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Jewish World Review Sept. 10, 2004 / 24 Elul, 5764

Tom Purcell

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Consumer Reports

On ownership, misery and a better America | President Bush is promoting an ownership society, which is a great idea. If more people owned things they'd be as miserable as I am, and America would be a better place.

I had my first taste of ownership nine years ago after buying a country house that made Herman Munster's place look like a Kerry estate. Renovating it was awful enough, but all hell really broke loose when we worked on the bathroom.

The bolts that secured the commode to the floor had broken. I raced to the hardware store to buy new bolts. We spent an hour installing them. We slowly lifted the commode into place and fished the bolts through the boltholes. But the bolts were too short!

"Son of a !!" said my father.

"The idiots gave us the wrong bolts!" I said.

I raced back to the hardware store. We toiled another hour and the new bolts worked. But a second problem occurred: the wax goop that seals the commode to the sewage pipe wasn't thick enough.

"Son of a !!" said my father.

"The idiots gave us the wrong goop!" I said.

I raced back to the hardware store. Our third attempt succeeded. With the commode secured and sealed, we proceeded to a higher level of suffering: reattaching the water fittings.

Water fittings are designed to not fit. After several attempts to make them fit, we stripped the threads. This resulted in a leak that made Niagara Falls look like lap pool.

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After several hours of misery, my father and I completed the bathroom. I thought then that the worst of ownership was behind me, unaware it was just getting warmed up.

One day, while weeding the planter, I was attacked by ground bees. Someone told me the solution was to pour a cup of gasoline into the bee hole, then light it. I poured two cups for good measure. I wisely moved the 2.5-gallon gasoline canister 10 feet away, then lit a match. It was then that I learned an important lesson about gasoline.

Gasoline is a fluid. Gasoline doesn't burn. Gasoline fumes burn. They burn because they are FLAMMABLE. And they burn especially well when you create a massive carburetor in a dirt hole in your planter.

As I neared the hole, I heard a giant "WOOOOF," the sound gasoline fumes make when they explode. A 15-foot flame shot up the side of my freshly painted house. But I was more concerned about the flame that was now coming out of the air hole on the top of the 2.5-gallon gasoline canister I wisely sat 10 feet from the bee hole.

I grabbed the giant Molotov cocktail and launched it as far away from the house as I could, causing an explosion that would fill an Al Qaeda trainee with envy. It took me an hour to douse all the flames and keep the neighborhood from burning down. And yet the misery of ownership was just getting started with me.

Since then my fortunes have improved, allowing me to buy stocks that are now worth much less than I paid for them. I own my own health insurance, too, which is rising in cost faster than the flames that nearly torched my house.

And I've become a landlord, one of the most pleasurable aspects of ownership a man can know (don't ask about that little problem with the septic system or the other repairs I make while my tenants, Democrats surely, relax in the lap of luxury).

So Bush is right. We need more ownership in America. This will make America much grumpier, thus much more likely to vote Republican. We'll demand simpler and lower taxes and other common-sense reforms. The economy will boom. Everything we own will grove in value.

Then we can sell it all at great profit, retire and become Democrats, and finally start to enjoy life for once while everyone else takes care of us.

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© 2004 Tom Purcell