Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Neighborliness--in one of its myriad manifestations--is likely responsible for the fact that around town here no one ever asks for an "Inspection" when they sell their house--upper case, that is, something official, something that results in what we might call a real "document." Neighborliness, of course, is not always a virtue. The truth is, if you're going to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in some new abode, it makes good sense to send some objective outsider in to check the furnace and the dang faucets.
But, truth be known, it feels a bit like an alien invasion, as it did yesterday when some nice enough out-of-towner with a HP laptop came in, set up, and proceeded to peek into this old house's every last dark corner, not to mention under its skirts and into its shorts, checking for whatever abnormalities lay hidden there or elsewhere, trying to find crimes deftly covered to escape a buyer's scrupulousness.
I admit it: it wasn't fun. It was trying, even for me, someone who can't tell a phillips screwdriver from a monkey wrench, someone whose ability to screw up anything he tinkers with is the stuff of legends. The fact is, as my wife knows, I don't need viagra. If I fix anything--say, a leaky toilet--I get a shot of something so extraordinarily male my loving wife just about leaves town. Sexual aggression aside, she well knows, on the other hand, there's nothing more dangerous around this house than her husband with a hammer.
I'm old enough to know that's true myself, so I rarely pick one up. A friend of mine told me, years ago, that he was putting in a toilet in his basement. That's a claim I've never forgotten because it's so extraordinary that he could just as well have told me he was lighting out for the territories to pan for the gold. By himself? A toilet? With some lame internet instructions? Was he nuts? He did it.
And so, I've always been among those whose hands sport no callouses. I'm a man with preacher's hands, the kind of man Jesse James would rob on a train, while leaving my toilet-expert friend's pocketbook alone, him with the callouses. I'm no man's man, never have been, and my wife would say, I'm sure, that's just fine. Last summer, I took it upon myself to fix a broken window and shattered the new one in the process.
So, honestly, when the Inspector came yesterday, I wasn't worried about his uncovering jerry-rigged wiring or leaky plumbing. This hundred-year old house, when we move out, will bear few signs or scars of my all-thumbs fix'r'up good intentions--none really. If our Inspector found any indecencies, they weren't my work, thank goodness. In 27 years, I've cut the grass religiously, tended the plants and shrubs, occasionally grown some saucy tomatoes, but done almost nothing else, man-wise. When it comes to tinkering, I'm not only a fool, I'm certified as dangerous.
Two years ago I tinkered with the spokes on my bike. I screwed 'em up badly. When I brought that warped rim over to my friend the bike repairer, who knows me well, he looked up at me, rolled his eyes, and asked the kind of question he thought an English professor could answer: "Schaap," he said, "is there a hyphen in dumb-ass?"
So, this morning, the day after the Inspector checked our every outlet, I found this wonderful little video on line, and when I saw it, I winced, but I also invoked Socrates; because if this man was unwise, his idiocy stems from lack of self-knowledge.
I, on the other hand, know myself. I know this would be me, should I try. But this guy didn't understand who he was, and he obviously felt he could fell this tree, with an axe no less, an all-day project he must have assumed would do wonders for his testosterone.
But then, I can only guess what his wife said.
This is why I'll never pick up an axe. I know my weaknesses, as does my wife of forty good years. (And btw, pardon the expletive. I'm sure you will.)
Posted by J. C. Schaap at 5:56 AM