The Best of Andy Rooney

(This classic Andy Rooney column was originally published Sept. 5, 1990.)

When I go into someone else's house, I'm always pleased that the owners don't know what I'm thinking.

I come in the door, say hello and right away I start making changes. In my mind, I move the furniture around, throw out some stuff, take down some pictures and often paint the walls. Sometimes I wonder how they stand the place. I'm certain the silent insults are mutual when they come to our house.

The fact is, we all like our own place best. It's why all those old sayings about home are true: "Be it ever so humble..." "Home is where the heart is," etc.

I'm suspicious of anyone who likes to travel a lot. Being happy at home is better than being happy anywhere. Kids playing in the back yard sense how good their own home is when they make a treehouse or build a hut in the woods.

Even the homeless make homes for themselves. This morning, walking to the office in New York, I passed three homeless men. It was shortly after 7 a.m. and they were still asleep on the street, but their homeless homes were very individual.

One of these men had folded a huge piece of cardboard that had been the container for a new refrigerator into a peaked roof so the rain would run down the sides onto the sidewalk instead of onto him. Another man had tied a heavy string from the doorknob of an empty building and run it to a heavy wire mesh screen covering a window eight feet away. He'd put several old blankets over the cord and made a half-tent for himself by stretching the bottom of the blankets out from the wall and holding them there with four bricks.

American soldiers are great homemakers. They make nests for themselves wherever they go. A few years back, GIs made homes for themselves in the sand in Saudi Arabia. They dug out underneath their trucks and tanks looking for protection from the sun. They used discarded food and ammo containers and made places to live whenever they were in one position for more than a few days.

There are always long pauses in the action in any war while the commanders decide what to do and before they tell the soldiers or sailors to do it. Invariably, the enlisted men dig in and fix up homes for themselves while they wait. In Normandy, after the D-Day invasion of World War II, the guys hunkered down behind the hedgerows and dug foxholes for themselves as protection against the blast of mortar shells. You'd think that once you'd seen one foxhole you'd seen them all, but it was always a surprise to see what a foxhole looked like after an American soldier had been in it for two or three days. No two were alike.

Some GIs would dig little holes in the sides of the foxhole and store a few goodies they hadn't eaten from their K-rations there. Each man had his own way of covering his foxhole with his poncho when it rained at night. The GIs in the armored divisions made individual homes of their vehicles; their tanks were their palaces. In England, every B-17 or B-24 bomber was a production-line airplane when it was handed over to a crew, but it very shortly came to bear the stamp of the men who flew it. They made it home.

Several years ago, I spent four days on a Navy ship, the USS Guam, off the coast of Beirut. Sailors are special homemakers. Each sailor is assigned a space not much bigger than a coffin, and as a person with a claustrophobic psyche, the idea of spending hours in a space that small, three decks below the waterline, scared me to death. It didn't seem to bother the sailors. They were content in their cocoon-like bunk spaces.

An old house makes the best home because after a house has been lived in for 15 or 20 years, it's got the bugs worked out of it. If the roof leaked, it's been fixed. If there was a plumbing problem, it's been repaired. The worst problems are with new homes. The old ones are slow to fall apart, but the new ones have problems built into them that can only be discovered and worked out over a long period of day-after-day living in them.

The Best of Andy Rooney - Humor & Satire Classics

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