August 3, 2017

Hatteras Island Real Estate:
The Funniest Questions Asked On Hatteras Island


Each year, service workers on the island come into personal contact with thousands upon thousands of visitors.  In the course of these conversations, reservationists, cashiers, shopkeepers and ferry personnel are asked questions from the mundane to the unbelievable.  In the spirit of light-hearted fun, I thought it would be entertaining to take a look at some of the most outrageous questions that have been heard over the years.  If you haven’t had a hard-core belly laugh in a while, grab the tissues, and get ready to wipe away tears of laughter.  Better yet, read the article out loud with a group of friends after having a few refreshing beverages.

What do you think is the most frequently asked question?  Those who answered, “Where is the shopping mall?” were right on target.  Almost everyone to whom I spoke has been asked this question at least once.  In fact, on one of our first visits to the Outer Banks in the early 1980s, my wife and I were having lunch at the Pony Island restaurant on Ocracoke when we overheard a visitor ask the waitress for directions to the closest shopping mall.  After composing herself, the waitress politely explained that there weren’t any shopping malls on Ocracoke, but Nags Head might be the best bet.  As time has passed, the “where is” question has expanded in scope to include, “Where is the closest Starbucks, McDonalds, and Barnes & Noble?”

When all of the inquiries are considered together, they start to fall into distinct categories.  Some of my favorites are the “geographically impaired” questions.  Consider how you would answer these with a straight face:

  • “How far is it between the mile markers?”
  • “What ocean is this?”
  • “Where is the ocean?”
  • “Where is the beach?”
  • (From an oceanfront house) “How do I get to the beach?”
  • “I have seen the Buxton Lighthouse.  Where is the Hatteras Lighthouse?”
  • “I would like to visit the Graveyard of the Atlantic.  How do I get there?”
  • “I know this is the Atlantic Ocean.  (Pointing to the Sound) Is that the Pacific Ocean?”
  • “How do I get to Diamond Shoals?”
  • “Is there any place to go swimming here?”
  • “Where is Highway 12?”
  • “What are those things (duck blinds) that I see in the water?  I was told they are water buffalo, and the reason they move so slowly is because it is so hot down here.”
  • “Is there a beach where I can get to the ocean without crossing the sand?”
  • “Where are you?”
  • “Hi, I am in Virginia Beach.  What street do I turn on to get to you?”
The men and women who operate the ferries from Hatteras to Ocracoke have their own unique tales to tell.  Their classic story is about the gentleman who kept getting out of line and then getting back into line after each ferry departed.  After watching this behavior for three or four loadings, one of the ferry workers asked the man why he was getting in and out of line.  The driver replied, “I have seen ferries to Chicamacomico and Kinnakeet; I am waiting for the ferry that says Ocracoke!”  Apparently, he thought the names on the ferries identified their destinations like the signs on the fronts of buses in the city.  Another question that ferry personnel hear with some regularity from visitors leaving Ocracoke is, “How do I get to the bridge that I came over on?”  And, the people sometimes don’t believe it when they are told that there is no bridge!  Among the most humorous ferry-related questions were, “If the power goes out, do the ferries still operate?” and “What time does the 9 o’clock ferry leave?” The unforgettable question heard on the the Swan Quarter to Ocracoke ferry is, “Do they take American money on Ocracoke?”

