As I watch the drips of water glide across the mud room ceiling and drop onto the towels that are waiting for them on the floor, it’s difficult not to come to the conclusion that the bedraggled old purple tent that my dad and I used to take camping when I was a Boy Scout was far more waterproof than the house I’m living in now. That tent survived many years of twelve-year-old boys running around it, wielding three-pound Swiss Army knives and setting random things ablaze right next to it. Through all that time, the tent spoiled me into thinking that it is actually possible to keep water out when it wants in. Being a homeowner has taught me that water is like a five-year-old: It can’t be controlled; it can only be only temporarily diverted. But you can’t make water be quiet by giving it a GameBoy.
My house never had to face any knife-wielding preteens, yet it holds back water as well as a cheese grater, which, incidentally, comes as an option on Swiss Army knives now. My wife Kara and I made the unpleasant discovery about the seive-like nature of our roof after we’d lived here for two days.
A torrential rainfall blew through on our second night in the house. All of our belongings were still packed away in garbage bags, because boxes are for snobs. Actually, two years later, much of our very important stuff is still in those garbage bags, which will hopefully save us a few minutes when we decide to chuck it all in ten years.
That night, the sound of water pattering on the roof suddenly began to sound a little too close. Kara and I sat there, frozen, straining our ears to hear where the dripping noise was coming from. When we finally realized what was going on, it was like a scene from a horror movie. “The drip – It’s coming from inside the house! Get out! Get out!”
That wasn’t supposed to happen. We paid/wasted $500 for a certified building inspector to come look at the house before we bought it. He was highly skilled at poking things with a screwdriver. He carried his screwdriver in a leather holster like Wyatt Earp, and we he saw something of interest, like a wall or the neighbor’s cat, he’d give it a little jab, twirl the screwdriver around his finger, and stick it back in the holster, satisfied. I figure we paid about fifty bucks per jab.
“This is a well-built house,” he told us before jabbing us with his screwdriver and leaving. “I don’t see anything too wrong with it.” He made no mention of the impending water features that came with the place.
After moving in, I spent more time on top of the house than inside it. I was a house cowboy, riding high on my shingled horse, straddling the roofline and yelling, “Yee-haw! I got me a hankerin’ for mah old apartment!”
I actually did manage to patch the roof (seventeenth try was the charm), and all was well, until a couple of days ago, when a new leak sprung in our mud room. I can just picture the first little bead of water as it moved back and forth across the ceiling, like a Skill Crane at an arcade, looking for the best place to drop. Kara’s watercolors on her little drafting table made a perfect target. Her most recent piece is now entitled “Still life on wrinkly paper with several rust-colored splotches.”
We’re seriously considering just punching out the windows and letting nature have the mud room back. Or maybe we’ll just pitch Dad’s old tent out there.
You can jab Mike Todd with a screwdriver online at firstname.lastname@example.org.