I hate calling repairmen. Not only does it mean that I’m going to have to pay for something I’ve already paid for, but I’m also going to have some kind of awkward interaction with a repairman. It’s not that I don’t like repairmen as a group, but I’m the worlds worst small-talker and most repairmen aren’t exactly the most socially adept members of society. It’s a lethal combination. They rarely speak when getting out of the truck and when they do it’s usually the same question, “Where’s the box?” As they rummage through their truck or van for their gear, I’m never sure whether I should hang around or if it’s cool to leave and go do something else. What if they need to ask me something? Are there any forms I need to sign? So until they actually start fixing whatever they’re there to fix, I usually hang around. And it always feel awkward. If we’re outside, I suddenly become very interested in every pine cone and branch that’s out of place. I keep my hands in my pockets and kind of stare off into nothing, maybe whistle a little. I’ll check my cell phone every 10 seconds like an obsessive compulsive neurotic. Inside the house, I’ll pretend to straighten things up and I’ll look over the mail I’ve already looked over six times. How interesting can four mortgage applications be?
There’s also something a little emasculating about having to call up another guy to come to your house and fix something for you. It sounds like a macho thing, and it is. But I don’t want to have to call for help. The Marines on Iwo Jima didn’t need to call for help to take Suribachi, and I don’t need to call for help to get my refrigerator running! For me the worst is the tow-truck guys. I know I can’t be expected to tow my own car, but if I were a real man I’d know how to fix the car myself and wouldn’t need a tow truck. I love it when I have to call a tow truck out to my work and some tough looking dude with grease on his calloused hands and overalls works the chains and winches with the aplomb of a ninja, while I, with my smooth lily-white palms and freshly pressed slacks, stand there like a nancy looking on. (OK, I never wear freshly pressed slacks to work)
The times I have tried to strike up a conversation have not gone well. I was recently riding in the aforementioned tow truck and the driver’s name-tag said his name was Nick G. He looked a lot like a kid I went to elementary school with and looked to be about the right age. About 10 minutes into the ride and about five minutes of psyching myself up I asked him, “Does Nick G. stand for Nick Green by any chance?” He looked over at me, paused just long enough to make me feel like an idiot, shook his head, gave a quick, “Nah.” and turned back to the road. OK. I don’t know if I’ll ever try again.