I spent a couple weeks last month in Utah looking at homes to buy. Ultimately, I did end up purchasing one, but the buying part wasn't nearly as interesting as the looking part. I guess normally when somebody is selling a house, they live in it, and they want to sell it, so they kind of try to make it look nice. You know, they vacuum and clean the windows and put foofy things like doilies and flowers and cross-stitches of ewes and babies' bottoms out on the tables.

Actually, I think I would refuse to purchase an otherwise perfect home if it had a cross-stitch of a baby's bottom framed on an end table, for no other reason than I think that's a really weird thing to cross-stitch. Every time you made a stitch, it would be like you were sticking a needle in a baby's tush. Who would do that? Not someone I want to buy a home from. Or play tetherball with.

But I was looking at duplexes that the owners rent out to students. Renters don't really care whether the place looks nice or not. And while normal adult renters might tidy up a bit for the simple reason that they don't want realtors and prospective buyers to leave with a poor impression of the renters' ability to maintain reasonably sanitary living conditions, student renters -- especially male student renters -- evidently harbor no such reservations. They seem to flaunt the filth in which they revel in all its grimy glory.

Bedrooms I visited produced an impenetrable force field composed primarily of that smell that fills a room after a boy has been playing video games in there for weeks straight, pausing only to take periodic 15-minute power naps and wet his pants or soil himself, because if he gets up to use the toilet, he might relinquish his ranking in an online game of Halo to a kid in provincial China who has nothing else to do except hang out on the corner with his comrades and wait for Shanghai's suburban sprawl to arrive. In one house, I was fascinated by a large mound of dead ants in the doorway to an inhabited bedroom. Some kid seriously stepped over this mound of ants every time he entered or exited his room. That's the kind of guy that would stick a pin in a baby's butt.

I like to hope that I never kept house like that, though I can't in good conscience guarantee that I didn't. I remember that my freshman dorm that I shared with Thomas, for instance, was painfully small. We only had like three or four drawers between us, so we kept our clothes all over the floor. It was practical, as opposed to Neanderthal-ish. Each of us had a small desk too, but I never used it to study because it was covered with empty Minute Maid orange juice bottles. Every night I'd wake up at 2 or 2:30 and need orange juice, so I'd ride the elevator to the basement, buy a bottle, drink it on the way back up the elevator, and deposit the empty container on my desk before returning to slumber.

Nevertheless, I don't think the place smelled all that bad. Girls who visited never really mentioned anything about bad smells. True, they rarely came back for a second visit, but that probably had more to do with the fact that we rarely actually talked to them because we were usually playing RC Pro-Am on the Nintendo in the corner.

I ended up buying a house rented out to females. They tend to keep the dead ants picked up -- or at least nicely arranged in flower designs away from eating areas -- and generally keep their rooms in order. One room in the house I purchased, however, had bras draped all over the furniture, which was somewhat surprising to both me and the realtor. He blushed and mumbled something about the ceiling in the room being particularly ornate, and we quickly moved on. And, for the record, the bras had no bearing one way or the other in our decision to purchase the house, nor are they included in the purchase price.