It was a present from the cousins who always took pride in bringing the most unusual gifts. A black snake, fierce and threatening with ruby red shiny eyes, the kind of nasty predator that’s jumps on you for no reason… except this specimen is a plastic toy. After a bunch of good laughs the Chinese-born reptile ended up in the bathroom. There it lay quietly for almost twenty years…
In spite of all its charms the house has been listed on the market for several months, victim of the real estate bust. Today the family is going out to see the end-of-year school play. The phone rings as they stepped out the door: their agent Lisa wants to bring some clients for a last-minute showing. “Great!” says Steve. “For once we won’t have to hide in the garage*.”
Lisa is a perfectionist: she shows up at the house well before the appointment to inspect the place and tidy it up. She straightens the bed linen, puffs up the pillows and opens all the curtains to let more sunshine in. She opens the bathroom door, sees the snake, lets out a scream worthy of a horror movie actress, and slams the door shut. She calls Steve but of course both parents turned the cell phones off during their kids’ play. Crap! She calls her husband: he’ll know what to do. Ten minutes later John comes in, armed with a shovel. He opens the bathroom door delicately, takes one cautious look… and closes the door gently, not wanting to disturb the wild animal. He turns back to his wife, pensive, holding the shovel with one hand and scratching his chin with the other:
- “It’s right next to the toilet. If I hit it I might damage something. Is that OK?”
- “Of course it’s not OK!” she snaps furiously. “How am I going to sell this goddam place if you smash the toilet seat with your stupid shovel?”
Lisa calls the animal control services and stays on hold for fifteen minutes before hanging up. The buyers are to arrive in the next twenty minutes. She paces the kitchen like a caged animal. “Think! Who could get rid of this fucking snake?” Her eyes stop on a post-it note stuck on the fridge: the cleaning lady’s contact details. She may have dealt with a situation like this before… it’s worth a shot.
- “Hello, my name is Lisa. I’m Steve’s real estate agent. I’m at their house and there’s a snake in the bathroom. Can you come over right now and get rid of it?”
- “Don’t you understand? It’s an emergency!”
- “Wait a minute. You said the snake was in the bathroom… does it happen to be next to the toilet by any chance?”
- “Yes. At least that’s where it was when I looked a few minutes ago.”
- “I don’t think it’s gonna move much. It’s a plastic toy.”
The girl laughs her heart out but Lisa already hung up.
After the play Steve checks his cell phone; there’s a message from Lisa. He crosses his fingers and prays: hopefully he’ll get an offer this time. “Steve, this is Lisa. I just wanted to ask you how anyone could be STUPID enough to have a fake snake in their bathroom, especially when they are trying to sell the house.” He puts his cell phone back in his pocket and wonders how anyone could be stupid enough to believe it was a real snake.
PS: Thank you Steve for sharing your story that inspired me to write this text.
*Note for non-Americans: it is common practice in the US for homeowners to leave their house while potential buyers visit it – so they can imagine themselves living in the place instead of considering it as someone else’s home.