Attack of the self-destructing house

As a homeowner I’ve come to the realization that houses aren’t the privilege, comfort and status symbol I thought they were growing up. Instead, they’re something you end up getting if you’re not careful like adult onset diabetes.

Or, if you prefer, they are like volcanoes ready to erupt to cause destruction and misery at a moment’s notice. After the latest disaster I’ve taken to climbing on my roof, crumpling up $20 bills and feeding them to the gutters, where, I assume, they’re swallowed by the house, which accepts the offering and continues to function without repercussions.

Before this revelation I had neglected the house gods, and naturally they began to grow restless. After what I thought was a “routine pipe cleaning” I was gleefully informed I had what amounted to a ticking time bomb under my house in the form of the sewer pipe made out of tissue paper, guano and the dreams of small Asian children or something to the equivalent. I was told that based on the material of the pipe (not metal) it was slowly collapsing.

“It’s really not a matter of if, it’s a matter of WHEN it fails,” the plumbing demon said in the dark holding a flashlight up to its face before turning into a bat and flying out the window.

He may not have done this but he might as well have.

I told my wife the good news; because if I know one thing about women, it’s that they love things to worry about. Not long after, she woke me up one night after hearing a noise.

“What was that?!” she asked, bolting upright.

“Probably a chainsaw murderer,” I replied.

“Oh thank God,” she said. “I thought it was the sound of the sewer line backing up.”

Then we had a belly laugh before going back to sleep.

I had filed this problem carefully away in the “out of sight, out of mind” category, though this sentiment was not shared.

“This doesn’t bother you?” my wife asked.

“Honey,” I said, patiently, putting my hands on her shoulders. “Look at it like this. It’s like playing the lottery. Every morning we wake up with a dry, feces-less basement we won! Don’t you like winning?”

Ultimately I agreed it needed fixing but disagreed on the timetable. She wanted to do it immediately, whereas I wanted to do it “in the future” because Future Kelly has a giant money vault filled with gold doubloons. Present Kelly is a hungry orphan from a Charles Dickens novel with a soot-smeared face pressed up against a fancy store window.

“When are we going to get it fixed?” she pressed.

“What is time, really, when you think about it?”

“We’re doing this next week.”

“What? Absolutely not.”

So after the appointment was scheduled a crew came over. They said it was going to be an “organized demolition”, though I could’ve gotten the same results with a dozen kindergarteners armed with Red Bull and plastic shovels.

The process went something like this.

Step 1: Laugh manically at homeowner plight, stroking hairless cat while thumbing through yacht magazines.

Step 2: Destroy lawn as painfully as possible.

Step 3: Create giant hole to get to the “problem.”

Step 4: “Fix” pipe (or just pound loudly on a rock for two days, God only knows what actually went on down there).

Step 5: Dump dirt over hole, making it look like we just buried a Sperm Whale.

Step 6: Leave yard looking like it was in a cannon fight.

As we were all standing outside watching Operation Yard Explosion I felt like I needed to interject myself into the work. After all, it was MY yard and I’m a full-grown man. I needed to DO.

When out of my element I often attempt to force conversation or make up things that SOUND like they’re somewhat relevant. This never goes well.

“You sure know how to work that thing,” I apparently vomited out of my mouth to one of the workers. It was one of those times where the sentence was forming in my mouth as my brain was saying “ABORT!” Of course, in that race my mouth is Usain Bolt and my brain is Porky Pig. My wife just looked at me, her eyes saying “You really just said that.” I tried to recover.

“I like the way you work your machine. I mean, it has nice nobs. I mean, I mean, uh, I’m not hitting on you! I like ladies! With, uh, breasts! Like my wife over there. Wife! Show this man your breasts, which I enjoy!”

She quickly went inside, having no idea how embarrassed I was made to feel.

“Ha HA!” I said, nervously, before adding, “She has them, you know.”

To assist the settling of the giant dirt mound I was given a pipe with holes in it that attaches to a hose, a device one of the guys apparently smelted or conjured himself. The first time I used it, it broke. Sometimes I forget how strong I am. Often I accidentally smush watermelons in my grip when checking them for ripeness, which is why I do not pick up children by the head. Anymore.

Being a man, I figured I could repair it. I turned on the butane torch, because I have one of those, hoping that when I put a match in front of it I don’t explode. As it lit, I began to think just what the heck I was doing.

“Sodder? Is that how you say it? I wonder how you spell it. I think there’s an ‘l’ in there. Solder? That can’t be right. That reminds me of ‘soldier’, which now sounds weird because you get a ‘juh’ sound by only adding the letter ‘i’? Can that be right? Should’t it be ‘solger’? Is that so hard? Who made up language? I want to know because they were drunk.”

As I was thinking about all that the butane torch emptied itself.

I’m a man.

Kelly Van De Walle is the senior creative & marketing writer for Briscoe14 Communications ( He can be reached at or via Easy Cheese message. Follow Kelly on Twitter @pancake_bunny for house appeasement rituals, for he is the Shaman of the urban jungle.