Friday, March 3, 2017

The Heartbreak of Handymen, by Frances FitzGerald

I wrote this short story about 20 years ago, when I was still single and owned an old house in De Pere, WI. Also, I know there are handywomen as well as handymen, but my experience has been with handymen. -- F.F.

I think my handyman is breaking up with me. He's trying to be nice about it--for example, suggesting a De Pere firm that could put up new gutters just as well as he could. But a woman knows when she's being dumped.

Perhaps he's found someone new, someone who needs a sump pump or a new roof, someone who's remodeling a bathroom. How can I ever hope to compete with that? My projects are strictly small-scale: a dysfunctional oven, wayward light switch, plugged up bathroom pipes. These are not jobs that inspire a lifetime passion.

Oh, I suppose there'll be other handymen, and it will start out like it always does: He'll be punctual, professional, and offer free helpful tips on various aspects of home maintenance. I will be starry-eyed, absolutely certain that this is the Mr. Right of Handymen. I will tell family, friends, co-workers, neighbors and my Non-Handy Home Owners support group that I have finally found The One: He Who Will Keep My House From Falling Down Around My Ears.

But tragically, the honeymoon period will end and his devotion will fade. He won't show up when he says he'll show up. He'll stop returning my calls. In fact, he'll change his phone number, and his new number will be unlisted. When I drive past his house, the shades will be pulled. When I follow him to work, he'll gun the engine in a futile effort to lose me. When I finally confront him face-to-face, he'll burst into tears and beg me to leave him alone. Eventually, he'll have the court issue a restraining order, and then the whole thing gets ugly.

Is that any way to nurture a relationship? Doesn't anybody know the meaning of "commitment" anymore? (Not in the context of "commitment hearing," of course. I'm already painfully aware of that one.)

There's only one logical solution to this dilemma. We already have self-cleaning ovens, so why can't we invent self-repairing houses? Self-painting walls? Self-clearing pipes? Self-insulating roofs and walls? Self-hanging drywall?

Ah, what a world that would be. I'll bet handymen would be singing a different tune then. They'd leave pleading messages on my answering machine: "Oh, baby, how could I have been such a jerk? I didn't know what I had!" "I swear your outdated wiring is more alluring to me than any new deck could possibly be!" "I only installed those drain pipes for the money; I was never serious about them the way I am about the dry rot in your attic!" And they'd drive past my house, looking forlornly at gutters that no longer needed replacing, at the front porch that no longer needed repainting. They'd crawl back, leaving their pathetic little notes in my mailbox, offering free estimates, unprecedented discounts, monogrammed hand towels.

And they would rue the day they ever got the courts involved.

(FF: Just to set the record straight, I never actually stalked my handymen. Or anybody else.)

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