March 21, 2023

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Most of us have at one time in our life or another started a project, a class, a sporting event or a job “on the wrong foot” but finished strong and the positive ending was all that mattered.  You probably know the adage “All’s well that ends well” and you may even know that it’s the name of one of William Shakespeare’s lesser-known comedies.  
You also have undoubtedly heard of Murphy’s Law. It states that, “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong, and at the worst possible time.” Well, as if that’s not pessimistic enough for you, years ago a friend of mine introduced me to Finnigan’s Corollary to Murphy’s Law. It depressingly stated that, “Murphy was an optimist.”
If you have read any of my previous columns, you know that my wife and I are in the middle of an “epic” move. After 30 years in the same home and 40 years in Happy Valley, we are building a home in Bluffton, South Carolina, just outside Hilton Head Island. Yes, we are building a new home in the middle of a global pandemic that is largely responsible for a national skilled labor shortage, a supply chain crisis and the worst inflation in 40 years. Finnegan’s corollary at its best!
Of course, we also had hoped to time the sale of our house with the completion of the new house (we can dream, can’t we?) so we could seamlessly transition from one home to the other, right?  “June 15th,” the builder said last October. “Mid- July,” they said before gas prices soared and supply chains were choked. No worries, Aug. 2 became the next target until garage doors and cabinets were in short supply.  “Ok, ok, August 15 it is firm and final!”  Umm, nope. In their best impression of Don Adams as Agent Maxwell Smart…”Would you believe September 22?” Hahaha! Finnegan is rolling on the ground laughing at our naivete.
Not so fast Mr. Finnegan, ye of little faith. Yes, we have been inconvenienced, but it could have been a lot worse based on stories we have heard from some of our new neighbors. Because of the crazy real estate market, we also timed the decision to contract with our builder just before prices skyrocketed and the sale of our house took place at the very height of the market, so, at least financially, “all’s well that ends well.” Take that Mr. Finnegan and Mr. Murphy! 
Back to that moving thing: We officially started “Joe and Heidi’s Excellent Homeless Adventure” on July 1 in Danville, staying with Heidi’s sister Karen and our brother-in-law Mike. You will not meet two more caring and helpful people anywhere. After speaking at Lycoming College, it was off to my parents in Pittsburgh (and my mom’s amazing cooking!), a quick trip back to State College and a couple weeks of hockey camp out in Sun Valley, Idaho. When we returned east, we thought we would be moving into our new home in Bluffton on Aug. 2. Stop smirking, Mr. Murphy.
Instead, we spent the first week of August in Pittsburgh before visiting my daughter in Alexandria, Virginia, with my mother and sister-in-law Mary Lou. We then continued south to Raleigh, North Carolina, to visit long-time friends Paul and Sarah Cohen before heading to Hilton Head Island in anticipation of moving into our new home Aug. 15. It wasn’t to be as we ran into more supply chain issues. While we were vacationing in Palmetto Dunes on Hilton Head Island, our oldest son flew down from Washington D.C. It was supposed to be a relaxing week and a chance to catch up with our son and take care of things like homeowners’ insurance, new licenses, internet service, patio furniture shopping, etc.
Each morning started off great with Barkley running on the beach with other dogs and Jonathon heading over to a local CrossFit Gym for training. We called him and asked to stop and get us coffee and, on his way, back, wham! A town ambulance comes flying out of a service road and slams into the front of our car. Are you kidding me? Everyone was O.K.; it was clearly the young EMT driver’s fault and thankfully he wasn’t going to a serious accident. After the exchange of information, we were able to drive (limp) back to the condo where— you can’t make this up — a tree service truck was blocking our driveway and they were away on a break. It was like that Mayhem dude from the Allstate Insurance commercials decided to join Murphy and Finnegan against the Battistas.
We called every auto body place within an hour and guess what? We found out you don’t get into an accident at the height of tourist season in Hilton Head. We heard everything from two to three months before our mostly cosmetic, but substantial damage could be repaired. Really? At this point I could hear Don McLean singing “I saw Satan laughing with delight” from “American Pie.” We were clearly in need of a divine intervention…and we got one!
