, I have begun to see their point. If by nature we are mostly good and law-abiding, and in some cases God-fearing, why do we need so much oversight and unwarranted interference?
Can’t we all be a little more laissez-faire in the way we conduct our lives (letting things take their own course, without interference) and a little more laissez les bons temps rouler (let the good times roll) in the way we live it?
Wouldn’t we all be just a little happier if we all lived this way?
Me? I’m back to taking the hands off the wheel again. I’m going to let someone else drive for a while. After all, I have 193 more pages of covenants to pour through before I can dive into the 23,000 pages of federal laws we must obey.
Somewhere north of the Emerald City, anchored serenely next to Buccaneer Creek in Neverland County.