The Common Good
May-June 2002

Don't Try This at Home (no, wait…)

by Ed Spivey Jr. | May-June 2002

The
wise man built his house upon the rock.

The foolish man built his house upon the sand.

Then the foolish man sold his house to me,

The wise man built his house upon the rock.
The foolish man built his house upon the sand.
Then the foolish man sold his house to me,

so he wasn't so foolish after all, was he?

—New Testament scripture, or maybe it's from an old camp song. I forget.

Which is why, after waking up each morning with the ceiling a little closer to my face, we're having to spend LOTS of money putting a new foundation under our house. As you know, the way it's supposed to work is first you build your foundation, then you put the house on top of it. Doing it the other way makes absolutely no sense, unless you're tired of listening to the creaks and groans of timbers that make me think I should be walking around with an eye patch, a peg leg, and a parrot on my shoulder. (Actually, the parrot I got already. And my co-workers always know when he's been on my shoulder. CO-WORKER: "Eeeuuu!")

I don't mean to burden you with my personal problems, since you have enough of your own figuring out what the heck those "m life" commercials mean. Not to mention the Enron scandal that has tarnished just about everyone but the Bush administration which, fortunately, was out of town when it all happened. But don't worry, Congress is on top of the Enron mess, and we can all sleep easier at night knowing that, despite the sickening way elected officials are beholden to corporate interests, integrity in government will be restored. Unless they find another way around it.

BUT BACK TO my house. The jackhammers start at 7:30, shortly after the morning sun is blotted out by enormous pick-up trucks the workers drive. Each is the size of a small ocean liner, with a tool box larger than my car. Not to be outdone, I bought a tool belt, which I proudly wear when I'm helping the men with the heavy tasks, such as getting them water and then collecting the cups afterwards. I'd do a lot more, of course, but I got a splinter early on and they told me with an injury like that I'd better avoid the work area altogether. (They said this between manly giggles, so I knew they were relieved I wasn't more seriously injured.)

I take a certain comfort in having large, silent men around the home, since it's about time the women in my family experience such a phenomenon. My children have grown up assuming that the average American male walks around the house all day in his pajamas, mumbling bitterly about "Johnny Angel" being the last great rock-and-roll song; the kind of man who only puts on work gloves when he changes a light bulb. ("Everyone stand back! I think it's loosening!")

TURNS OUT, My home was built before the invention of right angles, and sadly I never met the crooked little man who used to live here. But on the bright side, there is a certain symmetry in the repair costs being the same as the original price of the home. Unfortunately, prospective buyers might not be impressed by the new foundation in the basement—"It's GORGEOUS! We can store our decorative wheel barrows down here!" More than likely they'll just complain about there being only one bathroom, which includes a toilet paper holder hanging at a jaunty, cock-eyed angle. (I installed it myself.)

We tried to get the insurance company to pay for the repairs, since, as I helpfully theorized, the problems were caused by underground nuclear testing in the 1950s. My agent didn't buy it, but he did offer one of those manly giggles I'm hearing a lot of these days. On the other hand, he reassured us that in the event of a catastrophic fire we'd be fully covered. (But that would be just awful, since then they'd build us a brand new house and who'd want that to happen!?)

As I think about it, I've got two choices:

• I could accidentally pour gasoline over the house and then accidentally set it on fire, right after I had first accidentally removed all the family photo albums, all my guitars, and none of the ceramic roosters that other people in my house are so fond of.

• Or I could just pay the big, quiet men and keep out of the way. Which is a lot harder than you think, what with all the neat tools around that are heavier and bigger than the Lego versions I'm more familiar with. "Hey guys, could I have a turn at the jackhammer-er-er-er-er-er-er-er-er-er...oops. Was that a gas line?"

Ed Spivey Jr. is art director of Sojourners.

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