I saw a squirrel when I went for a walk this morning. It was flat as a pancake, out there in the middle of the road, the very picture of a bad end. The squirrel had an accident it seems. It’s part of nature. It made me wonder about the difference between squirrels and people. If there was such a thing as squirrel insurance, somebody would have to quantify the odds of a squirrel becoming road kill, based perhaps on the age of the squirrel, the busyness of the road, and the metrics of the particular crossing. Presumably, if squirrels were rational, they could statistically reduce accidents by changing their habits. The problem is of course that squirrels are not rational.
Human beings are supposed to be rational, which explains all those obligatory warnings on things you buy. Do not use under the influence of alcohol. Do not use while standing on your head and juggling kitchen knives. Do not use while driving backwards, do not use while climbing a ladder, etc etc. Because you know, human beings pay attention to advice like that.
Or, maybe human beings are just incredibly dumb. I’ve stumbled across a myriad of surprises in the course of owning and renovating two homes that might demonstrate that proposition. Let’s list a dozen problems I have discovered, that you should never find in a new home.
1) A live wire at carpet level in our basement. Turns out there had been at one time a baseboard heater but instead of de-installing, the former owner had merely clipped the wire and hidden it behind baseboard.
2) When tearing out walls, found electrical wires dangling inside, capped off with marettes. The wires were also live.
3) A badly executed shower bed that leaked through the adjacent wall. The entire thing had to be torn out.
4) A fireplace which had been constructed using loosely piled up fire brick, held in place with masonry clips but no mortar. When you turned the fire on, smoke would billow out from my daughter’s closet upstairs. The fireplace had to be rebuilt.
5) A outdoor faucet that had been cracked from freezing, but never replaced. We found out when we turned it on, and water flooded our basement below.
6) Electrical wire passed over the metal stack in a washroom. Whoever did it, put on an extra layer of drywall to conceal the misdeed.
7) Ill planned framing which meant that the plumber cut away floor joists so that he could run pipes to the stack, and call it a day. The problem of course, the joists cut away were holding up the floor, which had sagged enough to detach the wax seal and cause a sewage leak inside the wall.
8) Deck where the entirety of the surface was solidly face-nailed. The nails had large flat heads which sat above the surface of the wood. This meant you could never sand and refinish the wood - ever. I discovered that trying to pull the nails was worse than leaving them in.
9) The deck installer had to work around drainpipe that came down from the eavestrough overhead. Instead of rerouting the drainage, he removed the drain pipe, and capped the hole which now fills up with water and drips down on the deck.
10) Burned out jets from a Jacuzzi style bathtub. When the ill planned electrical work started a small fire, the guilty party tiled over access to the motor. In the adjacent shower, the two by fours had been scorched but also tiled over. The ill premised jacuzzi installation had joined two electrical circuits which mean whenever my wife blow dries her hair, the circuit trips.
11) A flags-stone front porch that kept coming apart. When I finally jackhammered the thing, I found that the flagstones were merely bedded in sand. Where they had dislodged in the past, the homeowner had stuck them back in place with a mass of polyurethane construction adhesive and called it a day.
12) Carpet laid over a four inch wide gap in the flooring where a wall had been torn out in the past. The confusing part was that the removal of the wall reduced the number of rooms in the house, but the seller had listed the room count as if the wall was still there. Mystery explained.
Hey, and I’m the amateur in this arrangement. The ones who left me the surprises, presumably knew better. Moreover, none of these things were flagged for me by the expensive home inspectors whom I paid to verify that both homes were safe and everything in working order.
It’s the three monkeys. Don’t look, don’t hear, don’t tell. And hey, I bought the house… both times. I’m the walking version of the “fooled me twice” saying.
So now I KNOW why packaging has to have those improbable scenarios stacked on to the directions. It’s because people really are that stupid. My kids informed me at one point that there was a movie entitled “Jackass” that I should watch. The entirety of the film was a genius named “Steve-O” who pulled stunts you would have to be really dumb to try. This didn’t stop the film maker. He filmed himself every time, so that his stupidity could be broadcast into posterity.
I watched in disbelief as he crazy glued his eyes shut, snorted drain cleaner, and other various and sundry things anyone with a modicum of sense would never attempt. The grand irony is that the movie had a disclaimer at the beginning: “Danger, do not try these stunts at home” because you know, it’s true. People really ARE that dumb.