The Case of the Vanishing Home Repairers

Of all the things we’ve lost in the pandemic – patience, beloved parents, reasonably priced possessions, optimism, jobs, human contact, smooth nerves unlike the raspy cat’s tongues we now have, the belief that the world doesn’t is not here to get you – I note one loss in particular.

The home repairman.

The handymen are knowledgeable, knowing so much. I can’t find one. I moved downtown just before the pandemic and I need a lot of things. I replaced the croaking furnace and air conditioning system as soon as it was sold, but I needed other things as well.

I’m not talking about electricians and plumbers. They exist. Thanks Jason. There are locksmiths. Experienced people will shoot like lasers with chimney traps to get raccoons off the roof. They charge generously. They know you are going to pay.

But people have to do equally important things like painting, replacing tubs and backsplashes, installing flooring, mounting curtain rods and televisions, building decks and fences, insulating windows, replacing light fixtures, fix the shed door and cement the steps – where are they?

The contractors tell me that their men have disappeared. But where?

I had half a dozen painters give me quotes. They write dodgy reviews that keep changing. They can’t use the ladders properly, and since I suspect they’re not as bonded as they claim, I’m concerned for their safety. It wouldn’t be moral.

The men in the kitchen and the bathroom take notes. They say sly things like “Of course you go buy the tub, hardware, and flooring,” knowing full well that empty shelves make this silly idea impossible. They send quotes and disappear. But where?

And the rest are terrible painters who splatter paint on the floor or miss bits or leave surfaces snagging your sweater.

In other words, they paint as well as I do. I’m sloppy, I’m not preparing, I’m rushing, I’m getting careless, I’m falling into despair, and suddenly a simple Benjamin Moore Mascarpone project looks like a Rothko, or a bold monochrome impasto you could pass for found art if not. t already on a wall. Oh look, my fresco.

And then there are the mansplainers. For my dark garden shed I need a new lockable door, mostly glass, in a bespoke size plus a screened window that opens.

“You don’t need that,” an older entrepreneur told me. “It’s a shed door. We do not care? And why do you need a window that opens? It would cost you maybe $400.

I told him what I wanted. He said I didn’t want it. No one ever told him to stop talking to clients that way. Even the male house painters tell me not to let the old guys at the paint store harass me. They give me a card.

“Tell him you want this.”

“I want a cedar fence,” I told the elder.

“No. You want pressure treatment.

“It should match the rest of the cedar fence,” I said.

“It’ll match when it fades.” No. This will not be the case.

This has never been a problem before. I understand that people have left rotten jobs, and good for them, but where have all the waiters in the restaurant gone? Have the skilled handymen of yesteryear become waiters, the type to spit on your steak or think nut allergies are all on your mind?

Do female servants now do household repairs? If so, could they call me? Women. So competent.

The world unfolds. I recently rewired a broken lamp with hardware from Amazon, thanks Jeff Bezos. I will paint my own walls, badly, like when I was a student. I will replant my own garden — nine rows of beansprobably.

But I will just say this: all women should take home repair classes. A bad future is on the way and when they say “self-care” they shouldn’t mean yoga, but rather running a router and installing sleepers behind the bathroom wall.

We should do our own repairs. I want that. (No, you don’t, says one guy.)