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Help Us, Larry David

January 6, 2009

 

Larry David
Larry David and Cheryl

Home ownership is not what it’s cracked up to be. Values have gone down while property taxes have risen. Adjustable rate mortgages ballooned, forcing those who couldn’t afford the payments, out of their homes.

            The rest of us paying our monthly mortgages face different headaches.

            Exhibit 1: Imagine waking up on a beautiful Thanksgiving morning  at 6:30 in the morning, the sun shining, prepared for another Detroit Lion loss, and a turkey dinner after the game with your son home from Chicago, daughter home from college, and the parents and in-laws coming over. You walk downstairs, thankful for a day off work, as a whiff of something pungent hits your nostrils.

            Like a scene in a horror movie in which the protagonist slowly walks into a room to discover blood and bodies strewn everywhere, you look down to find brown piles of dog poop scattered throughout the family room carpet. Some are large, some are just a few dabs of brown mixed with blood, a few are wedged against the wall, and many are in a trail in the middle of the room. You scream inside like the face in the Edvard Munch painting and run upstairs to wake your wife. “Honey, the dogs destroyed the family room. By the way, happy thanksgiving!”

            Your wife, wanting to wake early to start heating up her brisket, turkey, stuffing, green beans, potatoes, matzo ball soup, kishka, mixed vegetables, and other delicacies for Thanksgiving, is not very delighted to be woken up with such a shrill message of thanks. “Can’t you clean it up?” she responds. “Do you always need to call me when there’s an emergency?”

            If you can imagine it so far, listen to the rest of the story.

            Either Esther or Chauncey, our two small Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, helped blitzkrieg our homey family room. We used a two liter bottle of vinegar mixed with cold water and placed a strategic spritz in dozens of locations over the floor, covered by rags but this didn’t work so well. The smell was still nauseating and the spots stayed brown and both families were coming over to eat in a few hours. We called our normal carpet cleaning company but the message stated they only did emergency water extraction, not emergency carpet cleaning. Judy looked on the Internet to find someone right in our city who specialized in emergency carpet cleaning. I called and found out from a woman phone answerer that she had a man who could do it but it had to be cash and the price was steep: $200. It normally cost about $50 for the family room carpet cleaning but as they say, beggars can’t be choosy. I told her I couldn’t get to a bank but I was ready to write them a check for $200 in cash. 

            A few hours later, a big man came to clean the carpet. He was gruff as if we were ruining his holiday or if we were actually one of the Detroit Lions, expecting to lose another football game. As the huge hoses entered our house, ready to suck out the nasty brown messes, he tried to start up the power but nothing was happening. He stayed in his truck, doing something while we waited, and came back to our house in twenty minutes to say he needed to get a part. He took off with the heavy hoses in our house and came back in about 15 minutes. He still couldn’t start the contraption up and said he needed to go to the gas station to get more gas. He didn’t have enough to power up the long vacuum tubes to suck out a little dog crap. Judy and I looked at each other as if we were Cheryl and Larry David, thinking how this was becoming a “Curb Your Enthusiasm” episode. We could only imagine Larry yelling something in frustration and fury and Cheryl saying, “Larry, we have to clean the carpets. I am not having my family come over and walk around in a pile of dog shit.”

            After an hour and a half waiting, he finally got the machines going and spent the next half hour power-vacuuming the carpet. And before he left, the carpets were cleaned. Voila. We could have a Thanksgiving dinner without the look and smell of dogs gone wild. I wrote him a check for $200 and said goodbye.

            The Lions lost, the dinner was delicious, and we were thankful to have our extended family alive and well to enjoy it.

            Less than a month later, my bank statement came and when I got to the check for Cash, the $200 I wrote became $1200 that the man had cashed. I flew upstairs, “Judy, the man with the carpet tubes stole our money!” I felt more like Larry David by the minute.

            I went online to the web banking site, made a copy of the check which clearly showed, “Two hundred dollars and 00/100 cents” on one line and $1200.00 on the top line, and the date it was cashed, signature, and address of the man who got the check. The carpet man had obviously written a number 1 in front of the 200. I went to the bank and the customer service woman told me the teller had screwed up and violated procedures but that I would have to go to the police to file an affidavit. I began to wonder if Larry David’s brother might have been named, “Affa.”

            My wife and I went to the Farmington Hills police department the next day and they said that changing a check was a felony that could bring 15 years in jail. The policeman said that certainly, if convicted, the man wouldn’t serve anywhere near that time. Judy asked why. Doesn’t anyone serve the time they’re supposed to?

            While waiting for justice, we found a puddle under our kitchen sink and assumed that the instant hot water faucet, which was slow to start, was the culprit. We called a plumber but he couldn’t come till after the Christmas weekend when his supplier opened up. We could only guess the price of the job until he came.

            That night, I opened a Chanukah gift I received and brought my new Bose iPod speakers downstairs to the basement to try out. While I sat on the chair, I noticed a small puddle under the chair’s legs. Strange, I thought, I looked to see if I spilled anything but I saw nothing. I got some paper toweling to mop up the mess but when I brought it down, the puddle became a large puddle, spreading to the table and behind. I knew something was wrong but I didn’t know what. After three full rolls of paper toweling, I went upstairs, panicked. “Honey, we have a major problem! Help!”

            Judy came downstairs and asked if the location of the sump pump had water to the top. The lighting was bad but when I used the flashlight, I saw that the water was to the top and the sump pump wasn’t working. The basement flood was starting to spread.

