Birds

White security fences don’t always make for the most welcoming of introductions.  This morning, I was lucky enough to visit a homeowner who had a massive, enclosed property, a property that also happened to be filled with rescue animals of the winged variety.  Geese, Turkey, Ducks, and things I hadn’t really heard of, littered the two acre property, lounging in plastic baby pools and honking angrily at one another.   

The property owner, elderly and agitated, was less than enthused that I was there, ironic because she was the one who scheduled the appointment, but eager to describe the rescued fowl in detail.   

“Those seven were being starved before I took them in.”

I responded with a shocked stare.

“And I just spent thousands on an emergency bill for these,” She continued, not even bothering to gesture at the animals she was referring to.”

Her arms had scabs and she was visibly disheveled, but she spoke about the animals around us as if I was challenging her right to own them.  “I have at least one hundred in the front yard.”

I glanced around the acreage and noted the large cages lining her property line.  “They all seem so happy,” I responded, and hoped it sounded convincing.

I don’t know if it’s possible to read a bird’s emotions, but as a whole they did appear content, even more so when a torrential rain set in moments later. The homeowner however, was not expecting any “God Damned tropical weather,” as she put it, and as the first drops fell from the sky she leapt toward one of the cages.

“Food!” She yelled, along with something else I couldn’t decipher, and I watched as she grabbed a gigantic plastic tub filled with pellets and shoved it into a bird house.  

“Can I help?”  I yelled as I shuffled underneath her only tree, trying to escape the drops.  “Also, would it kill you to let me into your home?” I added in my head.  

No response, only rain.  

Ten minutes later, as the storm raged on we stood, soaked, underneath her gutters.

“Renovating the whole place,” she mumbled, offering insight into why I wasn’t allowed inside her home.  “Also have ten cockatoos that will scream their heads off at you.  

Renovating or not, protocol requires I document her electric panel at the very least, and as soon as the downpour ceased we headed around back to her basement.  

“I’m gutting everything down here too,” she explained as she opened the door.  We were greeted by her dog, Rudy or Rascal or something like that, a 19 year mutt who promptly leapt up from his bed to bite my extended hand.  

“He’s very spry for 19,” I commented, searching my knuckles for blood.

“Ralph that’s very bad!” Ms. Homeowner mumbled as she walked past the washing machine toward a closed door.  “The panel is back here if you want to look at it.”  

I didn’t, really.  I wanted to leave.  And as she opened the door, I wanted to run.  The room was black with darkness, sans a small window, and the light pouring in from where we stood revealed cages and cages of more birds, all eyeing me suspiciously.  

“Hello! Hello!”  

“What? Hello!”

“Hello! Hello!”

It was too much, really.  Rudy thought so too and started nipping at my heels aggressively.  “I don’t think he wants me to go in,” I tried to stay calm as my customer weaved through the cages to her electric panel.  

“Raymond, that’s enough!”

He was unfazed by her scolding, so were the birds.  They chatted away happily, like their basement situation was normal.  

Eager to end this horror film before it ended me, I deemed everything in order but (“Oh No!”) found a random and weak detail to kill the visit.  

“I’m so sorry I cannot help you today, but you have my card if anything changes,” I forced a sad smile and offered my hand.  She nodded and walked me to the gate.  

“I have to make sure it’s closed correctly,” she pointed at the handle.  “A few of them have a tendency to wander, right Rose?”  

Stamp Man

I’ve had my fair share of interesting slash dirty slash scary homes but this week I officially broke the seal on my first hoarder. It’s amazing how regardless of what you think you are about to walk into, you are always wrong. It’s like trying to guess what a first date is going to be like. “His name is Steve, I bet that means he’s tall and he likes animals. I bet he orders a steak because he’s a man’s man. He’ll be super interested in me and open all the doors just like a gentleman should. I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with Steve!”
Sorry girl, Steve will most likely end up being a guy with short man’s syndrome and an aversion to dairy. He’ll want to tell you all about his crummy job as a used car salesman and fail to pick up the check. Now compare this to walking into a random home. Two-story, fresh cut lawn with a garden off to the side. If you were new to this job you would assume that the family inside would be well-adjusted and successful. Maybe they would be polite enough to offer you a beverage when you sit down at their kitchen table. What if (Gasp!) they are childless millionaires like Daddy Warbucks and they want to adopt a nice young lady to share their wealth with…???

