The Subterraneans

BasementI got a good laugh or two today with a client/customer whom I became acquainted with about five years ago. As with all of us, he has his quirks, and one of his laughable quirks is how he is so much all about basements. Basements to him go much farther than the idea of creating a “man cave” where it becomes and escape from the upstairs/outside world. He really and truly has a thing about basements and it was quite evident when I looked at a home that he’d been working on about six months ago. The main floor appeared clean but there were a number of finishing touches that I would have completed yet he seemed to dismiss them until I made them known to him. I know he thought as though I was expecting more than what the average person would demand as far as condition. When I walked down to the basement I was absolutely astounded by the meticulous details he had performed in that completely unfinished basement. To my surprise he had not only painted the floor with an epoxy coating, but he also went on and cleaned and painted the walls, the floor joists, the sub-flooring, and likely every visible square inch of the area. I asked him why he spent so much time down there and his non-nonchalant answer was, “I really like basements that are tricked out.” I teasingly scolded him for spending too much time and money in an unfinished and likely rarely used area. Today, I had an opportunity to tease him again about his obsession with basements.

Being on the subject with him today caused me to start remembering many others whom I’ve encountered over the years with similar traits. When I was very young, I was taken along with my parents to visit a relative’s home that I’d never seen before. I couldn’t seem to understand why they had a kitchen, a bathroom, and a large living area down there. We didn’t even go upstairs while we were there because the visit started and ended in the basement. I asked my mother why they were in the basement all the time and she said it was because they didn’t want to get the main floor soiled so they only went upstairs to sleep and likely to dust once a week. I guess the idea of basement dwelling started longer ago than the advent of the man cave. Over the years, I’ve sold homes that you can tell that the basement was likely the most lived in area of the house once you descend to the lower level. I’ll never forget a home that I sold about 20 years ago where the husband and wife along with the wife’s father lived on the main floor, and two grown sons from a previous marriage of the husband lived in the basement. It was an interesting arrangement to say the least. The wife never when to the basement and the sons never went upstairs other than up the steps to the back entry and outside. Whenever I showed the home I felt as though I was showing two separate dwellings—even the air seemed different. I did finally sell the home and everyone was happy. Believe me, I have had my share of experiences with the Subterraneans living in North Iowa. You’ll know when you’re in one of their houses when you have to stop and remember on which level you are standing.

Joe Chodur

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