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No pod people 

The trouble with tenants, and how to find them

Excuse the goddamn hell out of me, but I didn't think it was possible to offend pod people. I mean, I thought that was the main benefit of being a big vapid bucket of nothingness with the essence of sugar-free vanilla, because what better way to avoid hurt feelings than by having no feelings at all? And besides, when I blared "NO POD PEOPLE" in the heading of my Craigslist posting, I wasn't announcing my desire to exclude a particular group from responding to my ad for a house for rent, I was actually touting the neighborhood the house was in. It's "a cool, integrated neighborhood," I yodeled, "with lots of young artist types. The opposite of yuppie jog-stroller hell misery. The opposite of a pasteurized latte-sucking flavorless black-hole neighborhood populated by pod people."

See? No pod people, as in "yippee, there's no pod people!" Not no pod people, as in "pod people need not apply." But then some idiot with wet-diaper issues e-mailed me promising to flag my ad as discriminatory, thereby making me answerable to the fair-housing law, and if I don't clean up I'll be liable for blahbity blahbity fucking blah.

Well, pod people, come and get me then, because I'm tired of placing sanitary descriptions of my place only to get e-mails from "Tiffany," who is transferring here from Kansas City, and would like to know if I can pick her and her mother up at the airport to take her on a personal tour. And I'm tired of making appointments to show the place to prospective renters only to stand on the stoop and watch them turn back at the pile of tires on the corner. It's just tires, people! And not only that, but they've been painted pink and made into planters, for chrissakes. Have you no appreciation for art?

So I'm honest with people. It's best for everyone. That way I don't have to waste half my day conducting needless junkets to my intown rental house only to meet dazed, displaced suburbanites who embarrass us both by, as in the case of one single dad, pretending to like the place only to insist that it's his kid who has all the reservations. "I love it and I'd move here in a minute," the guy said, "but little Apple here says it's too far from Bed, Bath & Beyond."

So no "sunny, charming intown bungalow" platitudes in my posting anymore, because evidently that translates into way too many possibilities for people. That kind of talk is a complete blank slate, evidently, as people actually show up expecting to see a vacation cottage complete with serene meadow when it says right there, right next to their damn eyeballs, that the house is six minutes from downtown. Down-goddamn-town, so don't flip like a flapjack the second you hear a helicopter overhead. It's probably not a SWAT team; it's probably just surveillance, which is, you know, a good thing. Probably.

They could probably use more helicopters in Meadow Ridge Crossing or Spring Ridge Meadows or Ridge Meadow Springs or wherever the goddamn hell it is that apron-wearing housewives are increasingly cooking up their crystal meth down in their daylight basements with wood paneling. At least in the city you know what you're getting. I remember I lived in the suburbs for nine regrettable months once, where I fit in like a hobo at Sunday brunch. My neighbors practically converged with torches to run me out of there like Quasimodo being banished to the bell tower.

It's not like I didn't try to fit in, either. I even play tennis, for chrissakes. In fact, I'm freakishly good at tennis, as I was born with a natural talent for thwacking the crap out of balls. So I joined my subdivision's tennis team. They had to let me in because they had no choice, as it's unlawful to discriminate. There was no set roster, just an informal network of games based on invitations from other subdivisions.

After a few games where I showed up in cutoffs and beheaded a few opponents with line drives at the net, I all of a sudden stopped getting invited to play. "What's the matter with you pussies?" I complained at the poolside mixers. They all just gingerly plated their finger foods and turned away. Ha! Don't you see? That's how they get around the appearance of discrimination; they let you join, they just don't let you play.

But that's not to say I wouldn't let one of these cow-eyed pod people rent my house if they wanted to. Seriously, have at it. Who's to say whether the total absence of pod people might be a quality that actually appeals to the odd pod person. At least they'll stand out from the crowd, and if their neighbors don't like them they'll look them right in the eye and say so. There's something to be said about that. They won't ask them to join a damn club and then turn their backs on them. They won't include you to exclude you.

It might do the odd pod person good to break free of the frozen pond and come on over to where neighbors open their front door and let their roiling underbellies right on out into the daylight. They can teach us how to appear not to discriminate and we'll teach them how to make a pink planter out of an abandoned tire. There you have it; perfect harmony -- for nine months, tops, before the villagers start to gather their torches.

Hollis Gillespie is an award-winning humor columnist, NPR commentator, "Tonight Show" guest and author of two acclaimed memoirs, Bleachy-Haired Honky Bitch: Tales from a Bad Neighborhood and Confessions of a Recovering Slut and Other Love Stories. To register for her writing workshops, The Shocking Real-Life Writing Seminar, visit www.hollisgillespie.com.

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