HARBOR SPRINGS – “You caught me with my dinner!” says Cynthia Shafer, holding a bag of movie theater popcorn and a soda. She asks the concessions attendant if she can leave her food behind the counter, and steps outside The Lyric theater in downtown Harbor Springs.
She’s looking forward to seeing a movie with friends, on her first night off in weeks. Shafer coordinates maintenance, refurbishing and spring opening of second homes around this Up North vacation mecca. In a six-week period, she earns most of her income for the year.
“When people get up here, they want to enjoy their families,” Shafer says, fast-walking the one block from the theater to the water’s edge. “Everyone wants everything perfect when they get here. You don’t want to spend time fixing a broken ice maker.”
Something else the well-off don’t want to do at their vacation homes is to argue about politics. Shafer hadn’t noticed it being a problem in the past, but the divide highlighted by the 2016 presidential election has her clients on edge.
“People don’t want to discuss or debate. They just say ‘You’re wrong!’ You know what, I tell myself often enough that I’m wrong, I don’t need someone else telling me.
“So I just decided to keep my mouth shut and you think what you think and I’ll think what I think,” says the normally blunt-spoken Shafer. “But I have to tell you, debate is going to be a lost art. There’s no empathy. No one wants to hear the other side of the story.”
It was a tough winter for Shafer, who battled cancer and struggled financially at times. But the ice melted in the bay and the sailboats are back, and so is the smile and no-holding-back laugh of the lifelong Republican who voted for Trump. She says the investigations and media coverage of Russian interference in the 2016 election is “a waste of time. Then again, I think it’s a waste of time to talk about Hillary’s emails. Let’s move forward.”
When things move forward, someone will need to tell the 57-year-old. She’s stopped following the news. “I’m so much happier; it makes a big difference!” Shafer says. “There’s nothing on the news I would believe anyway, and there’s nothing I can do about it. So why get excited?”
She smiles and waves, and walks back into the theater to see “Wonder Woman.”