When I placed an advert for a lodger I really did expect potential tenants to want to come and see the room.
But of course, things have moved on. My theory about human beings is that they are evolving into emoticons. A lot of people now go into seismic avoidance when you try to get them to manifest themselves in 3D format.
I placed the ad on one of those spare-room websites and within minutes I was deluged by deeply earnest CVs from users with smiling headshot photos.
Firstly, these talking heads wanted to make clear that my newly renovated house looked stunning and they would absolutely love to live there. They then embarked on an account of their life and times.
They told me about their hopes and dreams, their ambitions for the future, what they had achieved so far, including any voluntary work, and how they saw their life panning out as they moved forward in their quest for inner fulfilment.
They told me their personal characteristics: neatness, quietness, respectfulness, thoughtfulness and so on. Personal manifestos led seamlessly to professional resumés, and in one case a lady told me about the inner workings of her job at the council’s child and family services.
Another told me about her career in ‘resilience’. (I always get mixed up between ‘resilience’ and ‘compliance’. I have a feeling ‘resilience’ is pretending we can survive the end of days and ‘compliance’ is fannying about with EU red tape.)
Someone from a housing authority messaged to say she had a client who was ideal for the room and who was ‘a quiet and humble man looking for somewhere to restart his life’. By which I presume she meant he was a psychopath fresh out of prison.
After the job and character expositions, they told me about their hobbies: swimming, tennis, walking, music, weightlifting.
In the case of the psychopath: ‘He is socialable [sic] but would spend most of his time in his own private space in the house.’ Sticking newspaper clippings to the walls, no doubt. ‘He loves dogs, which is a bonus.’ I bet he does. Loves them with ketchup, probably.
And then the last line before they signed off, almost without exception was: ‘Have a great day!’
The one thing I regard as an impertinence too far is having someone tell me what sort of day to have.
I’ll have the day I see fit to have and I’ll thank you not to assume that greatness is open to me as an option.
My day is going to involve glossing skirting boards, attempting to buy carpet with two credit cards or even three, and phoning the bank to beg them not to charge me £5 a day if I go slightly over my super-scary overdraft into the emergency borrowing section of the financial underworld that is my current account.
So why don’t you have a great day, and leave me alone to have the sort of day I’m perfectly used to having.
Honestly, I was only expecting these people to say: ‘Can I come and see the room please?’
Nevertheless, I decided to swallow my bitter and twisted resentments and take it all in the right spirit. I replied in each case saying it was great they liked the photos of the house as I had been painting for weeks to get the place finished, and would they like to come and have a look? Not a bit of it.
Days passed until the next message, which would reveal itself to be a list of questions. For example, could I send them more photos? More than the 15 I’ve already posted? Would it not be more helpful if they came to see the room? I suggested any evening after 6 p.m.
More days would go past and then a message saying yes, they would love to see the room one evening after 6 p.m. End of message. I would ask which evening. And then silence would prevail.
Consequently, I have had my ad online for a month and only one person has made it through the door. He was a young, affable South African who loved the house in all its quirkiness and didn’t think it mattered that the carpet wasn’t down. I offered him the room on the spot, mainly on the basis that he existed.
Oh dear, he said. He would have loved to move in, but it was too far from the local golf course where he worked.
‘You mean the one over there? The one that’s five minutes’ drive away?’ ‘Yes,’ he said. ‘I haven’t got a car, you see.’
‘I’ll throw in a bike,’ I said, pointing to the beaten up old thing propped against the garden wall. Please, I wanted to beg him, please don’t leave.