McKeithan Column

Published 4:53 am Friday, February 8, 2008

By Staff
Some things are best left to professionals
Laziness is not a factor
What hangs around the house all day with no clear purpose? (Hint: “teenagers,” is not the correct answer.) “Rain gutters” is the appropriate reply for this discussion.
I conservatively estimate that my house has about two million linear feet of “guttering.” Cleaning out those suckers is a chore, and to what end? My house is surrounded by 40-foot pines that drop pine needles, year-round. We enjoy unfettered, free-flowing rainwater in the gutters only two weeks a year. The rest of the time they are as clogged as a sumo wrestler’s colon.
I have an unnecessary dilemma right now. Should I clean the gutters myself, or hire someone to do them? Government statistics show (and they don’t lie) that gutter cleaning ranks third in causes of death among goobers, just behind exercise and a healthy diet. Climbing a ladder with a leaf blower is dangerous business, best left to the experts.
Philosophers through the ages have long been puzzled by the “gutter paradox.” On one hand, you can grasp them, desperately, as you begin the fall from your roof. On the other hand; without gutters, you’ve got no business on the darn roof anyway. Are they friend, or foe?
I know what you and my wife are thinking: “aw, he’s just lazy.” You would only be half right. I can’t — in good conscience — perform duties around the house that someone is in the business of doing. It wouldn’t be right to deprive local, small business owners the opportunity to ply their trade. Would it?
Because many of these businesses advertise in the WDN, I feel an obligation to trade with them. Besides, I’m not a trained electrician or carpenter. I can’t be expected to repair the fence on the back forty, or to rewire my house. On a similar level, should I be expected to mow the lawn, change toilet rolls or replace light bulbs? I think not.
Speaking of light bulbs, I have a joke for you (other alternate endings appear at the end of the column):
Q: How many county commissioners does it take to change a light bulb?
A: All of them, because nothing ever changes in Beaufort County. (Reader submission)
Now, back to the movie …
I conducted a very scientific study recently. I determined through phone surveys, double-blind experiments, fancy ciphering and two minutes of riding around my ’hood that two-thirds of the homes are gutter-less.
Now, before you write or call; I am aware of the arguments for gutters. Supposedly, they eliminate “moisture and foundation problems.” Does this mean that two-of-every-three houses in my neighborhood are sinking? I’m aghast! Sound the alarm — lives are at stake!
I can understand the need for these contraptions if a house is built on a landfill, quicksand or sugar. Otherwise, I think nature has a way of handling moisture in the ground. The technical description is, “water goes into the ground.”
Are the bells ringing in your head? Are you developing gutter conspiracy theories as I write this? Do you — as I — suspect there is a secret alliance among orthopedic surgeons, ladder manufacturers, insurance companies and the gutter-industrial complex to take over the world, one naked house eave at a time? Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?
Are gutter cleaners involved? I say, no — they’re the good guys. Here’s why …
Annual costs comparison of professional cleaning versus do-it-yourself-ing:
My way: $75 for ladder; $5,000 hospital bill (my deductible): $5,075 total.
Professional gutter cleaner: $500 total — a savings of $4,575 per year. Consider this; if I hire someone to clean them weekly, I’ll save over $200,000 yearly. Imagine how my nest egg will grow if I yank the (darn) things down!
I can hear Robin Leach now, “The McKeithan fortune began amassing in 2008 when he yanked his (darn) gutters down!”
(This is where you say, “Why don’t you just buy gutter covers? They’ll keep the pine straw out and aren’t too expensive.” I say, “Be quiet and mind your own business. You’re ruining my column.”)
The next time I’m looking for a new home — and based on recent behavior, I may not have a choice soon — here’s how the conversation with my real estate agent might go:
Let’s be real. I’ll bet you have never made a house buying decision based on the “gutter situation.” So — are they really that necessary? I’m just asking.
Let me leave you with an offer you can’t refuse: I will give you an unlimited supply of very clean, rainwater-rinsed pine straw. All you must do is remove it from my “pine straw catchers.” (Shoot, I’ll even throw in a lawn mower.)
My good friend Karyn (Currin) Styers called to demand a clarification. She should have been included in last week’s explanation of how I met my wife. If it weren’t for Karyn’s matchmaking abilities, and love for us both, Robin might have married someone else. Karyn deserves a big THANK YOU from me, and owes a huge apology to Robin. (Karyn, bless her heart, is married to Frank “Fred” Styers of Farmville — he’s a piece of work.)
Here are some (probably lame) alternate joke endings as promised above. Q: How many county commissioners does it take to replace a light bulb?
A: Seven. Six to debate which way to turn it, one to blame the Sheriff.
A: Seven. Five to do the work, two to say, “We’re better off in the dark.”
A: None. They’ll ask Paul Spruill to see if other counties replace light bulbs.
A: Seven. Five to hire someone to do it, two to say, “Show me your green card!”
Ray McKeithan is associate publisher of the Washington Daily News. If you have any questions or comments about column topics or content and operations at the WDN, please send an email to: or call 252-940-4205.