As you might expect the guest services representatives in the real estate offices are the focal points for a myriad of questions that sometimes border on the twilight zone.  Someone recently received a call from a guest with a sense of humor who commented, “The rental brochure says that this is a no pet cottage.  We have giant cockroaches running all over the place.  What should I feed them?”  Without missing a beat, the quick-thinking reservationist replied, “Don’t worry about feeding them, we have a catch and release program around here!”  In another instance, when a member of the maintenance staff went over to a cottage to make some repairs, a lady peered over the pool fence and asked who he was.  The gentleman identified himself as a member of the maintenance department and told her that he was there to unclog a toilet and to put batteries in the remote.  The lady thanked him and commented with amazement, “I didn’t know that we had a remote-controlled toilet in the house!”  And, that is just the beginning.  Here is a sample of some other questions that the rental staffs have heard:
  • “What number to you dial here for 911?”
  • “Why does the ocean water taste so salty?”
  • “I have seen signs that say not to drive on the dunes.  How am I supposed to get my vehicle to the beach if I don’t drive on the dunes?”
  • “What do you do down here when it rains?”
  • (Never ask this question.) “What is your real job?”
  • “What time does Hatteras close?”
  • “How much does it cost to take the free ferry?”
The sights and sounds of the island seem to generate their own special questions and requests.  Many years ago, I was reading a guest book in Rodanthe.  The visitors from a large city in the northeast wrote that for the first three days of their vacation they had been awakened at 5:00 a.m. by a horrible screeching sound.  After investigating further, they were delighted to discover that the source was a neighbor’s rooster – a sound that they had never before heard.  Here are some similar questions:
  • “We are renting an oceanfront house, and we couldn’t get any sleep last night because of the roaring sound.  Can you do anything about the noise from the ocean?”
  • “We like our house, but all night long this light (the lighthouse) kept flashing on and off in our bedroom.  Can you arrange to have it turned off?”
  • “What sound does the Sound make?”
Over time, rental cottages on the island have changed from unairconditioned cabins at the beach to luxurious homes with every possible amenity.  At the same time, the expectations of rental guests have increased to a point where they often do not distinguish the services provided for a rental home from the services provided by a hotel.  We get a glimpse of these changing attitudes from the questions that are asked:

  • “We are out of toilet paper.  Can someone bring more over to the house?”
  • “What color are the dishes in the cottage?”  I want to coordinate the color of the clothes I bring with the color of the dishes.”
  • “I want to cancel my reservation.  We are planning my daughter’s wedding and the color of the house clashes with the color of the bride’s maids’ dresses.
  • (After a strong east wind) “There is seaweed all over the beach in front of my house.  Can you have someone come over and rake the seaweed so that my family can go swimming?”
  • (After a heavy rain) “There is standing water in the yard.  Con you have someone remove it?”
  • “Can you have someone come by and make the beds?  We have been here since Saturday, and no one has come to make the beds.”
  • (After a rain storm) “Can you have someone come over and dry off my deck?”
  • “We like the house that we rented, but can you please change the color of the carpet?”
  • “We love our soundfront house, but could the owner move it closer to the water for us?”
  • “Can we change houses, there is no wind coming off the ocean?”
  • “If I give you my cell phone number will you call me when any hurricanes are heading toward Hatteras Island?”
  • “Why does it take longer to clean an 8-bedroom house than it does to clean a 3-bedroom house?”
  • “What are you going to do about mosquitoes?”
  • “I need your help – I am being held hostage! I can’t go outside because the mosquitoes are holding me hostage in the house!”
  • “Can I change houses?  This house is haunted!”
Sometimes the simplest requests can get an unexpected response.  Years ago, before environmental concerns were as prominent as they are today, my wife and I were having breakfast in a local restaurant.  As luck would have it, we were seated in an area of the establishment that had poor ventilation, and all of the smoke from other patrons was congregating where we sat.  I then made the fatal error of asking the hostess if she could move us to a table in the non-smoking section.  With unconcealed disdain, she informed me in no uncertain terms – “You are in a tobacco state now, and we don’t have non-smoking areas!”  To this day, I am convinced that she had a “Born to Be Bad” tattoo hidden beneath her T-shirt.

Out of all the questions that I heard, I would like to end this article with my two, all-time favorites.  I really couldn’t decide which one was the undisputed best.  It has been said, “There is no such thing as a dumb question.”  I used to truly believe this until I was told about someone who, several years ago in all seriousness, asked a local gas station attendant, “Is this (Hatteras Island) part of the United States?”  The other story that makes me laugh every time I think of it is about the family that frantically called their rental company asking, “Can you please help us?  We are halfway home, and we left Grandma behind! -----  She is in a box on top of the TV!” 

Well, they say all good things have to come to an end sometime.  I hope that you have had a few laughs and have enjoyed this good-natured survey of questions about Hatteras Island as much as I enjoyed gathering the quotes from all across the island.  If you hear a question that I have missed, or if you have a humorous experience of your own, be sure to send it to me, and I will periodically publish comments about the lighter side of real estate.

(Tom Hranicka is a broker with Outer Beaches Realty. Questions, comments, or suggestions for future articles may be sent to Hranicka at P.O. Box 280, Avon, NC  27915 or emailed to [email protected]. Copyright 2017 Tom & Louise Hranicka.  All rights reserved.
comments powered by Disqus