The housing market has experienced a surge in pricing lately. It's particularly noticeable to us because we live along a sort of tectonic real estate plate. Our block of houses were the first new homes to be built in Ripon since the Spanish missionaries first brought Dutch almond farmers to this region hundreds of years ago and began building adobe water towers along what would one day become Highway 99. After our houses were built, there was a sort of lull while developers waited to see if the locals would accept newcomers to Ripon, or if we would disappear mysteriously in the middle of the night, with no clue to our fate but a coincidental surplus of ground meat served at the following Almond Blossom Festival. I hear the original name for our street was "Roanoke".
But everyone in Ripon was kind, courteous and welcoming, and after several years without violence or warfare, the housing developers breathed a great sigh of relief and then began building homes for the entire population of the Bay Area. Right across the street from my house.
Aside from the fact that I object to the loss of farmland, this hasn't been a particularly horrible experience for us. But it has been a little surreal. With each new row of homes, our new neighbors have come from increasingly higher income tax brackets. The most recent additions to the neighborhood drive cars that cost more than our house did when it was brand new, which is a little weird. But not as weird as the real estate agents.
The scent of escrow and commissions large enough to rival Kofi Annan's kickbacks seem to have sent realtors into a feeding frenzy. They've gone from fighting over the people buying and selling to fighting over the people who might one day have fleeting contact with someone on another planet in an alternate reality who once saw someone talk about buying or selling a house. Heck, they're even fighting over us.
Real estate agents send us mail. They stick stuff on our car. They decorate our lawn with strange, un-asked for, cheap plastic pieces of art. They leave little presents and flyers on our doorstep. They also do the thing I hate the most: come to the door to try to talk to us.
I don't like uninvited people coming on my property, whether it's to talk to me or leave me advertisements. That's why I have a mailbox. I've heard too many stories of people answering the doors for Girl Scouts only to be forcibly sold vacuum cleaners by Mongolian hordes-men hidden unseen in the shadows. That's not going to happen to me, by God.
So when people come to our door, I like to stand several feet back and watch the collective 170 lbs worth of household dogs thunder and slobber against the glass. From that vantage point, I peer at the uninvited person with a mixture of polite suspicion and incredulity. ("Why are you disturbing this peaceful house?") When they try to say something, I squint at them with a combination of faint pity and surprise. ("Are you still here?") Then I shake my head with the same regretful, polite expression ("Pray, good sir, are you mentally feeble, or just bad at taking hints?") and gently wave goodbye.
I saw an Animal Planet low-on-facts, high-on-attention-deficit special about crocodiles recently. One of the "educational" clips showed tour boat operators dangling gobbets of meat from long poles, enticing the crocs to leap straight up out of the water to catch the treat.
Two thoughts occurred to me. First, I bet people who have to sail that river on smaller boats are reeeally grateful those tour guides have taught the crocodiles that jumping eight feet straight up when they see a boat with people on it will get them raw meat. Second, I realized our dogs look just like that when they're leaping up to slam against the glass. Same number of teeth and everything. Which led to me an obvious solution.
I'm going to save the real estate flyers from my front porch and send them to those African tour-boats with a request to teach crocodiles to jump out of the river and eat those. Then I'll import some well-trained crocs for my front yard. Go on. Reach your arm past my shrubs to drop a brightly colored advertisement. If that commission is worth inconveniencing me, surely it's worth inconveniencing you.
Comments and real-estate ads to Alex.Queen@gmail.com.
This article first appeared in the January 9th, 2005 issue of the Manteca (Calif.) Bulletin.
The Piker Press moderates all comments.
Click here for the commenting policy.