Nope.

I won’t assume what the situation actually is, because that is exactly what I am telling you you shouldn’t do. Besides, ultimately I would be wrong. Just know that it is not ever the above scenario.

My appointment this week started out as usual: I pulled up to the address and slammed the last drops of my diet mountain dew as I put the car in park. I always emerge the same way to every home I go to. It’s ridiculous. I open the door slowly, grab my phone and business card and stand up smiling like an idiot. I feel like there is always the possibility that joe schmo is looking at me through the blinds of his home so I want to make sure I look like I’m a jolly sort of person. So anyway, I stand there for a second, looking at the trees and the home with this shit-eating grin on my face, but as I look about, I try to squeeze in a look of concern, like I’m thinking hard about my job and what I need to accomplish to help this mr. joe schmo. Still smiling, I will reach in to grab my bag, close the door and approach the front door. If they have a doorbell I will give it a good buzz then take a few steps away from the entrance- I want to make sure joe doesn’t think I’m going to jump down his throat. If the homeowner is some sort of pariah and doesn’t have a doorbell I will literally do the whole cutesy knock thing which is apparently called “Shave and a Haircut and Two Bits” and also apparently is translated roughly to “Go f*** Yourself, a**hole” in Mexico. I’m ok with this.

As I approached this particular home last week I had what you could call an “unsettling” feeling. I was trying not to prejudge but as I approached the broken porch (which was littered with trash by the way) I was overcome with what can only be described as the smell of urine. No, not cat urine. Not dog urine. Not even bird urine. Nope, this smelled like good old fashioned human urine.

Hmmmm.

Unfortunately for me, I was too busy doing my little Mexican knocking dance and grinning like a fool to let that register.

Ever seen Homestar Runner’s Teen Girl Squad? The clip where the jock is like “you must be girls”? Do yourself a favor:

Anyway, everytime I introduce myself to someone I’m like “You must be X” with that same voice in my head.

This particular time, an elderly gentleman wearing a hawaiian shirt and boasting a very large toupee slowly opened the door and looked at me like I had a horse’s head. “Hello There!” I said cheerily, “You must be X, Were you expecting me?” Duh dude, you should’ve been expecting me.

“Oh my, I guess I forgot,” He said with a concerned voice. “Come on in though, I was just cleaning up.”

No guys, no he was not. Or, if he was, he should’ve started thirty years ago.

I stepped into the foyer, or what I assume used to be a foyer, and instantly all the hairs on my neck stood up. There was stuff EVERYWHERE. Stacks and Stacks of newspapers and lamps and… well, name it. The customer motioned for me to sit down on the couch. (Couch?  What couch?) Luckily for me there was a small space on the edge of the couch that I was able to ease into without disturbing the carefully thought out trash heap behind me.

“So I’m a stamp collecter” The guy said as he raised his arm and motioned to what I can only assume was some giant stamp he envisioned on the other side of the room. I nodded vigorously and said something to the effect of “That’s the most interesting thing I have ever heard of in my life.” As he let the wave of his arm linger I noticed a stamp haphazardly stuck on the underside of his forearm. God only knows how long that had been there.

As I pulled my gaze away from his arm I noticed the floor, which happened to be covered with what I assume was the guy’s stamp collection, because it was littered with what had to be hundreds of dollars worth of little postage stamps.

Stamp man then went into a monologue about how his wife hated him and the guy who lived upstairs was a criminal, blah blah blah.   All the while I was thinking “I HAVE TO GET OUT OF HERE NOW THIS GUY IS SCREWED UP WHAT IS THAT IN THE CORNER MORE STAMPS?”  Long story short (no it’s really not long I was only there five minutes) I found some excuse to bounce “Oh hey I hear there’s a sale at the Salvation Army, I’ve gotta go!  Maybe see you there?”, handed the guy my card and peaced out.  He sat there, fixated on his imaginary stamp on the other end of the room and asked if I could let myself out.   Yep.  I certainly can.