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Jane Austen, Amongst The Trash

Conversations from a Weekend of House-hunting

In the Weird Neighborhood, with my sister
When we pulled up, a car was parked out front with a bumper sticker that read, “I’d rather be reading Jane Austen.”  I have a canvas tote stamped with that exact phrase. I thought that was a sign from God.
Inside there were no visible roaches, unlike the property we had just visited.
“I really like this place.”
“You cannot live here.”
“It’s super-cute.”
“Did you look out the window?  Your neighbor throws his trash out the back into the yard.”
I paused.  I wanted to think of a good explanation that would justify this.
She shook her head.
Hours later, we drove the street again.  I didn’t want to let go.  Jane Austen!
“Yep.  The back yard is their trashcan.”

In the Old Lady Apartment, with my sister
The rooms had been decorated with a ninety-year-old woman’s heirlooms.  Unlike most house-hunters, I squinted and tried to picture the space without the furniture.
“I really like this place.”
“You cannot live here.”
“It’s away from the road.”
“Your shower window looks onto the balconies of all your neighbors.”
Geez, what was it with her and the windows?
I opened my mouth to comment that this would be a good way to make money for the mortgage, but my really nice, kind-of dippy realtor was close by.  I wasn’t sure if she made jokes about Those Things and I didn’t want to give her the Wrong Idea about me.
“Next.”

At Dinner, with my sister and friends
We had started discussing my friend’s brother’s prodigious bowel movements.
I could sense my sister twitching beside me.
“Whenever anyone talks about anything she deems too personal, especially bodily fluids, she starts shrieking ‘BCD!’” I explained.  “Behind closed doors.”
Soon, it was too much for her.  “Eeewww!!  BCD!  BCD!!”
Later, my friend suggested, “Your sister’s catchphrase has me thinking that it would be hilarious if you two started a blog or podcast called ‘BCD: The Hartman Girls After Dark.’”
I imagine it would mostly be me talking and her shutting me down.  As you can see above, though, that’s pretty typical.

In the car, with my friend and the Pee Towel
Slipping into the backseat, I noticed a towel folded neatly on the floor.
“Is this your Pee Towel?” I asked.  “You finally got one?”
The Pee Towel developed its own mythos since a co-worker once suggested keeping one in the car.  “If you’re stuck and you have to go,” she had explained, as if it were the most common sensical notion ever, “you just put the towel between your legs and go!”  It didn’t take long for me to become a Pee Towel enthusiast.
“No, that’s not my Pee Towel, you dumbass!”
Then, her sister told a story that ended with, “And it was awful.  She had to pee into a can!”
I shook my head sadly.  “That’s why you always have the Pee Towel,” I lamented.

In the car, with my friend and the Pee Towel, continued
At a stoplight, a man walked the row of cars with a cardboard sign: “Homeless and Hungry – Please Help.”
He passed by, and what I noticed most was the lettering – nicely formed bubble letters, filled in with gray and outlined with a sharp black.  Add some glitter, and it would look like something my students used to make to accompany school projects.
“Here’s a question: Now, where did he get the markers to do that?”
She looked at me for a beat and then laughed, “You dumbass!”

I’m still wondering about the markers; it’s a totally legitimate question.  Also, which townhouse did the Jane Austen bumper sticker car belong to?  I’m afraid to discover the answer to that one, though.  We all know it’s the trashcan house.

Photo: Old Town Alexandria, December 2012
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