I was up late that Saturday night reading the Sunday Times when I hard an odd snapping noise. Snap-snap-SNAP — the snapping got faster and louder and suddenly burst into what sounded like powerful firecrackers going off. Alarmed, I jumped up, trying to figure out what was happening and where the scary sounds were coming from. They seemed loudest on the window side of the room. As I took a tentative step in that direction, the room exploded in a choking gray cloud as massive plaster chunks peeled away from the 100 year old ceiling, smashed onto my furniture and shelves and lamps and crashed to the floor.
Thick with paster dust, the air was difficult to breath, but the path to the window was blocked with piles of heavy plaster and floorboard debris that had come close, I shakily realized, to smashing me into unattractive bits. I opened the front door, letting the ancient smelling, plaster fog roll into the hall. All was silent out there. Most neighbors were out of town for the weekend. The few remaining had apparently heard nothing.
What to do? It was late, I was tired. Blanketed in plaster dust, my bed was buried under weighty blocks of jagged plaster too heavy for me to clear. Who knew how long it would take for the floating gray haze to settle? Though I had a friend who lived only blocks away, I was not keen on calling her and bunking on a living room couch.
So I did what all apartment renters do — no matter the hour — I called my landlord, who was away at his country place. As a doctor, he’s used to late night calls, but not calls telling him a ceiling in his 100 year old building has come close to mashing a tenant into oblivion.
Playing on that note, I told him I didn’t know what to do. Of course I did know what I wanted to do which was to escape, go to a nearby hotel and camp there till the disaster was cleared. Yes, he said, going to a hotel was a good idea. He would have men there in the morning to start work.
So with his monetary okay, I packed a few things and, in disheveled condition at that ungodly hour, registered at the neighborhood hotel. Not impressed with my middle of the night appearance, the desk clerk assigned me an impossibly tiny room. The bed was smack up against an air conditioner, which gave me the sensation of spending the night with a roaring machine in bed beside me.
The next morning after a brisk chat with a new desk clerk who apologized for the tiny room and my cramped, frozen limbs, I was assigned a new room — a spacious suite no less. And there I stayed for nine nights, enjoying meals served with linen, china and silver coffeepots, courtesy of my landlord
If you yourself are considering buying a 100-year-old house, there’s one thing you can definitely count on. The longer that home has been standing, the more complex and costly the repairs you’ll be facing further down the road.
Would you ever consider buying a house that old?