When Sue Nett got home from work the other day, she liberated a beer from her new, full-size, frost-free refrigerator. Then she ran the dishes through a new, energy-efficient dishwasher. Then she walked across the wall-to-wall carpeting to flick on the central air conditioning.
And then she hooted with laughter when a vistor asked her if she missed living in a "real" home.
"The only way I'd live in another 'house house' is if I had four maids to go with it," Nett said. "This is perfect. It doesn't even feel like a mobile home."
That's exactly what it is -- one of 500 scattered across Friendly Village of Dulles, a 72-acre mobile home park in western Fairfax County.
If there is such a thing as an upper-crust trailer park, Friendly Village is it.
Set against the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains -- and directly beneath the flight path of jets arriving at Dulles International Airport -- Friendly Village is home to families whose average annual income is $24,000, according to park management.
JMB Realty Corp. of Chicago, which owns and operates Friendly Village, shamelessly markets it as " the showplace of mobile home parks." But the shamelessness apparently is justified.
The park has won just about every industry award. The sales office does not have to advertise because word-of-mouth advertising has produced year-long waiting lists.
Meanwhile, residents of nearby subdivisions try to sign up for membership in the Friendly Village swimming pool because it's nicer than the nearest county-run pool. To see a broken bottle or a car as much as five years old in front of a Friendly Village trailer is a rarity.
"People here don't go to Ocean City or the mountains for vacation," said one resident. "They go to the Bahamas."
"This park," adds Bob Eberhardt, who has lived there since it opened in 1971, "is a class act."
The 1,850 residents of Friendly Village include grocery store managers, Army colonels, federal Gs-11s, Fairfax County police officers and district managers for international computer firms such as IBM and Honeywell.
They are of all ages, and they have all sorts of reasons for being there. Some are retirees who grew weary of mowing lawns. There are middle-aged couples who planned to stay only a year but found they liked it, and young couples trying to save money to buy a bigger home.
Surprisingly, the park's proximity to the airport -- it is 30 miles west of Washington on U.S. 50, and eight miles from Dulles -- had little to do with the decision of most residents to settle there. More than 80 percent of them commute to jobs in Washington, Arlington or Fairfax County. Only a handful work at Dulles or fly out of there regularly.
But Dulles has had an impact on the Friendly Village motif. All the streets, for instance, are named for airlines -- Swissair Place, Trans-World Avenue and so on.
Aside from that, and the fact that the homes are not of the frame or brick variety, Friendly Village people have much in common with their less mobile Chantilly neighbors. Homes in the Village are decorated with care and taste. Carefully nurtured flower beds and picture-perfect lawns can be found on any Friendly Village street.
"There is as much pride of ownership here as in my mother's neighborhood in Falls Church, where they've never even seen a mobile home," said Sherry Eberhardt, 26, Bob Eberhardt's daughter-in-law, who has lived in Friendly Village two years.
Indeed, Friendly Village apparentlyis so desirable that the mobile homes there are seldom mobile.
Although the units are individually owned and could be towed away, 99 percent of those resold remain on site, says Bill Boisseau, the park's chief of sales.
That suggests stability, and stability, says Boisseau, is a major selling point of Friendly Village.
"We know the normal image of a trailer park is that they burn up in a heartbeat, while the guy next door is having 18 orgies," Boisseau said.
"But we don't get riff-raff here. Hell no riff-raff can afford it."
Those who can afford it say they have reduced their fixed housing costs by as much as 50 percent, compared with what they would spend if they owned a conventional house in a subdivision elsewhere in the Washington area.
For example, Sue Nett, her husband Marvin and her 15-year-old son Mark have two bedrooms, a den, a dining area that seats eight and even a fireplace.
Their cost: about $35,000 for the mobile home (monthly payment of about $298), another $134 per month to rent the lot and an average monthly bill of $60 for utilities. Total cost per month: $492.
"It's about half what I spent for a home in Sterling Park," Says Sue Nett. "And this is a much better home."
