"I knew I oversold it," she said ruefully.

Before going further, let me point out that I'm a half-empty kind of guy while Jessica is a half-full kind of gal. In a lot of ways, I realized that I was nitpicking. I had a bigger problem with the house that I wasn't saying because it was hard to put into words.

In the car as we drove away, Jessica sensed there was something deeper going on.

"What is it?" she said.

"It's good," I answered. "It really is. It's just that it, I don't know, it kind of lacks character."

Character is one of those things that is hard to define. All I know is that it has gotten me into trouble all my life.

Character draws me to old cars, like a 1963 Chevy Nova convertible and a 1962 Chevy Impala, that undoubtedly had character but, unfortunately, seldom ran. Character persuaded me to buy the house we were currently in, a turn-of-the-century, three-story home with hardwood floors and high ceilings. It had character coming out its ears. But its constant, relentless need for repairs made the fixer-upper in the movie The Money Pit look like a dream house.

All homeowners have the same complaints. The plumbing is inadequate. The roof leaks. But our house went places no house has gone before. I could provide a lengthy list of the ills afflicting it, but suffice to say that most people don't get shocked when they use the toaster, as we did, repeatedly, when we moved in. The wiring hung like jungle vines down the walls. And don't get me started on the plumbing. There was a rule in the house: Don't flush the toilet when someone is showering. If you did, you risked giving the showerer third-degree burns because the shower water turned scalding hot.

Its many problems were due to its age and the fact that it had previously been run as a triplex by an absentee landlord who specialized in renting to demo-lition experts. College students, I think they're called.