When you live near the beach — as Hillspoint Road resident Cornelia Olsen has done for 32 years, not far from Old Mill — you’re used to people walking by. They point, and make comments about your house and grounds.
“You screen them out,” she says. “Otherwise, you feel like an animal in a zoo.”
Recently, though, Cornelia had 2 interesting experiences with her push lawnmower. Passersby — including a guy and his girlfriend, and another woman — started chatting. They asked questions about the mower. Cornelia offered to let them try it. They did, and helped cut her grass.
Days later, Cornelia and her husband evacuated during Hurricane Irene. When they returned, the seawall was gone. Debris was everywhere. Their Lark sailboat was filled with water and sand.
Though the police blocked access to the beach, a constant stream of walkers and cyclists gaped at the damage.
Cornelia asked a bunch of men in their 40s to help move the boat. They couldn’t budge it.
The Olsens did their best to dig it out. A younger group — including a couple of women — wandered by. One carried a box.
Intrigued, Cornelia asked what was in it. Turns out it was from a wedding scheduled for the day before — on the Jersey shore. Of course, it had been canceled.
Cornelia asked who the groom was. Together, they commiserated about the storm. Then the group heaved and hoed. The boat was freed.
Soon, the woman who a few days earlier had helped mow Cornelia’s lawn walked by, with 2 dogs and her boyfriend. The women hugged.
“What happened to our grass?” the woman asked.
Later, a boy with a ladder strolled past. It was the Olsens’. Cornelia’s husband asked for it back.
“Okay,” the young man said. “But I found it on Compo Beach.”
The storm “rearranged” a lot of things, Cornelia notes.
But it also made for great random encounters. And for a few intriguing, folkloric stories that will be told over and over again, for years and years to come.