Bill Murray and his wife Janet moved into Friendly Village's top-of-the-line model last month -- a new, $39,000, 62-foot-by-24-foot mobile home. It has a patio, a new kitchen and a miniature cathedral ceiling in the living room.
They left behind an $80,000 house in Reston, where they had lived only a year. But the Murrays insist they have not "traded down."
"They always told me that house (in Reston) was supposed to be a dream house," says Bill Murray, with a cynical snort. "It wasn't."
The Murrays chose Friendly Village with pleasure. They pay $378 per month for lot rental, mortgage, taxes and insurance -- "half what we paid in Reston," Bill Murray says.
Janet Murray thinks the kitchen is arranged more intelligently, and Billy Jr., who is almost 2, has more room to play in the yard.
"I can see this as the answer for young people," said Murray.
But young people would not be well-advised to flock to Friendly Village if they are in a hurry. The waiting list is now seven months long. In the past the wait has been as long as two years, although an average of 15 units are resold in there every month.
"We are definitely benefiting from the recession," said Boisseau. "People see what they get for $100,000, and they immediately think mobile home.'"
Friendly Village's dwellings are chiefly of two sizes: single width (12 feet wide by 50 feet long) and double width (24 by 62). Prices ranges from $6,700 to $39,000, exclusive of lot renal, depending on the age, condition and size of the unit.
Friendly Village buyers are not getting an aluminum shell that is vulnerable to the elements. While trailers generally are notorious for losing their roofs -- or worse -- in storms, there has been no significant structural damage at Friendly Village in the nine years since the park opened, according to county inspectors.
Even Friendly Village's apparent major minus -- jets airliners screeching overhead only 200 feet off the ground -- is considered a plus by many residents.
"I love to watch them turn and swoop," said Janet Murray.
"I'm so used to them I don't even notice," said Bob Eberhardt's wife Florence.
"I'd hate to see the kids have no other kids to play with," Pauline Barton said.
"The Concorde thrills me," said Lola Peterson, referring to the Anglo-french supersonic plane that federal officials found to be twice as noisy as conventional jets. "I double-time out my door to see it."
Far more noisy than the planes, according to some retirees at Friendly Village, are the park's 920 children.
Although the park separates families from adults-only households, many retirees have complained about loud radios, kamikaze bike riders and bawling infants in the common areas. Park management has responded by deciding to phase out families. Since last spring, it has rented lots and sold trailers only to adult households.
According to a spokesman for the Virginia attorney general such a policy is legal. JMB officials say the adults who are buying into Friendly Village lately have tended to be retireees, rather than young, childless couples. The Village is now approximately 60 percent families and 40 percent adults-only. Official expect that proportion to be 80-20 by this time next year.
Under the new policy, families already living in Friendly Village will be allowed to stay. But Sam and Pauline Barton, parents of an 8-year-old and a 4-year-old, are concerned.
The turnover rate in the park bothers others who live there. Sherry Eberhardt thinks the place is aptly named, but only in hello-goodbye terms. Two of her neighbors happen to be her best friends since high school, but Eberhardt considers that a fluke.
"Take them away, and it would be hard to say I have good friends here," she says.
Nor is the community politically active. There is no citizens's association, residents' advisory committee or political organization. Moreover, the nearest shopping and public transportation are three miles away, at Greenbriar.
Language purists would cringe at some of the ways Friendly Village has rewritten the dictionary.
The residents live in "mobile homes" or "manufactured homes" -- not, God forbid, in "trailers."
The bases of their homes are encircled by aluminum panels that hide the trailer wheels and cinder-block underpinnings. The aluminum looks like "siding" or "stripping," but at Friendly Village, it's "skirting."
Still, says resident Lola Peterson, it adds up to "as good a place to live as we've ever found -- and my husband and I have moved a lot of times in 49 years of marriage.
"You know," says Peterson, "when we first moved here, I called my daughter and told her we'd bought a mobile home. She said "Mother!" She was so mad she wouldn't talk to us. She thought the kids would see poor old Grandma and Grandpa living in an old shack.
"Now she's not a bit ashamed of it. And you know," says Lola Peterson, with a smile, "she may even be a little bit jealous."