THE FRONT DOOR – Why I am I standing here like an idiot while I could be watching re-runs of “My Mother the Car?” It’s because my icemaker doesn’t work. It bombed and the repairman, or repairwoman, is coming to fix it. Sometime. Have you noticed that when a repair truck comes to your house and parks, the driverfixer just sits there for 30 minutes? What is he or she doing? Texting or napping or watching “My Mother the Car”? When the truck first pulled up for the 1 o’clock appointment promptly at 3, I rushed to the door expecting to greet the fixer. But the driver just sits there.
This brings up a situation all of us face: the Covid-19 virus and repairmen, although “repairmen” is sexist these days, still, let’s keep this simple. You know the drill: one morning you find roaches in your kitchen, or the dishwasher eats your spatula. Maybe the a/c clangs or – in my case – the icemaker doesn’t make ice. You ring up someone to fix it. “Your call is very important to us, so it will be taped, monitored or traced, just to make sure you pay.” My call is so important that I have to listen to “The Best of Serbian Polkas” for 30 minutes. (The other day, honest, I waited a solid hour on hold in a call to Best Buy and finally had to hang up. Never did get anyone.) Some grad business student needs to figure out how many hours Americans waste each day on hold.
If you eventually do get a real, live person, it goes like this: “OK, we’ve got you down.”
I reply, “But exactly when will he come?”
“Let’s see. This is 2020, isn’t it? Ever since Y2K I’ve been confused. August? October? He’ll be there between 1 and 5.”
“That’s fine. Between 1 and 5 o’clock.”
“No, between the first and the fifth.”
Another true story: Last week I was told the repairman would come on Thursday. Huh? “What time on
Thursday?” They meant anytime on Thursday, so I had sit here the entire day waiting for the repair guy. This
reminds me of a story. Back in the days of the Soviet Union they used to tell a joke about a fellow who orders a
car. “You can pick it up exactly 10 years from today,” says the salesman.
“Morning or afternoon?” asks the customer.
“What difference does it make?”
“The plumber is coming that morning.”
Actually, the only thing worse than a worker coming late is to come early. I am sitting there in my bathrobe,
trying to read the paper and watch the news on TV – I can multi-task – and the doorbell
rings. “Hi, I finished the last job early, so here I am.” Some of my repairmen come so often I know them personally.
The cable guy comes to fix the cable and it works well – for an hour. The seventh visit he gets it right. This will be
the third time I have had an icemaker service man come to fix it. Currently we wait in line to vote, to get tested
for Covid-19 and, for many, for food to keep from starving. Maybe we should start waiting in line for something
to be fixed. Just put the ol’ freezer or dishwasher in the trunk and get behind the last car.
There are several points I have learned in these matters: Do not hang around the fixer advising. “The washing
machine goes bump-bump bump.” He looks up. “It’s doesn’t go whee-whee-whee like the little piggy all the
way home?” I can do without sarcasm. If there are two of them, don’t refer to the other guy as “your accomplice.” Many repair guys have a name stitched over their pocket. First name only. “Sam,” “Fred” or “Jose” are fine. But be wary of any repair people with unlisted shirts. Occasionally a repairman will leave a tool behind. If it’s a hammer, pliers or screw driver, call the company and report the mishap. If it’s a crowbar, glass cutter or ski mask, call the cops. Speaking of masks, these days we have to be careful about any repair person entering your house without
wearing a mask. You might gently say, “Shouldn’t you be wearing a mask?” He may reply, “Who are you, Doctor
Fauci?” You reply, “No, but I have an appointment with him tomorrow. I have this cough.” Wait. Don’t. He may
race back to his truck. What with the virus going around, think twice about letting anyone into your house who’s
not a blood relation. Come to think of it, don’t even leave your house. That’s why I no longer need a barber, I need
Whatever machine you have, from garbage disposal to PC printer, it is obsolete and not worth fixing. And on
any burned-out coil, the warranty expired yesterday. All repairmen have cell phones which ring constantly with
calls that having nothing to do with the job. Start worrying when the plumber makes the call instead and says, “Honey, you know that BMW you always wanted?” Let’s talk money. It’s hard to get an estimate for the work
over the phone. “How much will it cost?” I ask. The person on the other end says, “That depends. What is your
model number?” Do you know the model number of your garbage disposal? I say I haven’t the foggiest idea.
“It’s stamped on the underside to the E0-Y outlet. Just look for a yellow tag.” I explain that I can’t get down
on my hands and knees and look under the sink, not since an IED went off under my Humvee outside Kabul.
Finally, there is the old story of the man watching a plumber who pokes around for five minutes, changes a
washer and says, “That’ll be $125.”
“What!” screams the man. “I’m a lawyer and don’t charge that much.”
Replies the plumber, “Neither did I when I was a lawyer.”