The handyman of my dreams

Ever since I called Joe, the skies – and my kitchen drain – have been clear.

Ari Denison/The Christian Science Monitor/File
Tools of the trade: A good fix-it man seems to have just the thing to repair what's broken.

"Something there is that doesn't love a wall," wrote the poet Robert Frost. Well, I can sympathize with him. Not only have I had walls that I didn't love, I've had windows that stick, faucets that leak, and lamps that flicker like dime-store candles.

Since I live alone, I'd been thinking about getting some help from someone who didn't charge a hefty fee just to take a wrench out of his pocket. I had attempted to fix things myself, but the towel rack I tried to repair fell down again (and again), and the shelf in the kitchen cabinet came off its hinges with a resounding bang at 1 o'clock in the morning. My apartment house's service department did not return calls.

Then I found Joe. During a visit to my local hardware store, I saw his business cards sitting on the counter. The clerk said that Joe came with excellent references. I called him that day, and the skies (as well as my kitchen drain) have been clear ever since.

I don't think he does it purposely, but Joe looks the part of a handyman. He arrives wearing a baseball cap and overalls and carrying a toolbox. The toolbox seems to be like that car filled with the clowns at the circus. It can't be any larger than, say, an old-fashioned lunch pail, but out of that box come tools of all shapes and sizes, twine, measuring tapes and rulers, and strange-looking things that remind me of items advertised on late-night TV that chop, slice, drill, and mind the children.

Joe can secure pictures on the wall so that they don't hang crooked. In no time, he's put together one of those unassembled bookcases that comes with directions that set my head spinning. He's helped me turn my mattress, clean out a storage room, and fix a toy chest that my grandchildren had demolished.

I don't know much about Joe. He says he's retired after years with a utility company. (He must have a decent pension because his hourly rate is low.) He says he just likes fixing things and making people feel happy. One of his customers told him that after he's done his job, she feels better than she does after a trip to the hairdresser.

Handymen like Joe seem to be a vanishing breed. Many people spend time on a busy Saturday in one of those fix-it warehouses searching for just the right widget. Others sit for hours on the phone or online trying to contact manufacturers of appliances that have gone sour. Still others just go out and replace the chair or chest or toaster rather than fix the one they have. "It's cheaper to buy a new one," they say.

As for me, I like to think that some things can be fixed. There are enough relationships that remain broken and problems that are beyond repair. But a leaky faucet or a squeaky door? Those can be fixed, and Joe, bless him, knows how.

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