I keep seeing ads on my iPad and phone for services to clean gutters. Here’s why that’s ironic — and maddening.
In this modern age, when the digital ad gurus know more about us than we know about ourselves, what possesses them to try to sell me on the services mentioned above?
When I was a kid, my parents bought a house that they were proud to call home. The Boston-suburb home’s style was Dutch Colonial. Can you picture that?
Think Amityville Horror.
I’m not suggesting there were any malevolent spirits, but there were vexing presences that made our lives miserable. We had a name for our pain: the gutters.
When the house was built in the 1920s, some genius thought it’d be a great idea to make gutters from wood. So not only did we have the hazardous chore of clearing the leaves out of the gutters every autumn, we also had to deal with perpetually wet and rotting wood. Water leaks were an omnipresent worry. Those damned gutters were in constant need of repair.
I have less-than-fond memories of holding the extension ladder for hours in the cold, on our uneven grade, while Dad scaled the heights to service them. Because the yard wasn’t level, one leg of the ladder had to be propped up with whatever we could find around the house. So in addition to keeping the bottom of the ladder from kicking out, my job was to make sure that both legs remained level on our jury-rigged platform.
Dad was perhaps the bravest man I ever knew; I don’t think I’d trust my safety to a scatterbrained teenaged me. At least back then, there were no iPhones to distract me (but there were daydreams of Jean and Marilyn from English class).
We muddled along like that for years. I grew to hate the fall; there was always some emergency that necessitated ladder-monitoring. I was scarred for life. But then – thankfully — one fateful event represented the final straw for our wooden gutters. And it involved nuts.
Squirrels are industrious little critters that prepare for winter by stowing nuts in cozy nooks. What nook is cozier than inside the walls of a house? Normally those spaces are inaccessible, but thanks to spreading rot from the wooden gutters, a compromised fascia board opened up a whole new world to a furry little friend.
Our uninvited guest was living large inside our walls. He was a thorough explorer, but his fortunes were about to take a turn for the worse when he made his way to the basement.
That’s where he met our pet cat.
“What the hell is that?” we all wondered, upon hearing the screeching commotion coming from the bottom floor.
Running downstairs, we witnessed the life-and-death struggle in progress. Our cat had the rodent cornered, and was taking periodic swipes at it with her double paws. But because she was well-fed, she became bored with the challenge — leaving us to finish the job of expelling the invader.
Soon thereafter, my parents replaced the gutters with space-age aluminum. That didn’t, however, mitigate the need for the annual leaf-cleaning ritual in the fall. That’s when I vowed that this would not be my life.
Before that first infomercial for covered, leafless gutters finished airing, I had my checkbook out and phone in hand. From that day to now, I have not moved, or paid to have moved, as much as one leaf out of some dangerously high waterway.
Do you hear that, leaf-cleaning digital ads?
Now, if they could invent something for leafless lawns …
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Preston Mathis, Newcastle upon Tyne Evening Chronicle