Obviously, anyone’s house can burn down. We all know that by now. And when my attention isn’t directed at counting a drawer full of blackened tube socks or measuring the diameter of a Lazy Susan, I put it toward figuring out some patterns because I majored in anthropology. Anthropologists use patterns in human behavior to tell us who we are. Sometimes the patterns anthropologists ascribe to others are no more than a reflection of themselves. Whatever. The following is a completely unscientific interpretation of three years worth of burned-down-house data in the western part of the United States:

The Homes of Hoarders Burn Down a Lot

About every sixth loss that I am assigned is brimming with junk, or rather, “irreplaceable treasures.” The cause of hoarder home fires is often the stove, but not because of faulty installation or leaving the thing on. Hoarders put themselves in the unique position of piling so much “invaluable” stuff on top of their stove that the weight of the pile turns the oven knob, igniting the burner or turning on the oven—which is packed with a fuel-load of books, pretty boxes and bags, extra ribbon, five umbrellas and a shoe. Other possible explanations for the large number of hoarding fires are failure to fix faulty appliances due to inability to access them and falling asleep with a lit cigarette—which dangles over 15 years worth of “just in case I need them” items.

Hippies and Old People are the Best Victims

Hippies and old people seem to have come to the same conclusion: Life isn’t about material things or getting the grime out from under your nails; it’s about sitting around in comfortable clothes and living in the past.

Rich Single Men are the Worst Victims

Even if a rich single man’s house has burned to the ground and only the chimney remains, his tactic remains the same: He will simultaneously impress and insult you, then ask you out. Here are three things rich single men have said to me while I kneeled before them, blowing off their stuff or rubbing the backs of their equipment in search of a model number:

“I betcha don’t know what this is… it’s a lamp I made out of three deer legs. Shot it myself. Hey, do you eat meat?

“Look at those blue eyes… they look so tired! Too tired for the free one-day pass at my gym I just got you? I’m an elite member, and there’s a great little Italian place next door.”

“Yowza, you’re dirty. Guess I have a lot of stuff. Betcha clean up nice, though.”

Hair Scrunchies are Completely Out of Style

Hair scrunchies have become something of a snow leopard minus the beauty and rescue effort. In three years, I’ve only encountered two hair scrunchies. One was velvet and one may actually have been a black crumpled-up shower cap (I couldn’t reach it). Women seem to be opting for tortoise shell clips, rubber bands and bohemian clips with rooster feathers.

Poor People Have Fewer Spices

There appears to be a direct correlation between income level and spice level. The homes of the wealthy are well stocked with bay leaves, whole nutmeg, green-lidded organic spices from Whole Foods, Jamaican and Moroccan rubs and cute little jars of Herbes de Provence. The spice quantity and quality of the lower incomers are few and red-capped—typically half-a-dozen Lawry’s Spice Blends or McCormick’s. I performed a confirmatory data analysis on the correlation between income level and spice level while stopped on a stretch of the110 freeway that passes through Compton, California. I glanced up and caught a glimpse into a poor person’s kitchen. The cupboard was open (quite possibly the door to it had been sold for drugs), and there appeared to be about five small red-capped things between several economy-sized bags of chips.

People Who are Not Native English Speakers are Easier to Deal With But Their Refrigerators Smell Worse

Those whose country of origin is not the United States are less likely to notice or chide me when my skill level is not as promised by our company. I assume that they assume that I know what I’m talking about since I’m probably using some words that they do not know. However, I do not have words for the smells wafting from their refrigerators. After a fire, every refrigerator is putrid, as the appliance has not had power for weeks or months, but when the owners hail from places where the national cuisine isn’t heavily processed—whoa. Once, I opened a fridge because my curiosity got the best of me (Kimchi? Natto? Strange cure?), and I ended up throwing up on my shoe and some of their magnets.

Nobody Cares About Chickens

Sad but true. Although my sample size is only two households, in the ruins of both abodes, our little friends the chickens were left behind to run around pecking at glass shards and charcoal while their owners adjusted the air conditioning in their rooms at the extended-stay Holiday Inn. My rescue efforts consisted of making clucking noises and trying to herd them into areas of soft ground, then giving up.

Everybody Cares About Cats

Have I seen Sadie? Bunny? Muffin? No, but I’m asked all the time.

Men Measure Distances in Inches;
Women Describe Stuff as “Teal”

Part of my job is sitting weary and devastated people around a cramped table at Starbucks and asking them for the approximate dimensions of former possessions so I can price their replacement costs correctly. Men almost always hold their hands at a certain length and say “Oh, 24 inches by 18 inches,” then put their foreheads down on the table and mutter, “This is ridiculous, what’d I pay insurance for…” Women move their palms back and forth like they’re holding an accordion and say, “What is this? A foot? I don’t know. I can’t believe we have to do this…”

Women, however, are much more sure and specific about color. “The vase was teal,” a woman will assert.

Then her husband will raise his head out of his hand and say, “T-e-a-l?”

“Yes, teal,” his wife will say.

“What, that blue thing?” he’ll ask.

Yoga Mats are Often Found in Close Proximity to a Plant That Needs Watering

When a yoga mat is positively identified, it is almost always within a five-foot radius of a plant that hasn’t been watered in quite some time. This correlation suggests that there is link between one’s spiritual awareness, the consequent ability to put one’s foot over one’s head, and a near total disregard for other living things.

Extra Sauce Packets are Everywhere

Sauce packets are the number one item to be found outside of their expected realm, the kitchen. The most common non-kitchen place to find sauce packets is in purses or backpacks. The second most common place to find them is in sock or underwear drawers. These are just the facts. Also, the most common type of sauce is Taco Bell “Mild.”

People Over the Age of 65
Struggle With the Word “Gigabyte”

Nothing in my schooling prepared me for anything, let alone asking older people how many gigabytes their computers had. An example:

Me: So, how many gigabytes did your computer have?

Older person: It was an Apple.

Me: Yes, I’ve written down that you had a 14-inch MacBook, but did you buy any memory for it?

Older person: My son bought a thing that plugged into it.

Me: Your laptop?

Older Person: No, I think the TV.

Me: Was it a Wii?

Older Person: Something like that. Say, did I tell you about my Civil War re-enactment uniform?

Me: No.

People Who Own a Margarita Maker are More Than Twice as Likely to Be Married to a Woman

Margarita makers have been found in six homes, total. Two of the homes were those of gay men, and four of the homes were those of married heterosexuals. Because no margarita makers were found in the homes of single straight men, there must exist a correlation between sexual desire for a man and the option to make perfectly blended raspberry margarita. The most popular margarita maker is the Jimmy Buffet “Margaritaville DM1000,” and the machines are likely to be found within a ten-foot radius of a pineapple-themed item (although I have not yet found a statistical significance between a desire for a man and a pineapple motif).

People Who Have More Than Five Books by Nora Roberts Have A 100% Chance Of Having Tons of Copies of Cat Fancy Just Littered About Their Place

The only logical explanation for the simultaneous occurrence of romance novels and a vomitous spattering cat magazines is that people—whoever they are—usually just do the best they can with what they’ve got.