Hi! It's R. Eric Thomas. From the internet?
Okay, hello, before we get down to business I need to let you know the very good news that I've written another book of essays and it has a cover and that cover is great and it comes out in August. I think you're going to love it. Also, my publisher just called and they said that if everyone in America doesn't pre-order the book they're going to make me walk around Times Square wearing one of those bootleg Sesame Street costumes, which is a weird thing but apparently it's in my contract? Who knows! Anyway, good luck to me!
Here's the cover!
Now, down to business.
One evening this week, around 5 pm, I was sitting in our living room hunched over my laptop because I refuse to sit at any of the surfaces that are actual laptop height. Bam-bam-bam, came a knock at the door, which usually means a delivery of some kind. These new delivery people are stealth, honey. Ninjas. Every time we get a package, there's the cacophony at the door and then by the time I get down to open it, nothing. An empty street and a lone box containing, like, one cell phone charger cable. Fascinating. Magic!
I opened the door and instead of a mysterious package appearing, seemingly, from nowhere, I discovered a man holding a tool box and a clipboard. He seemed very surprised to see me, which I thought was odd because he had just knocked on the door. He was like "Oh, I didn't think anyone was home!" And I was like, "What did you think was going to happen when you knocked?"
He explained that he'd been sent my our rental company to do a lead paint inspection and that they'd given him the lockbox code. I was like, "Well, I'm glad you knocked despite thinking that it would serve absolutely no purpose, because if you'd just strolled into my house we'd be going to fisticuffs right now, my good man." We don't even have a vestibule; you come in through the front door and you are in the mix! Can you imagine!
He showed me a paper that had my address on it and knew the name of the rental company and seemed unfazed by the fact that I had no knowledge that a lead inspector was coming and was possibly going to let himself in and make a sandwich at the kitchen counter. I felt a bit weird about the whole thing but the rental office was closed and I couldn't figure out what kind of scam involved knowing the name of the rental office and knocking and making fake documents from a lead inspection company, so I let him in.
I will admit, there was a moment when he set his toolbox down on the dining room table and opened it when I was like, "Oh no, this is the beginning of some future true crime podcast". But inside the toolbox, he just had small ziploc bags and alcohol wipes, which he used to swab portions of our window sills--this is apparently how you test for lead paint. I know this because I googled it while I was sitting on the sofa, watching a man go around and drag a little cloth across our various surfaces like he was a judge on a reality show called Surprise! Is Your House Clean Enough?!
I was in the middle of a text conversation with my friend Kyle so I messaged him "LOL a strange man came to the door and is swabbing the windows?" And Kyle was like "What if he's casing the joint?" Which is a thought I have all the time about everyone, including our friends, but hadn't fully processed about this particular scenario. So then I began to panic that I'd let in a hamburglar and I felt very foolish about the whole thing. But I was very confused about how you case a place using the excuse that you need to quickly wipe the front windowsill and one windowsill in every bedroom. He was so efficient! Is this how burglars work? I don't know; I buy my own burgers!
He left shortly thereafter, which was great because it gave me hours to sit and spiral. He'd only been in the bedroom, the office and the living room but maybe that's all he needed for his burgling! Maybe he'd been sent from a rival publisher to steal an advance copy of my book (now available for preorder!). Anything was possible. I started looking around my house, figuring out what I'd exposed to thievery. I thought, Okay, what will he come back and steal in the middle of the night? You ever evaluate your house from the perspective of a potential burglar? It's humbling! I was like "Eric, this man is really going to come back and break into your home to steal these Snapfish Christmas cards from your family, a signed copy of Colson Whitehead's second novel, and a Kitchen Aid stand mixer?" I like our stuff, but if you're looking to fence something, you're going to come up a little dry! How much does a bedframe purchased on clearance from West Elm go for these days?
He hadn't even been in a room where our TV was, so really all he saw was a bunch of plants, a wall of books, and two reasonably priced couches from Article. Can you imagine a team of elite hamburglars showing up to my house in the middle of the night to slowly and methodically steal our succulents?
Nevertheless, I was convinced that I'd ruined our lives. When David came home I said "No time to talk! We're actively being burgled!" That night I set up what can only be described as a Home Alone-style system of booby traps all over the house. I programmed the lights to come on at random moments in the might, I set up things to go boom and crash if the doors opened, I dressed a mannequin like me (extremely handsome) and propped him up in the corner reading Colson Whitehead's second novel. And then I sat awake all night, ready to go to war with the stand mixer bandits.
Of course, the next morning we remained unburgled. I called the rental company and after a circuitous number of connections, I reached someone who had actually authorized the lead paint inspection. He was a real person! She apologized profusely, telling me that she thought the property was unoccupied, which is why they gave him the lockbox code and sent himm careening into my life. I thought it was odd that they were under the impression this house is unoccupied considering how much money we pay them every month for the privilege of growing plants and storing books. You want to talk about robbery? The rent is robbery!
Anyway, we don't have lead paint. But what a way to find out.
Let's hang out!
February 7, 2023 - Hosting The Moth StorySlam at World Cafe Live Philadelphia
March 3rd-March 25, 2023 - World premiere of my play NIGHTBIRD at Austin Playhouse, Austin, TX
March 23-April 23, 2023 - Williamston Theater production of my play MRS. HARRISON
Random thing on the internet
From Michelle Yeoh's Instagram: Michelle Yeoh holding a photo of Jamie Lee Curtis going bananas after Michelle Yeoh won her very deserved Golden Globe. Icons supporting icons who are supporting icons!!!
What did you think was going to happen when you knocked?,