It's not a house, it's a repair industry

Posted: Sunday, August 06, 2000

We're moving. I blame my daughter. She's only five months old but she has somehow acquired, at a conservative estimate, 250 million toys. Every morning, there seem to be more of them. I suspect they're having some kind of battery-powered sex while we sleep.

These toys make a lot of noise. In my youth, toys were passive lumps of wood or metal that were silent unless you whacked your brother on the head with them. But today's toys contain computer chips, so they can move and talk; this stimulates the mind of your child. Notice I say ``your child.'' MY child just wants to eat the toys. For example, she has an electronic Pooh bear who moves his head and says things like, ``Would you like to play with me?'' This stimulates my daughter to try to put Pooh's head into her mouth. Any day now, Pooh will hold up his paws and scream, ``NOOOO!'' But that will not stop my daughter. She is the Great White Shark of babies.

But my point is this: We have a smallish house, and we work at home, and it's hard to concentrate when the floor is covered with toys that are constantly trying to strike up conversations. So I called our Realtor and said: ``We need to move.''

Now a truly compassionate Realtor, upon hearing these words, would have shot me in the head. Instead, our Realtor found us a larger house. We liked it immediately, although it needed a Little Work.

``It just needs some paint,'' I told my wife. I can look at a house and know exactly what it needs, because in fifth and sixth grades, I took Wood Shop.

So we had a Paint Guy look at the house. He told us - and we knew he was an expert, because he had a clipboard - that before he could paint it, it needed some carpentry work.

So we had a Carpentry Guy look at the house. He also had a clipboard.

``You see this?'' he asked me, poking at a board. From my perspective, it looked no different from all the other boards in the house. From my perspective, the entire HOUSE is random boards. But the Carpentry Guy was looking at this board with the facial expression of a man stuck in an elevator with the national leadership of the Big Flatulent Persons Support Group.

``When we take this board off,'' he said, ominously, ``there's no telling WHAT we're gonna find.''

I wanted to say, ``So let's not take it off!'' But I didn't want him to think that I was not a manly masculine Wood Shop graduate.

The Carpentry Guy said that, before he could start dismantling the house, we needed to have somebody look at our windows. So we had the Windows Guy come out. He was visibly shaken. I thought he was going to drop his clipboard. Apparently our windows have some kind of deadly window leprosy. They must be replaced immediately with new windows, which, to judge from the price and delivery date, will be made from gem-quality diamonds on another planet.

Did I mention the Termite Guy? No? Well, he believes that termites might be eating our house. So we are going to ``tent'' the house, which involves surrounding it with a giant tent, filling it with a deadly gas, and then having the homeowners crawl inside and mercifully kill themselves before they can write any more checks.

No, that would be wrong. We have a job to finish. To make our new house habitable, we have to contact the Roof Guy, the Electricity Guy, the Plumbing Guy, the Gas Guy, the Alarm Guy, the Tree Guy, the Moving Guy, and all the other guys THEY will want us to contact. The clipboard industry is depending on us!

Meanwhile, we need to sell our old house. When people come to look at it, we scurry around hiding any possessions that would suggest to a prospective buyer that we are not Martha Stewart. For example, in our bathroom (this is true) we hide the big bottle of Plax mouthwash. We want prospective buyers to think, ``It's a nice house! And the owners apparently have had no problems with dental plaque!''

My big fear is that, when prospective buyers poke their heads into our daughter's room, the toys will start talking to them.

``These people are really slobs!'' Pooh will shout. ``They're hiding their Plax under the bathroom counter! Also, their daughter wants to eat my head!''

All I can say is, Pooh had better keep his fuzzy little mouth shut. Because I took Wood Shop. And I have a hammer.

Dave Barry is a humor columnist for the Miami Herald.



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