            The crazy Detroit December weather, featuring huge piles of snow and ice over a few weeks, followed by warm weather reaching the 60s and high winds had made a mess of our home as well as so many others. On this Friday night after Christmas, Judy called our normal carpet cleaner because of their water extraction business. The guys said they were all working in the emergency of many floods. She spoke with the head flood man who listened in the middle of two feet of water in another basement but she was able to convince him to find us a plumber who could bring us a new sump pump to reduce the water.

            The flood man couldn’t get anyone to extract water till morning but he was able to find us someone to get a pump to lower the water we already had. The water was rising quickly as Judy and I wore our boots to get as much of our stuff off the floor as possible. We knew we only had a few hours before there would be thousands of dollars of damage. We worked quickly, frustrated by the chaos, and then all we could do was wait for a plumber while the water rose.

            The plumber came almost an hour after midnight and was able to put in a new pump. We were just hoping that the power wouldn’t go out like it had in thousands of houses in the metro area. We got a few hours sleep, only to find out that Judy’s family had lost power the next morning. They said it might be days before their neighborhood transformer could be restored.

            The water had retreated but we had to get the water extractors to come and analyze the contents. Dave the extractor came and said that the carpeting and dry wall could be saved if he acted fast. He had two other men bring six large blue flood dryers and two huge silver heap filters to sanitize the air. They had to leave it all for 3-5 days and they had to move everything we had downstairs in our two rooms off the floors and away from the walls to allow everything to dry. We went downstairs to find paper toweling and couldn’t. Nothing was where it had been. We were lost in the chaos of all of our stuff moved everywhere in completely random fashion.

             Meanwhile, Judy’s mom and dad, sister, and brother, packed up bags of clothes, food, toiletries, and other assorted items and came to live with us. While three men rearranged our basement and set up all the wiring for all of the drying and cleaning apparatus, we had four more people besides our own family of four to take care of. It was like the Brady Bunch supersized.

On the second day, the plumber came to fix the instant hot faucet. He had to pick up the instant hot faucet from his wholesaler and came back to install it. When I arrived to check on him, his huge body was sprawled out on the floor, his uniformed shirt up higher than his navel and his butt cheeks in clear view of everyone. When I asked where Judy and her family was, no one was in sight. They had clearly been traumatized by the view of a plumber with his pants pulled almost off his bottom and his asshole visible to all.

            In last year’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm” 6th Season, the Davids welcomed a black family who had lost their home to stay with them while Larry and Cheryl went through marital problems. In an early episode, Cheryl walked out on Larry, leaving him and the Blacks (the family’s real name) to try to live together. As the season wore on, Larry tried different schemes to get Cheryl to forgive him and give him another chance.

            In our “Curb Your Enthusiasm” episode, which we envisioned day by day as a 30 minute episode, one carpet cleaner comes from nowhere on Thanksgiving to hose us with an extra-long stay to salvage our carpets and leave us a $1000 fraud to clean up. The basement floods, the instant hot faucet explodes, a plumber changes our sump pump in the middle of the night, the water extractor people come to move everything around in our basement, Judy’s family arrives to live with us for three days, the instant hot water plumber comes to give everyone a striptease as he writhes on the ground with the pipes, and we are left to go to the police to try to put a carpet scammer in jail.

            Me (Larry David Goldman): “Cheryl, do you want to keep the old instant hot faucet?”

            Judy (Cheryl David Goldman): Larry, why do we need to keep that?”

            Me: “I thought it might be useful if we need another one.”

            Judy: “Can you just tell your plumber friend to leave already? I need to cook and I can’t cook with his big behind looking up at me.”

            Don the Plumber: “Sorry, Mrs. David Goldman, where do you want these candles with the stars on them to go?”

            Me: “Don’t worry about them. Here, I’ll give you a check for $525 if you leave already. We have salmon to broil tonight.”

            Don the Plumber: “Salmon? I could use the fish oil. I have heart problems. Can I stay for dinner?”

            Me: “Are you insane? You want to stay with this family? Come back with clothes that fit and we’ll think about it…. After thinking about it, the answer is no. Thanks for you help.”

            Later in the episode, the police detective says, “You were really scammed. How does it feel to be taken to the cleaners by a carpet cleaner?”

            Me: “Very funny, you should have been on Seinfeld.”

            Paul the Policeman: “I always thought that I could have been a good guest star on that show.”

            Me: “You, are you kidding? You can’t even put your basic crook in jail. Tell us when you catch him. We’ve got bigger problems dealing with my wife’s family, a basement that has to be reassembled, the insurance people, the sump pump grinding against the basement wall, a hot water faucet, and more sleet and snow coming tonight.”

            Paul the Policeman: “Hey, smart ass, how would you like to spend a night with me in jail? To make it more fun, I’ll pick up Don the Plumber and he can join you.”

            Me: “Sorry, officer, do you want me to be respectful or to treat you the way you really should be treated, like an asshole?”

            That night in jail, Don the Plumber has to go to the only toilet in the cell but it’s broken. He tells me he doesn’t have the tools in his pants and he can’t fix the toilet till he gets out of jail. I yell for Judy, Larry David, my mother-in-law, the insurance agent, anyone who can help get me out of jail and out of this meshugena mess. “Help Us, Larry David,” I scream. “I promise to not make fun of anyone, especially plumbers, policemen, carpet cleaners, or water extractors. I just want to go back to my normal boring life. I want no TV show. Larry, help me get my life back!”

            And out of nowhere, Larry David appears as a carpet cleaner with a huge hose. “I only take checks for cash,” he reiterates. “How about $1200 to get you out of this nightmare?”

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