Repairmen to the rescue

A recent TV ad shows a woman desperately phoning locksmiths because her husband accidentally locked himself in the bathroom. As with most clever advertising, I have no idea what they were selling. I only remember chuckling the first time I saw it because the guy was killing time by putting some kind of green cosmetic gunk on his face.

Advertising and the media in general portray the American male as being inept. We can't fix anything around the house without causing a minor explosion. We're embarrassed to talk to our kids about sex. We wear stupid "Kiss the Cook" aprons while charring burgers on smoky backyard grills. We think Air Guitar is a spectator sport.

This stereotype omits a huge chunk of the male population, those savvy types who know how to fix things. Handymen, plumbers, locksmiths, carpenters, boxing promoters. Some men are never more comfortable than when presented with a knotty problem to solve.

I'm not one of those men. Faced with an emergency repair around the house, I curse and mutter and fume. I make feeble attempts that usually result in skinned knuckles and a worse problem, maybe even a minor explosion. I've learned that the best tool to use in times of crisis is a ballpoint pen -- for writing the check to the real repairman who rides to our rescue.

A case in point: We recently needed a locksmith because a bathroom door was locked and we had no key. Unlike the TV commercial, no one was locked in the bathroom. We were all locked out. One of my sons slammed the door behind him as he exited, the latch caught and we were stuck. Might not seem like much of a crisis, especially since other bathrooms were available for the most urgent reasons people need a bathroom. But this was the master bathroom, which contains all the cosmetics and hair dryers and razors and magazines. We needed in there.

I write crime novels in which people are always picking locks. They insert a couple of little metal doodads, give them a twist and -- voila! -- the door opens. The real world doesn't work that way. After twenty minutes of scratching up the doorknob with Allen wrenches and straightened paper clips, I called the locksmith. He arrived at our house, went directly to the door and, using a gizmo that looked like a pistol with a nail jutting from the barrel, had the door open in one minute flat. I wrote him a check for $42.

An hour later, our idiot dog Elvis mistook a large plate-glass window for an exit. The window shattered, surprising Elvis and everyone else in the house. The dog was unharmed, but jagged shards went everywhere. After the initial shock, I was pretty calm. Here was a repair job I knew I shouldn't even attempt. Phone calls were made. Repairmen arrived. We wrote a check for $200 and the window soon was good as new. The dog forgot all about the trauma. We put a potted plant in front of the window as a preventive measure. Next time, when Elvis excitedly heads that way, maybe he'll stop to smell the flowers before lunging through the glass.

We were so grateful for the quick repair that the cost didn't even matter (much). That's the way it always is when repairmen are summoned. We're just happy that someone, somewhere, has the know-how to fix the sudden leaks and the plumbing disasters and the nights without heat.
And we're not alone. The country is full of homeowners tensely awaiting the next major repair, checkbooks in hand, ready to do our part to support the service economy.

So the next time you see the media depicting American males as incompetent boobs, remember that there are those who greet every catastrophe as a challenge, those who are well-paid to fix the problems we can't conquer on our own. Maybe I should even mount my own media campaign, one in praise of repairmen everywhere. But not right now. I'm too busy. I've got to put on my apron and smear green gunk on my face.

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