A guy has to come and check something in our house. What it is is unimportant. It could be the plumbing, the wiring, the roof, the heat, the air conditioner. It doesn’t matter. It’s beyond my ken so we have to call in a guy who, hopefully, is an expert. At least this time it’s a guy we know and so I’m pretty confident he is an expert and isn’t going to try and rip us off which is something I always wonder about anytime we have to call in a strange guy but anytime we have to call someone in it makes me nervous. For one thing I’m always afraid of what they’re going to find, but it’s really worse if I’m the one waiting for the guy because the simple questions “What will he find and will he be able to fix it?” get crowded out by a million other questions. What time will he be here? Do I have time to take a shower? Why is there never anything good on daytime television? Does that even matter now that we have all forms of on-demand video? Do I have time to watch a movie? Is there anything I’ve forgotten? Do I have time to do any household chores? Shouldn’t I have thought of household chores before I started watching a movie? Is it true that the Chrysler Building weighs more than the Great Pyramid of Giza? Will he arrive in a truck or a van? Will he call first? Will he have all the equipment he needs? Should I set out a tray of cold cuts? Are they still “cold cuts” if they’ve been sitting out for a couple of hours? Would it be weird to put out some olives? Do we have any olives?
When The Guy arrives things don’t get any better. My brain keeps buzzing with questions but it’s a whole new set of questions. How long will he be here? Should I offer to help? Should I offer him a drink? Should I start a new pot of coffee in case he wants coffee? What if he wants tea? Do we have any decaf? Should I offer him a beer? Do I need to break out the Jack Daniel’s? Why do I think alcohol and power tools are a good combination? What’s wrong with me? What if he has to call in more guys? Do I have enough olives? Should I try and chat with him while he’s working?
That last question at least is easy. The answer is unequivocally, or at least it probably is, no. Any question I can think of to ask him is going to get me in trouble. So, did you see that big sports game last night? What do you think the problem is? How long do you think it’ll take to fix? See above. Are you ever concerned about the lack of gender equity in your field? Do you want me to go away and let you do your job?
Maybe I could try and show I’m not completely hopeless when it comes to home repair, or at least I could pretend I’m not.
“Hey, is that a Williams-Anderson 420-series ratcheting torque lever?”
“No, this is a hammer.”
And so I do my best to stay out of his way but even then I’m not sure what to do. Should I stay nearby? Would it be weird to read a book? Would it be even weirder to just stand in the middle of another part of the house paralyzed with terror? What if he has questions for me? Will IO be able to answer him without sounding like an idiot?
“Where’s the toilet?”
“Um, we don’t have one.”
As hard as it is I keep reminding myself that he’s a professional, that he does this sort of thing all the time, that he’s going to do his best to fix the problem and get on his way because he’s got other people to help. And repeating that to myself does help even though all I really want to do is crawl under the bed and pretend I’m all alone. And if I did that it would be just my luck that he’d have to cut a hole in the floor right underneath the bed and find me there curled up in a ball. Then I’d feel compelled to try and cover my embarrassment with an intelligent-sounding question.
“Hey, is that a binocular vertical coil suspension spall carriage?”
“No, this is a saw.”
And so I just do my best to stay out of his way and answer any questions he has as best I can and think about useful questions like, “Will we be able to turn on the lights and use the toaster at the same time now?” And I hope that the final question won’t be, “So is this the bill or a phone number?”