Everyone’s final list is always different. You know the kind. The one you leave for the house sitter, the dog sitter, the temporary renter you got off Craigslist for the month.
Some items have to do with flaws in the basic construction of the house. Others speak to a certain quirkiness of the place. All are intended to make the move-in experience just a little easier, not to scare.
Take the thermostat in my house. At night, in the dark, when you wake up either freezing from the low arctic air conditioning setting or the schvitzing from the high heat index, the problem is not finding the thermostat. It’s seeing the numbers.
They do not light up. You cannot see a blasted thing. Bad design.
So for immediate relief - because who wants to turn on the lights at that hour or to hunt for a match to strike - I leave a bright yellow flashlight in the back of the couch cushion which sits under the thermostat for a quick check of the numbers.
It stays there permanently.
Then there’s the shelf in my bedroom closet. It’s too high. Maybe Shaq could reach it, but not this girl. And I was around when the carpenter and I decided to put it there.
What was I thinking? When I ask the guy that now he says, “I don’t know. Suitcases?”
To access it I keep a child’s wooden chair in the closet. It’s tricky. It’s dangerous. The chair could tip. I could fall and become another household injury statistic.
But that’s the deal. Unless you have a child visitor who wants to sit on it, the chair stays there permanently.
Then there’s plumbing. It could be better. I never put anything questionable down the drains. Never. Still, they clog. it’s just my karma.
Two commodes help. One backs up, use the other. The bathroom sink drains slowly, too, but it does drain.
Tree roots are another subject. You want to start a business in this town? Get a “snake’ and start cleaning out people’s drains. When you have a town with lot of trees you have a lot of roots which means you have a lot of trouble with your plumbing.
To make things easier I leave a rusty part from some discarded radiator outside where the “snake” should go. Important to remember that and leave the thing-a-ma-gig where it is. It stays there permanently.
Then there’s the garden. Always dangerous to leave it in the summer. But just as dangerous is to leave someone in charge of weeding.
One year I did that and the person, thinking she was doing me a favor, removed all my spiderwort. Not that it - and other well-adapted weeds - can’t find their way back (or survive without water). They can. Still, I missed their morning blue blooms. One person’s weeds are another’s favorite blooms.
Besides, it’s all about soil preparation, right? If my soil is good the plants will survive. When I return from the road, I’m expecting a morass of passion flowers, fruiting banana trees, red-starred cypress vines, plenty of Mexican sunflowers and spent sunflowers, their heads bent over, their stems collapsed from the weight.
Then there are the fireworks - not to be confused with gunshots or the backfiring of cars. To me, all three sound a lot alike, especially before and after a holiday such as the Fourth of July, which is when you want to be especially careful of bullets.
It’s a crazy thing, but during holidays people in this town like to take to the streets and shoot their guns into the air oblivious of where the bullets may land. You can call the police, but they don’t seem to feel it’s dangerous.
But the fireworks. Sometimes it seems as if they go off every other night. They come from Daffin Park, where the Savannah Sand Gnats play.
It’s easier, if you ask me, just to go to the game. Good, cheap entertainment.
Instructions for a house phone are hardly an issue anymore. They’re getting scarce. Most people travel with their own.
For the residence I’m about to house-sit in Pittsburgh, Pa., for a month - just to put my eyes on something outside Savannah - my friend Matt warns me his phone number used to belong to a nursing home. He occasionally gets calls from people looking for their parents, businesses selling hospital equipment or employment agencies asking for references for former employees.
“For the last category,” he emails, “I usually just make stuff up. ‘Oh yeah, I remember him. Good worker. Always on time. Pleasant personality.’”
He also warned about the key situation (“the front door and back door keys require a little finesse”) and the reason for the extra lock (“I added it a few years ago after a second break-in”).
For key emergencies I left Dini Bradley’s name and number. And instructions to visit his shop. That’s a must.
Everything else should go swimmingly. I’ve tried to leave empty surfaces, space in the closet, a minimal of dog hair, wall art, including a Mark Streeter cartoon of me when I left the newspaper, a Bush seed packet of Texas homegrown dope from the Bush League Seed Co., and a handwritten Fishman family tree.
They stay there permanently. ç
E-mail Jane at firstname.lastname@example.org