Inspector Olympics 

How to win handily

How to win handily

Some of my brave and patient friends have gone down to Atlanta for the Olympics. Weeks ago, when they were planning their trip, they talked all dreamily about the prospect of “just being there.”

I admit it freely: I’m painfully jealous of people who can look forward, with great anticipation and joy, to the idea of going to Atlanta when the normal population is increased by a couple of million people, most of whom will be lost, confused and in the way, in July when the weather is hell-hot, and every paranoid-delusional goofball will be trying to make his own personal blot on history by doing ugly deeds within sight of CNN headquarters.

Not my scene. I’ll teleview, thanks.

Still, I can get into the spirit of the thing. We home-inspection boys meet physical challenges every day. Considering that beach volleyball is an Olympic sport now (and there ain’t no beach in Atlanta), and considering that ballroom dancing might well be included in the next Olympiad, I figure some of our specialties are world-class meaningful. Maybe if I get some PR people behind me, I can get Uncle Sam to send me and my able associate Rick to Australia in four years, at no cost to us.

I propose the following events:


♦ The attic joist walk. In temperatures exceeding 120 degrees, the intrepid inspection boys must walk 10 feet on 1 1/2-inch-wide ceiling joists. Kicking insulation out of the way is allowed, as long as they kick it back in place. Tenth-of-a-point deduction for reaching up to grab a rafter for balance. Full-point deduction for stepping through the ceiling. Disqualification and six months in traction for falling all the way through to the floor.

♦ The garage-door vault. We get to practice this one when it’s our job to lock up on the way out. In this event, the inspector has to push the button that lowers the garage door, sprint 12 feet, and duck under the rapidly descending door while simultaneously vaulting over the beam that, if broken, will send the door back up. Two-tenths deduction for tripping the beam and having to start all over. Full-point deduction and an artery-spurting scalp wound if you smack your head on the door. If this one makes it in, make wagers and put all your money on able associate Rick.

Track and Field

♦ Crawl Space Obstacle Course. This event has a reverse time limit. No matter how fast he can move, the inspector has to stay 10 minutes, during which time he must circumnavigate the crawl space of a 2,000-square-foot house. Full-point deduction for crushing a heat-and-air duct. Two-point deduction and a battery of blood tests if you splash through water from a waste-plumbing leak. Three-point deduction and thousand-dollar penalty if you miss a rotten bathroom floor.

♦ Back-to-truck dash. The inspector knocks on the door, a smiling homeowner opens the door a crack, and a Doberman comes charging out. Two-point deduction for each dog bite suffered before you get back to the truck. Hundred-point bonus if you whip out your flashlight and coldcock the dog before he can get a tooth on you. Five-hundred point bonus if you can convince the homeowner that you had no choice in the matter, and that she’s darn lucky if you don’t sue. If this makes it into the Olympics, bet on me to collect both bonuses.

♦ Jacuzzi sprint. In this event, a customer interrupts the inspector while he’s filling the Jacuzzi and asks him to look at something in the living room. The inspector goes willingly and spends 10 minutes explaining that crown molding always separates from the ceiling, because wood expands and contracts, and the customer shouldn’t take it personally. This leads to an impromptu how-to seminar on caulking and painting. Then the inspector remembers what he was doing before he was interrupted, sprints to the bathroom, and turns off the Jacuzzi tub. Five-tenths deduction for an overflow. Disqualification if the Jacuzzi is upstairs and dumps enough water to destroy the ceiling and warp the floorboards below.

Successful and beloved contestants would get endorsement deals from truck companies and flashlight and coverall manufacturers. Small law firms would sponsor. Starting now, I’m training hard.

Walter Jowers can be reached at


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