13 May 2009

Don't call me if your house looks like this

While I'm purging my foul humors this week, I have one last thing to get out of my system.

A couple of months ago I went on an appointment with someone. He'd called the previous week and had passed my phone test. When I get a phone call I think I do a pretty good job of explaining who I am and what I do. I usually throw some budget numbers around in that initial contact to let people know that I'm a value proposition, not necessarily a low-cost one. If you want a cheap renovation, I'm not your guy. If you want a great one, then please please please call me.

Anyhow, I walked into his home and was immediately assaulted by an odor so foul I nearly turned around and left on the spot. However, I'd driven a half hour to get there and I'd at least hear the man out. It smelled like a land fill in there. A landfill with under tones of an unwashed body and an end note of a wet golden retriever. Welcome to my nightmare.


In addition to living in a pig sty, the man was unpleasant and demanding. He asked me for a ball park number on the spot. I never play that game but I had to get out of there pronto. I looked at him and just told him I wasn't interested.

Strangely, the whole interaction was exhausting, all ten minutes of it. I was mortified by how the guy lived but at the same time, it was so clearly the result of some kind of pathology. Some small part of me wanted to fix up his place for him and by extension, fix up his life. But I learned a long time ago that I can't do that with the people I care about, let alone with total strangers.

So I drove home, took a shower and wiped out my refrigerator. I figured I'd clean up after myself since I can't clean up after strangers. I'm not a real sensitive guy, but that guy's mess took a toll on me. 

I don't know, I am in and out of other people's houses all the time. I have seen it all and I really do keep a nearly clinical detachment. People who call me want my help so I usually don't pay a whole lot of attention to their housekeeping. But this one was beyond anything I'd ever come across though. What would you do?

16 comments:

  1. I probably would've done what you did or just quoted it out of the park.

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  2. The man was eating a meal he'd prepared in that disgusting kitchen while I was there. I'm still too traumatized to talk about that though.

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  3. Whoa, from your description I'm guessing this is a classic case of life style (the mess of his kitchen) reflecting his personality. I think before departing I wud have been tempted to rescue his dog....poor pooch.

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  4. Oh, there was no dog there. It just smelled as if there were a wet golden retriever bouncing around.

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  5. Paul, are you sure? Maybe it was buried under the mess.

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  6. I would have simply run. Far and fast.

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  7. I would have called Kim and Aggie from the British show, "How clean is your House?"

    Good lord! Any plans to revise your phone test?

    EEEH YEW! I had one of these last year. The air was so foul, hot and thick with dust, I asked to open a kitchen window to get relief from the heat. The window was never used and it was stuck shut from the grease in the tracks. I had to excuse myself due to dust allergies.

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  8. Awe-ful. What goes through people's minds? And yes, my phone test has a whole new bonus section that deals with hygiene and housekeeping.

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  9. You were right to walk - and to resist the urge to jump in and save the guy's life with organization and cleanliness. It would not have worked. This coming after the driver's license episode tells me that you have an irritable Ojibway spirit who has glommed on to you and you must break the spell. Make yourself a Bellini at 10:30 in the a.m. on a school day, burn a really expensive candle, give yourself a few hours to read a Donna Leon or Michael Dibkin mystery set in your beloved Italy, and then take a nap using a lavender eye shade. These occurences should clear up.

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  10. Thank you Gretchen, I will be sure to follow your prescription. I just added your blog to my Google Reader list. Anyone with a lifelong love of la bella Italia is somebody I want to read. I'll let you know how my irritable Ojibway spirit appeasement and dismissal works out.

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  11. Maybe the guy mistook you for a cleaning service? Seriously, at this point, he'd do better paying for service (if he could get it) than a remodel. Yikes!

    Now I'm curious what he wanted done to the kitchen -- a trash chute to a can outside?

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  12. I'd had him on the phone for 20 minutes the previous day and I told him in no uncertain terms that I am not his man if he were looking to do something on the cheap. Some people just don't listen. But maybe this guy can't hear. Imagine the earwax buildup in someone who keeps his home in such a sorry mess. Ewww.

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  13. OK, when friends are coming over to our house, I do a pretty good clean-up. Might not be perfect, but it's clean and tidy. If I know a perfect stranger is going to be coming into my house, I take it to the next level. I can't imagine how this guy could ask you to come over to help him renovate his kitchen and he shows you THAT. Ick.

    I probably would have gotten out of there as fast as possible too.

    Kelly

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  14. Ok, so I had to share that photo with my brother, who works for the phone company and asked him if he ever saw anything this bad. He said this is mild, (you can still see the counter), to some of the things he and his co-workers encounter. The worst ones are when the mess is stacked from counter up to the wall cabinets and the stench of rotting food emitting from the refrigerators to cooktop.

    Worst house he has been to had chickens running wild in the living room. There was chicken coop fencing lining the hallway, (so the chickens don't escape through the front door), they fed the chickens on the carpet and let them have "free range" all through out the house. Did you know phone technicians have the right to refuse service if the home is inhabitable? They do. Some people actually are offended when refused service, they have no clue how offensive and what a health hazard they are to trades people.

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  15. I feel for your brother. When I was young and hungry, i took a job emptying out rental properties after an eviction. Let's just say I was a glad I had been vaccinated against hepatitis before taking that job. The one that put an end to my career was a property that had been home to eight, unhousebroken pit bulls for the previous couple of years. It was so bad I had to replace the toilets in the house!

    Ordinarily, because I call on a more monied group of people, I'm shielded from the stuff your brother deals with. But every once in a while...

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