This Middle-Aged House.

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?”

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  1. cindy dorminy

    What a great way to start my day. I’ve been there too many times to count.

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I’m so glad you’ve been dropping by, and even gladder this was a great way to start your day.

  2. Ann Koplow

    I love reading the thoughts you house in your middle-aged head, Chris. Any questions?

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      My head is constantly full of questions even in the most mundane situations. If I could only ask one it would be, how do I turn off all these questions?

      1. Ann Koplow

        There is no question that I hope you never turn off your questions.

  3. Gina W.

    Well, this is a post we can all relate to. I have most, if not all of those same questions. There’s nothing more awkward that feeling like a stranger in your own house. Like, maybe you want to use the bathroom (just to pee) but you don’t want the service guy thinking your emptying your bowels. But it’s not polite to say, “Um hey, could you excuse me a moment while I relieve myself? I won’t be pooping by the way.”

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      And if you do have to empty your bowels it can be even more embarrassing, especially if it’s a plumbing issue. Well, emptying your bowels is always a plumbing issue, but I’m talking about your house’s plumbing.
      Oddly enough that reminds me of the time when I was a kid and some other neighborhood kids pried the manhole cover off and we all peered into the sewer. Every few seconds we’d see a big wad of toilet paper go drifting by.
      Any sense of disgust I had was wiped out pretty early on.

  4. Margot

    I think it’s much harder to be male than female in these situations. As a woman there’s not as much pressure to understand how plumbing or electricity works or to know which tools do what. It’s one of the few times I don’t mind gender stereotyping.

    Although a few weeks ago we switched cable providers. The guy who came to our house asked if we had a step stool and I completely panicked and went blank. He said “Nevermind, I’ll just go out to the truck and get my ladder.” It wasn’t until he was outside untying the ladder from the roof of his truck that it occurred to me that we did have a step stool–the same one I’ve been using for about 15 years–and that it was in the closet about eight feet away from me, where it always is. And then I was inordinately proud of myself to be able to procure it.

    I wonder why we get so goofy!

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      It’s a mystery but I think part of it is we’ve basically invited a stranger into our homes and are putting an abnormally high level of trust in that stranger. I also have this terrible fear of being judged. I’ve never hired a maid but if I did I think I’m the sort of person who’d clean up before they arrived.
      It’s funny you mention step-stools because there was one time a repair guy didn’t bring a ladder and needed to borrow our step-stool and broke it. So we figured out how much a new one cost and deducted that from the bill.

  5. kdcol

    Yes, the arrival time of a repair person is always so uncanny. Do I have time to brush my teeth? Take a shower? Have a BM? Etc etc. I always find out the hard way that the answer is NO.

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Since I’m usually taking time off from work my number one question is really, can I sleep late? And of course the answer is, don’t be ridiculous. That’s what I tell myself. There’s no way I can sleep when there’s a repair person coming.

  6. Sandra

    This is so hilarious! I actually just wrote a post about how I giggle in bed when I’m reading and keep my husband awake. It’s currently 4:22am, I’m hypomanic so I figure if I have to be awake all night, everyone should, thus laughing out loud at your post was non-negotiable. It was just too good not to. But I do think serving olives was a good idea, and could have been a nice touch if accompanied by a martini.

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Laughing out loud is always non-negotiable. It would be extra icing on the cake if I could give your husband a laugh too. And I’d offer a martini but I don’t think alcohol and power equipment are a good mix. Especially when the guy’s up on the roof and trying to keep his balance. After a couple of martinis I have a hard time standing up straight. I have no idea how hard it would be to do it at an angle and twenty feet off the ground.
      Plus I know that if I were on the roof and drunk I’d think, “Yeah, I could jump from here. No problem.


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