Notes of a nice woman’s son

For the past couple of months I’ve been wondering just how to communicate about the Liar House to the next people who move in here, without alerting the maintenance staff. Sitting atop the downstairs medicine cabinet? Might not ever be found, period. Inside the chimney flue? Would just go up in flames, or fall out if (and this is a big IF) the college attempts to clean the chimney before the next occupants are here. Kitchen drawers will of course be opened, leaving it in the freezer might result in it being unreadable or overly brittle with frost, and of course pinning it to a wall somewhere does not count as subtle. So for the purposes of telling the universe what anyone needs to know should they attempt to occupy these premises for any significant amount of time, I’ll just lay it out here in the nicest way I can imagine.

Welcome, Tenants!

If you are reading this, you have been granted a visiting or tenure-track professorship at the college. Tenure-track professors, congratulations! Enjoy the next six years toward tenure as you acclimate to campus and try to find a modicum of time to work on your research, because remember the school has an open-door policy and our students are very involved! Visiting professors, know that the administration appreciates your hard work and they expect you to be dedicated for the one or two years they’re willing to employ you. Enjoy your time here!

Now then, about this house. This lovely Cape Cod structure was originally built on 2×3 hardwood, and isn’t it great that they’ve kept it intact for the most part? Don’t worry about that bulging wall on the stairwell to the second floor—if you don’t bother it, we’re sure it won’t bother you! On your first walkthrough of the property, be sure to check out the small hand print in concrete next to the garage; little Helen is now 82 years old and still likes to stop by from time to time, so don’t be surprised if you receive a visit from her! But Helen doesn’t have the only lasting touch around the house. Up in the back bedroom you’ll notice the ceiling plaster is well, plastered with doodles from another young girl named Paula! Paula clearly had an affection for California, and the Olympics! Paula also left several lovely games of Tic Tac Toe on the ceiling for visitors to ponder. That Paula!

Yes, this house has a lot of history. You can see some of it in the upstairs hallway where not one, not two, not three, but four layers of wallpaper are revealed in the corner, under the peeling oil paint! Washingtonians sure do like to gaze upon their ancestry since Lewis & Clark passed through a little more than 100 years ago. One hundred years! That’s almost mind-boggling!

There are a few things you should know about residing in this house, because homes with this much character have a few special needs. Anything worth doing in life requires effort, right? Right!

  1. The refrigerator emits a thin stream of water down the back, behind the shelves, which slowly pools under the crisper drawers. The college maintenance staff assure all tenants that this is the intended design of the appliance; that’s why it comes with its own flat Gladware container. Be sure to dump out the water on a regular basis, unless you want the refrigerator to self-clean the two feet of floor in front of it. It will do this by overflowing the bottom of the unit and spilling out through the seal of the door. Also note that as the rear of the unit is much colder than the front, your Gladware Capture SystemTM may freeze over. Simply bang the Gladware Capture SystemTM against the sink and release the ice, then return it to its place against the refrigerator wall.
  2. When bathing, be sure to keep the water level lower than the overflow hole near the drain, as there may or may not be a seal to keep the water inside the plumbing system. Water that bypasses a seal will fall directly onto the subfloor, and from there, into your kitchen, anywhere from the electric stove top clear over to the refrigerator and kitchen entrance. Baths with up to 8 inches of water are safe to enjoy. So enjoy your own personal hygiene!
  3. Your unit comes equipped with a fully functioning fireplace and chimney. Do note that during the time you want to relax with a fire, you should shut the heating ducts on either side of the fireplace. Otherwise these ducts will disturb the air flow near the fireplace and you may be subject to clouds of smoke and ash. We have not asked college maintenance about this but we are sure they would respond that this is an intended design feature of the fireplace unit and not anything requiring their attention. They would however prefer you observe a four-foot distance from the fireplace at all times, including placing your furniture outside this boundary, as well as your toddlers and pets. Better safe than burned!
  4. Speaking of the heating ducts, do note that you should only have a maximum of three open at any time in order to heat small spaces optimally. Should your feet get cold, know that you may stand next to the vent in the kitchen, as this is a mere three feet from the top of the boiler in the basement below and always emits pleasant heat.
  5. The garage in your backyard comes equipped with a locking door and garage door that you should feel free to open and close manually. It also has a cat door so that any random rodent can make its home in or near your garage when the summer heat kicks in or when it is very cold in winter. You may also notice several hornet’s nests in the garage eaves; these are normal, but the college will supply you with hornet spray if you request it.
  6. Remember that today’s appliances use more power than in years past, so operating too many items at once, like the microwave and the toaster, may cause a circuit breaker to switch off. This may become quite inconvenient, as there is no apparent circuit box anywhere on the property, and trust us, we have looked high and low for it. Fortunately the house does seem to reset blown fuses automatically. Like about the bubbly wall, we don’t ask too many questions, and you shouldn’t, either!
  7. Conveniently located right outside your kitchen window is the college recycling center. A project of several seniors who graduated many years ago now, it was originally intended to serve the entire Walla Walla community, but they may have bitten off a little too much to chew! Such idealists, those seniors! Now the college aims to serve just the local college community, which it has communicated to the greater city population by writing an announcement on the college email list and via a small sign on the front of the building that when open, no one can see. Do take the time to get to know your local recyclers, who will stop by all day and night with their clattering bottles and plastic. It’s a great way to meet people! Also, when they leave the Union-Bulletin in stacks to blow all over your lawn, know that this is an intended design feature of the college recycling center. We all fare better when we read and support our local newspapers!

Have a great year!

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4 Comments on “Notes of a nice woman’s son”

  1. May 29, 2010 at 10:47 pm #

    This is so dang funny! I do believe the next tenants will love to have such a welcoming little ditty from you.

    Seriously, very nice way to top off my evening – smiling because of my funny Twitter friends!


    • evmaroon
      May 29, 2010 at 11:08 pm #

      Thanks, Kristina! I think we’re ready for the next chapter in our Northwest adventure. Penultimate night in this house now, and then it’s on to our road trip.

      Glad I could make your evening, and I’m sure I’ll be laughing when I read your blog in a couple of minutes!

  2. Todd
    May 30, 2010 at 3:14 pm #

    Ev, as a person who has been lodged in University owned digs for close to ten years now. I’m very familiar with the Intended Design school of facilities maintenance. It is a widely accepted approach. At Penn, however it is supplemented by the “User Culpability” approach. It is wise of them, I think, to vary their form of response in order to minimize any tenant anxiety that might be caused by hearing familiar explanations too frequently.

    I for example labored for years under the misguided notion that something was wrong with our dryer until one skilled craftsman helped me to understand that the problem was that I had tried to dry clothes in it in the middle of winter on the 11th floor of the high rise building where our apartment was located. Looking back, I can hardly believe my foolishness. I actually thought the clothes would be dry after a mere three hours in the machine.


  1. My Funniest from 2010 | Trans/plant/portation - December 31, 2010

    […] a Reason We Called It The Liar House—Our welcome note to the new tenants outlines everything that went wrong with our Walla Walla faculty home. Which was a […]

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