Thursday, January 09, 2014

House Call

I love watching reality TV. Especially if it involves rich people’s houses. It’s the next best thing to breaking into them and having a nose around like those crazy kids in ‘The Bling Bling Ring’ who sneak into Paris Hilton’s house and steal all her jewelry and handbags.
            My favourite past time is sitting down to a marathon session of ‘Keeping up with the Kardashians’ and watching that mad family lounge around their massive ass cribs (thank you MTV for teaching me the lingo) and arguing with each other.
            “How come we never see any maids?” Saffy once asked as we sat, sharing a bowl of popcorn, and watched the Kardashian girls bicker in their mother’s mansion. “They must have maids, right? Because I cannot imagine Kylie with a toilet brush, or Kris doing the laundry.”
            Through a mouthful of Garrett’s caramel popcorn, Amanda mumbled, “If they showed the maids, then it wouldn’t be reality TV! The whole thing is meant to convince you that this is how the rich and fabulous actually live. Like normal people who can’t afford a maid or a gardener. Otherwise, we might as well be watching ‘Devious Housemaids’ which is just pure fantasy!”
            “You’re so clever, Manda,” Saffy said, spraying a flurry of white popcorn all over her lap. “Oh, that reminds me, Sharyn needs us to look at a flat she wants to buy.”
            Saffy’s best friend has finally saved enough to move, or maybe it’s more a case of her family living space reaching what nuclear scientists will immediately recognize as critical mass. In a two bedroom, one bathroom flat, she packs in herself, her husband, their two kids, her husband’s ailing mother and father, and a diabetic Chihuahua.
            “I have no idea how she’s done it all these years,” Amanda said, her voice deep with admiration.
            “All I can think of is the morning bathroom situation,” said Saffy, who suffers from chronic constipation and can spend up to an hour at a time in the toilet each morning. “I’ve insisted that she only look at flats with at least two bathrooms!”
            As it turned out, the bathroom situation was the least of the problems of the flat Sharyn showed us.
            For starters, the light in the tiny communal lift kept flickering which gave us all the chills, the memory of endless Japanese and Korean horror movies still fresh in our overheated imaginations.
            But none of that prepared us for the actual flat.
            Real estate experts are always telling prospective sellers to present their homes in the best light. Tidy up. Put away junk. If possible, don’t be there when the agent brings in viewers. Put on soft music and candles if the viewing is at night. Bake a cake and fill the space with the aroma of vanilla and cinnamon.
            Clearly, neither the real estate agent nor the owners of the flat we saw had read the manual.
            The first thing Saffy said when she stepped in was: “Has something horrible happened here?”
            It was as if two minutes before we’d arrived, armed bandits had crashed through and ripped up the place looking for illegal foliage and then decided to redecorate by randomly tipping furniture over. Clothes and magazines and computer hardware were strewn all over the floor. The kitchen counter was covered with plastic bags filled with unidentifiable bulges, while two completely filled clothes racks were parked right next to the fridge. The bathroom was strewn with empty shampoo bottles while Amanda later swore she saw mushrooms growing out of the shower grouting.
In one of the bedrooms, two children slept on top of a pile of clothes. In the other, the parents sat cross-legged beneath their wedding portrait flipping through interior décor magazines. It was hard to believe that the man with the wild hair, ratty singlet and torn shorts was the same man in the tuxedo in the photograph. As for the wife, the least said the better.
The fragrance of stale oil hanged over everything.
            “Seriously, what is going on here?” Saffy hissed at Sharyn who was looking about the space with a critical eye.
            “Ay, I like! Got potential!”
            Saffy stared.
“Why? You don’t like, ah? Got such nice views!”
            Amanda groaned. “I think I’m going to have to burn what I’m wearing as soon as we get home!”
            “Any offers so far on this place?” I said brightly to the real estate agent who, I noted, hadn’t moved more than a foot from the main door since we’d arrived. He had the good manners not to lie.
            From the other room, Sharyn said, “Got two bathrooms some more!”
            In the taxi home, Amanda kept moaning, “Mushrooms!”


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