Just when all seemed to be going against us, our home building supervisor, Mike Perry, recommended we reach out to Jason Rodriguez at No Limit Autobody II in the small town of Levy. A bit out of the way but we were desperate. We arrived and I noticed a Buffalo Bills car magnet and a sticker in the office. The nice young lady at the desk, Marianna, Jason’s wife,  explained that her husband was the biggest Bills fan in The Lowcountry. Jason came in from the shop wearing a Bills hat and said “I see you have a 716 area code. Are you from Buffalo?” I told him no but that I worked in Buffalo.  He went on to tell me that he once met the owner of the Bills, Terry Pegula. I said, “Well, I worked for Mr. Pegula in Buffalo, and he donated the money to build Pegula Arena at Penn State where I worked in Athletics!” Smiles all around.
I asked Jason how he became a Bills fan. “Are you from Buffalo?” Jason, a former Marine and a current South Carolina state trooper, responded, “No sir, I’m from Puerto Rico!”  Suffice it to say Jason worked us into his schedule and with the great help of our Erie Insurance Team (Liz Albert, Jessica Knapp, Tim Shanholtz) our prayers were answered. our car would be ready on Sept. 10, one month after the accident. Oh, and a package from Buffalo arrived a few weeks later from a certain grateful owner who appreciated Jason’s diehard allegiance to the Bills. The man is a class act, period.
We went to pick up our rental car in Hilton Head and — remember, it’s peak tourist season — there are literally no cars. We called the Bluffton Enterprise office and all they had was a Ford Escape. Toyota Highlander to a Ford Escape for a month? Ugh. But when we got there the well-trained Enterprise agent who heard our story noticed a Dodge Caravan in the lot and upgraded us. It gets better. As we walked out to the Dodge, a bigger, fully loaded Chrysler Pacifica came in. The agent said, “Give my guys 15 minutes and it’s yours.” Boom! We drove to D.C., spent time with great friend Julie Bartolomea in State College, went back to my parents in Pittsburgh, I flew to Orlando for a speaking presentation, and we went back to South Carolina and Hilton Head. And it all ended well. Well, not quite yet.
Just when you think you’ve sent Murphy, Finnegan, Mayhem and the Devil packing, Joe and Heidi’s Excellent Homeless Adventure takes another fateful twist. Under the category of “You can’t make this stuff up,” we picked up our newly repaired Highlander in Bluffton on Sept. 10 from our new friends Jason and Marianna. But on our way to Charleston for the wedding of our State College friends Joyce and Fred Matthews’ daughter Marie, we hit a piece of metal and got a flat tire! If that wasn’t bad luck enough, it was right in front of a Marine Corp Air Station gate in Beaufort! We had Marine MPs and local police coming at us from two different directions.
I got out our spare tire determined to make the wedding ceremony and it was flat. We waited two hours for AAA to temporarily fill our spare and we had to go to a tire store to get two new rear tires. While we missed the ceremony, we made the dinner and reception. After what we had been through, we decided it was time to party like it was 1999 and we danced the night away at what was a beautiful wedding of Penn Staters Tom Cugliotta and Marie Matthews.
On Sept. 12, we had our pre-closing walkthrough, and the home is just about ready for move-in, and we are confident that Sept. 22 will be the actual closing. I hope I never hear the words “supply chain issues” or “labor shortages” again.  That’s a column for a different day.
Joe and Heidi’s Excellent Homeless Adventure has been just that, an adventure. There is a book in here somewhere. It makes you appreciate the small things in life. What we have learned is to count our blessings.  We are so thankful for our many friends and our family who have taken great care of us and supported us in the past three months. It has tested our patience and our wits, but the end is in sight. 
I hope that the next time I write this column we will have exorcised all of Murphy’s, Finnegan’s, Mayhem’s and Satan’s spells.  I hope to stand on my new patio looking at a Bluffton sunset over our lagoon and shout from the top of my lungs, “All’s well that ends well.”
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