By Lane Sherman, Contributing Columnist
For many years we lived in a tract home in Orange County. We had a homeowners association and a swimming pool, but it was not a gated community. When we chose our newly built home we got a pamphlet that showed the floor plans and elevations of the six models.
Therefore, I knew the layouts of each home well. That booklet was important when our small city decided to have a census of the number of rooms in the town. For what reason they were counting rooms I don’t remember.
At the instructional meeting of the census enumerators we were taught what to count as a room and what not. The real problem was when one room blended into another. For instance — in our home, the kitchen had steps and a railing that abutted the family room. Was that to be counted as one room or two? I don’t remember the answer. Therefore, I knew after consulting the booklet showing the floor plans how many rooms were in each home if there had been no structural changes from the contractor’s designs.
As I knocked on each front door, I had to ask one question after an introduction, “Have there been any ‘structural’ changes in this house?” It was really quite easy to ring several hundred doorbells — there were 1,500 homes in the tract — and I was responsible for interviewing most of the homes. “Easy” is one thing. “Monotony” is something else. So as I approached the last row of homes in my responsibility I began to recall the Edgar Alan Poe Poem, “The Raven.” I didn’t remember the whole poem, but I kept saying to myself, “Knock knock knock on my cellar door…. quote the raven evermore.”
I rang the bell of the next home on my list and waited for the resident to open the door. When he came I introduced myself as a neighbor and started to ask my “structural” question. The resident asked me to wait a moment as he had to take care of something. He left the front door open and I heard him talking to someone. Lo and behold, I also heard a bird screeching.
Was I really hearing a bird or was my mind stuck in Poe’s poem? In a few moments the resident returned to the door; and I heard some more screeching. “O,” said the homeowner, “That’s my raven.” I thanked him for his time; immediately returned my materials to the census office, and tried to clear my head of the raven — at that time and for evermore.