Sunday, August 08, 2004

The Stabbing Room

We've been house-hunting in the San Francisco Bay Area for the last couple of months. "House-hunting in the San Francisco Bay Area" is another way of saying "ensuring that we will never have any money again ever".

House-hunting is kind of a curious pastime, and one that I encourage everyone out there to indulge in. Or "in which to indulge", to be prepositionally accurate, I suppose. The best thing about it is that you get to go into people's houses and totally check out all their stuff. Also, you can make assumptions about their general level of cleanliness and worthiness as human beings. Assess their stain quotient! Is that patch on the hardwood floor a big pee stain?

Yes. Yes it is.

We've seen a few sci-fi houses. Sci-fi houses are ubiquitous, apparently. We saw quite a few when we were looking for our first house, and they are all about the same. These places reek of smoke, and their living rooms are lined with bookcases, usually of the homemade variety, that are stuffed with sci-fi paperbacks. The entire Shannara series will be there, in the order the books were released, of course. Piers Anthony will be lurking by Zelazny. Harlan Ellison will be self-congratulatorily reclining over there by Asimov.

And these places are just stuffed full of crap. There are books everywhere. There are plants everywhere, that seem to call to you as you pass: "Dear God, buy this house! Take us away from here! We beg you! I haven't photosynthesized since the early nineties!" And they probably haven't.

The air is thick with dust. The broken and bent blinds are thick with dust. Strange knick-knacks litter the omnipresent shelves: a trio of big-eyed ceramic dogs, several Hallmark "World's Greatest Dad/Grandpa/Borderline Psychotic" figurines, innumerable bowling/wrestling/lawn darts trophies which were patently not won by the owner of the house, forty-seven six inch plastic m-and-m guys (arranged by color), even Weeples. For the love of all that is holy, Weeples! The Weeples, even, are thick with dust.

And invariably, these places are huge, have a toilet in the backyard that may or may not have started a new career as a planter, and are listed at a remarkably high price. Three quarters of a million dollars somehow seems like too much for a place that has all the atmosphere of a diseased lung.

What you learn looking at peole's houses is that they are crazy. Of course, if these people looked through your house, they'd probably think you were crazy too. That's the charm of it. "Jesus, honey!" they'd whisper to their spouse. "These people have a giant collection of Red Rose tea animals!" or "That's an external modem for a Mac Classic! What is wrong with these people!?" And they are right.

But to the stabbing room.

We looked at enough mildly disturbing homes to have a quick codeword signifying we'd probably not be offering on that particular place. The word is "stabbers". Certain parts of the Peninsula in the Bay Area seem to be havens for stabbers. You can imagine the owners of the house luring their victims in for a little recreational stabbing is what I'm saying.

The wife and I concocted an elaborate scenario, which we found terribly funny, in which the owner of the house meets you wandering through his home and greets you with a rusty kitchen (or Stanley) knife in his slightly trembling hand. "Hey there!" he warmly extends his non-knife-wielding hand. "You like the place? I made them bookshelves myself."

His voice is a low rumble. He is vaguely threatening. He has forty years of Oakland A's memorabilia pushpinned to his garage wall.

He appraises you with red-streaked eyes. At this point, he may light a cheroot, just before he extends the knife to you, handle first, and softly says "Now stab me. Come on! Then I'll stab you! Just a little. It won't hurt much!"

You back away.

"Don't you want to stab me even a little? I'll start!"

You run away.

To make things even better for the stabbing scenario, most of the houses we've been looking at have full basements. In most houses I've lived in in California, there's at most a crawlspace. After looking at over a million homes in the greater San Francisco area, the wife and I now turn to each other when presented with a particularly large such basement, and say "Now this'd be a good stabbing room. We could put the bodies over there in the corner."

I recommend this sort of thing to everyone. Just make sure your little "stabbing room" joke isn't overheard by the listing agent.

Or the owner, even now creeping toward you, saying "Come on now! Stab me!"


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