Our new development – "On Top of the World" in Ocala, FL – is full of friendly folks.
When our moving truck pulled into the driveway, a group of our neighbors gathered on a nearby porch and watched as we unloaded. We didn't expect them to come and help us, since the average age of those watching was about 85.
When we took a break from unloading, we walked over to say "Hi." One of the women said, "Oh my, we have some young'uns on our street!" That made us giggle, since ages 65 and 70 don't seem young to us. However, age is relative, right?
In this development, no one can own a home unless they are 55 years of age or older. From our explorations through the community, we can tell that the majority of folks are much older than 55. That doesn't stop them from wheeling around on golf carts, splashing in the pool, doing tap dancing, going to casinos, or playing softball.
An interesting fact about OTOW (the acronym for our development) is that there are 10 homes inhabited by Jim Thorpe, PA natives. Seems as though Sandy and Al Yeakel started the influx of Chunkers in 2001. After they found OTOW and bought their home here, friends and relatives started visiting and fell in love with the area. As more and more Jim Thorpe folks bought homes here, more and more came to visit. Pretty soon, OTOW will have the nickname "Thorpe South."
When we go to the pool, we notice that everyone seems to know everybody else. As the residents do their water walking (heaven forbid they should get their hair wet or lose their hats in the water), they carry on in-depth conversations about the world in general. Sitting by the pool and reading a book, I was entranced by three women who were giving ratings to the restaurants that offer 'early bird' specials. Since Jim and I are not used to 'eating out' very often, it was nice to hear about the spots that give senior citizens a break.
When we visited the library in our development for the first time, I was amazed at the checkout policy. There isn't any. You just take however many books you want, read them at your leisure (no time limit) and return them when you're finished. Seems to work just fine, since the library is well stocked and the volunteer staff organizes books efficiently.
I am having slight trepidation about the driving by our neighbors. People seem to be oblivious of others. When you are ready to pull out from a stop sign, you must be careful to watch in every direction for a golf cart or a Hoveround. Those drivers think that they have the right of way. A little lady a few doors up the street drives a red sports car. She zips out of her garage without a care – seldom glancing at the street to see who might be passing by. All of the neighbors on our street have warned us about her. They call her "Speed Queen." Luckily, her car is bright red, so she's hard to ignore.
After we were in our new home for a few days, the doorbell rang. It was one of our neighbors with a plate of muffins. We invited her in for a cool drink and she told us that some of our neighbors were wondering if Jim was handy. As much as it pained him, Jim asked her why. She told us that there are many widows on our street and they sometimes need help with things. Jim assured her that – if he was available and able – he would be glad to help. Within 20 minutes of her leaving our home, the phone rang and she asked if Jim could get rid of three wasp nests that had grown under her downspouts. Jim took care of that easily. A few days later, we got another call that someone's electric service was shorting out whenever she used her George Foreman grill. Jim checked it out and found that she had the microwave and the grill in the same outlet and had thrown a breaker switch. He explained that she should move the grill to another outlet, he reset the breaker, and came home shaking his head.
There are quite a few little dogs in the vicinity of our home, and yet we never hear them barking. Apparently, their owners keep them inside all the time or take them to the dog park down the street. That practice is very considerate, since we were used to a neighborhood in South Carolina that had yapping dogs daily.
As we get more used to "On Top of the World," we're certain to meet new neighbors and have more stories to tell. For that, this columnist is happy.
(IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO CONTACT DR. SMITH, SHE CAN BE REACHED AT HER EMAIL ADDRESS: JSMITH1313@CFL.RR.COM  OR IN CARE OF THIS NEWSPAPER.)