|As it turns out, this plumbing did not function all that well in the long term. I'm shocked. This is my shocked face.|
I posted a photograph of the sewer pipe in my basement's basement yesterday. Well, I posted it on the Internet. I took the picture in my basement's basement. English is durn tricky, ain't it? The good news is, well, there is no good news. The bad news is that I took that picture five years ago or so when I bought my house. That's the before picture. That's when the old girl was firing on all cylinders. I was reminiscing about days of yore when poop went away forevermore. Or seemed to, anyway.
Everything in my house was a horror. I knew that. When we were "in the market," as they say, we contacted realtors in Maine and assured them that we were only interested in houses that no one else would want. They never believed us. They wasted our time and theirs by showing us houses they thought were swell. I hated them, and they cost too much, a bad combination. Realtors always assume they have a live one on the line, and they figure they can sell anything to anyone by performing their avant-garde real estate fandango. They weave a tapestry of "potential" with flailing arms and incongruous superlatives in any dreary, squat, vinyl-sided split-level with the ceiling-fan-equivalent of Robespierre for anyone over six feet tall -- which I am, and would like to stay that way. Listen, lady -- I'm immune.
By the time we had gotten to the house we now inhabit, the realtor was like a beat dog when the paperboy is coming up the walk. She skulked around the corners of the rooms while my wife and I wordlessly looked around. I looked at things normal people don't look at when buying a house: I looked at the house. After a long while of poking around, I told the realtor we were inclined to make an offer, which would be emailed to her. She looked desperate, and confused. I gather that if other humans say what I had just said, they immediately disappear forever because they've actually lost interest, and some other real estate Svengali gets hold of them and hoovers out their wallet. I find few people who understand a person in dead earnest anymore.
"Don't you want to have a home inspector look at it first?"
The faith of this woman in a person with a trivial credential was heartwarming. It reminded me of an expression I'd seen before. If you've ever slaughtered a farm animal, you'll recognize this look. It doesn't matter if you're feeding it or tending to it or killing it. It looks up at you with the same, dumb, trusting look whether you're holding a puntilla or a bucket of corn: Are you my mommy? It's not that dumb an assumption for an animal. At first you are their mommy, day after day. Then for one, brief moment, you are their god.
I did not bother to mention my bona fides to the realtor, because what's the point? There was no way to impress her in the lingua franca of realtors. I wasn't an exalted home inspector, a god among men, a real estate master race participant trophy winner deluxe. I was just some guy who, in recent memory, had $59 million in profit or loss responsibility for construction projects in a calendar year. I was licensed to build anything from a dog house to a skyscraper in Massachusetts, but hey, this was Maine, where true home inspection men bestrode the landscape like Colossus. I was once paid $135,000 to paint the inside of one house, but that wouldn't impress a realtor who had just advised me about the transformation I could achieve by putting ceiling fans in every room in an abandoned house, in a climate that has zero heating degree days every year. True, every room in the house already had a ceiling fan, but the realtor assured me I could replace them with new ones and spruce the place up. Think of what a home inspector could tell me!
I may have said, "My dear lady; a home inspector is engaged to determine if anything is wrong with a house before you purchase it. I can assure you that his services will not be required, because there is absofarginlutely nothing right with this house. Every atom of its being is corrupt and contemptible. There is a hole in the roof I can climb through, if I'm willing to be elbowed by squirrels on the way by. The electricity is borne on raw wires strung through the house like a Depression-era photo of an Arkansas dirt road. The boiler will not boil, and the walls do not wall out much of anything. The plumbing does not plumb, is not plumb, and cannot achieve anything plumbish. There is a box in the basement filled with 25 pounds of asbestos batting. The good paint is lead, and the bad paint, the part that shows, is the color of a Soviet battleship hull. The floors are concave and the pipes are convex. Most of the interior walls are covered with shingles for some reason, including the backsplash behind the stove. This house is an affront to the trees that were massacred to produce it." It's also possible I said, "No thanks." I really can't remember.
We offered less than twenty-five grand to the bank that owned the house. I told them the number was based solely on the shade the building threw on the ground, the only value I could find in it. It would take an atomic clock to measure the moment in time it took for them to say yes.
The home inspector did eventually come, however. I tried to insure the house, and the insurance company hired him and sent him over. He was a wedding photographer, and he had a very large dent in his head.
[to be continued]