I have long been a fan of The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy and therefore when I found out that Transit New Zealand were extending the Auckland motorway system across the bottom of my street, I double-checked the position of my towel and began to watch for yellow bulldozers.
There was a knock on my door.
"Hello," said one of the people standing there. "We are from Transit New Zealand and we need to purchase 5.18 metres of your front garden in order to widen the road."
"Just a minute," I said and fetched a tape measure.
"Are you aware," I pointed out, "that my entire front garden comprises only 5.2 metres of somewhat crabby grass? After you take your lump away, Ill be able to mow my lawn with nail clippers."
"Ah, yes," they said. "That is true. But think of the benefits! You will have an unparalleled opportunity to observe the world as it races past at 70 kph mere inches from your window. You will be able to see the New Zealand hoon in his natural state protected only by a thin sheet of glass."
"I feel that this is less than desirable," I said.
"How about we buy the whole house instead?" asked the other one.
In order to agree on a fair purchase price for the house, I had to get a valuers report. They too commisioned a valuer and the final price would be based on both reports. The valuers came and measured and inspected. They poked the walls, sucked their breath through clenched teeth, shook their heads (each had two), made copious notes, and charged me $300.
"Before I make my report," said one, "is there anything you want to tell me that I dont know about?" I was somewhat taken aback.
"What dont you know?" I asked.
He shrugged. "I dont know," he said.
"Do you know anything about Java programming?"
"Java is a write once run anywhere programming language that compiles to p-codes rather than native object code," I began.
"I think Id better be going now," he said. "Ive got everything I need. Ill have the report ready in about a week."
Each valuer gave an estimate of a fair price for the house. Unfortunately the two estimates were $20,000 apart. It must be easy to be a valuer. All you need is a built in random number generator.
Transit New Zealand put them together in a locked room and refused to let them out until they compromised. After several days of conflict, one raised his estimate by $13,000 and one lowered his by $7,000. The final result was in my favour, but it still wasnt as much as I would have liked. The alternative, however, was even worse. I accepted the offer.
I intend to move to Wellington where I will live in a quiet street in a quiet suburb a long way away from any hint of a motorway. Doubtless my house will then fall victim to a passing earthquake instead.