Given that we have now been living in our house for over ten years, my husband and I are no strangers to the world of home repairs. As a matter of fact, I have just now had to flee my house as the roofers have been at work since 7 AM, pounding their Shingles Of Death directly into my nervous system. And in order to make my escape I had to use my husband’s and my “emergency code” to inform him that, not only had the roofers parked their van directly behind my spot in the garage, they had also begun using it as a temporary dump for all their stuff, stuff that apparently was being thrown away in the imaginary dumpster located right next to the real-life dumpster, which, incidentally, was blocking the other side of our garage.) And so, I COULD NOT GET OUT.
And lo, there was a giant meltdown in the land. Because, if you know anything about fibromyalgia, one of its possible causes-as well as one of its most debilitating symptom-is a sensory processing disorder. As in, your system is unable to process all the sensory stimulation it receives. As in, there are times when the experience of air touching your skin can be the most excruciating thing you’ve ever experienced. As in, if you are ever looking for a way to torture and/or murder one of us, sending a crew to pound on our roof All. Day. Long. is definitely the way to go.
Oh, and by the way: if you also instruct your Latin American roof crew to just gaze at us and respond, “Huh?” with blank, uncomprehending stares when we ask them, IN FLAWLESS SPANISH, if they could please move their truck out of our driveway, so that we can PLEASE, PLEASE GET OUT OF OUR HOUSE!!, forcing us to have to revert to Stupid American Loud Talking And Giant, Idiotic Gestures, that will pretty much be the final nail in our coffin.
However: despite everything, this is actually the best home repair experience we’ve had since we’ve lived here. Everyone showed up when they said they would, did everything they said they would do, in the time they said it would take them to do it, and now, with the exception of the dumpster which has yet to be picked up and carried away, you can’t even tell that anyone was even working on our house two days ago.
Unfortunately, that has not always been our the case for us.
The first time we had to deal with something like this occurred about six months after we first moved into the house, when an ice storm threw a giant hunk of tree directly through our bedroom roof.
Now the important thing to know here is that our house is the second one in as you turn off of a pretty well-traveled road. So we and our tarp were completely visible to everyone driving by. Which meant that we received offers from every single roofing company in the city, most of which were formed as the “owners” drove up to our house, and all of which could be summed up as, “Two Men And A Truck. And Sometimes, A Ladder.”
And then a few years later there was Dave. Dave showed up at our door one day and delivered a very intense lecture detailing our urgent and immediate need to hire him to pressure wash our driveway and deck, and also allow him to “hot chemical” our roof.
Now normally we would not have hired someone off the street but, 1) we did need some work done, and 2) Dave had the most wonderful voice of any human being who has ever existed on this planet. It’s very similar to that of Mike Rowe of “Dirty Jobs”, and I would have stood there in my dirty driveway and listened to him speak nonsense for hours, it was that compelling.
Unfortunately, his voice would turn out to be my downfall. Because it would continue to speak of the wonders that Dave could perform on our humble home. And so I would tell my husband, and then he would agree to the work, and then I would give Dave a check, and then there would be no sign of Dave for up to two weeks at a time, when he would then once again appear-after having done no work-and ask for yet another check.
I kept trying to explain this situation to my husband who was unclear as to why I was so increasingly angry, and who kept telling me that everything was okay, and that I really needed to calm down. Then one evening he picked up the checkbook, rifled through the pages, and asked, “Hey-where is all this money going?!”
“THAT IS WHAT I HAVE BEEN TRYING TO TELL YOU!!!” I shrieked, as the skin began to melt off of my face. (I’m definitely the person you want to have around you in a crisis, as calm, cool, and collected is clearly my middle name.) Only I don’t think he actually heard me, because I’m pretty sure I was operating on a frequency that even dogs could not pick up.
As it turned out, Dave was in the middle of a pretty big life crisis, one that caused him to take our checks directly to the music store in order to buy the very latest in amps and electric guitars, which in and of themselves are just fine, but are really not all that useful when it comes to re-painting someone’s house.
Luckily for us Dave’s partner is really honest, and acts with tremendous integrity. He was also a little miffed at Dave, as he too was unable to use Dave’s electronics when it came to things like, oh, buying some paint, and maybe paying his mortgage. So he managed to get ahold of Dave and salvage some of the money, and then came and completed the job himself. For which we will be eternally grateful.
And then, there was Hank.
I have no idea what Hank was actually hired to do, but I do have indelibly branded into my mind the exact moment that Hank and I met.
The doorbell rings.
I open the door to see the man I assumed was Hank.
Hank (looking at me): “Trey.”
Me (looking myself up and down quickly, just to make sure).
Hank: without another word, turns and begins walking back to his truck.
Me: “But I can get him for you if you’d like.”
And thus began The Week of Hank, a week during which I unfortunately had contracted both bronchitis and a sinus infection. Now as you all know, normally I would have spent a week like that lying prostrate on the living room floor and weeping. But this time I couldn’t, because I had to supervise Hank.
And let me tell you, what Hank wanted was someone to listen. Not listen in the normal sense, where he would say something, and then I would say something back, and then we would have an interactive conversation as two, regular adults. No, when I mean listen, I mean this:
Me: surreptitiously moving my eyes over toward the sink where Hank was rinsing out his paint tray, to see how the job was progressing.
Hank: apparently feeling the subtle breeze generated by my passing glance.
Hank: “Hey, you know it’s really great to meet you Trey’s told me so many great things about his wife you know I’ve had three wives the first one was a model from London yeah she was gorgeous but it didn’t work out and my second wife she was from Latin America and now her son is living with me even though we aren’t married anymore and lately he’s been having these seizures and so the other day he drove his car into a telephone pole because he had a seizure while he was driving home from school and so I had to take him to the emergency room and now he’s okay but he has a concussion and hey you know I just got married again but before I did I had to reassure my brother because he told me that if I married any more foreigners then he would disown me from the family and my wife she’s a real looker but she’s from this country and hey do you guys have a broom?”
All day. Every day. For a week.
But finally, our time with Hank drew to a close, and life around here went back to normal. Until we realized that we could no longer find our broom. And so my husband called up Hank, to see if he might know something we didn’t.
My husband: “Hey, Hank.”
My husband: “You know, we really appreciate all the work you did around here for us. But since you finished we haven’t been able to find our broom. Do you have any idea where it might be?”
Hank: “Well, have you checked the attic?”
So now, all these years and all this work later, I’m really hoping that we’ve got enough good house mojo to keep us going repair-free for a good long time. But if any of you need some work done, I can recommend a few good men for you.