Thursday, July 16, 2009

Calling the repairman... any repairman, please!

Hump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial Page

I just called to have my kitchen range repaired. "We'll be there in eight days," the customer service representative told me. In the meantime, how am I supposed to cook? Hold a disposable lighter beneath a can of sardines?

I only use the microwave to heat stuff. I've never mastered the art of actually cooking in it. Everything turns to rubber because I always nuke it for too long. Chicken invariably turns to concrete in the microwave, so I tend to use the old-fashioned way: the oven. I'm not even that good at re-heating stuff because once I actually vaporized an entire cup of coffee. Was five minutes on 'high' too long?

Oh well, at least I got to drink my hot tears. Nothing can make me cry like wasting a perfectly good cup of coffee.

I'm not sure how a person is supposed to wait an entire week without a properly working oven. What if I ran an orphanage? Would I have to tell the children, "I'm sorry, you're going to have to eat your chicken 'extra pink' this week because the bad people who manufactured our oven have so many broken ones out there to fix that they can't be here until Santa comes down the chimney"? Try to get adopted when you're throwing up all day from food poisoning. Not the best marketing technique.

My car dealership is the same. I call for service and they pretty much always tell me that the wait is at least a month. A month? What am I supposed to do for a month with a car's warning system not just showing me a flashing engine light, but literally flashing a message with skull and crossbones screaming, "Warning: Car will explode if turned on! Repair immediately! Drop to your knees and pray!"

Now, I don't expect a repair technician to be banging on my door before I'm finished hanging up the telephone with them, but they could at least try to be a little bit more prompt. They're quick to sell it to you, let me tell you, fixing it is another matter.

I do have to say, however, that repair technicians are getting much better at calling before they arrive. There was a time when they would tell you they'd be over to fix -- let's say -- your pet mouse's pacemaker sometime in the next month. So, you'd be waiting at the door for them to arrive -- barely even taking the time to go to the bathroom for fear that's when they'd arrive unannounced.

And you just know that's what would happen. The minute you'd become indisposed, you'd hear the ding dong of the doorbell, the knock at the door. And there you'd be, screaming at the top of your lungs, "I'm in the bathroom!! I'll be there in a minute!!" But you couldn't say it too loudly or little Fluffy (the mouse with the bad pacemaker) would be startled and keel over. As you'd rush to the front door, all you'd see is the back of the Jim's Mouse Pacemaker Sales and Service truck driving down the street after no response at your door. And as you'd scream, "No!!", all you'd hear is Fluffy's weak little mouse cough coming from his tiny little mouse bed. Pitiful.

Oh I'm sure it has happened to us all. Missing repair appointments because we didn't get to the door or telephone on time or -- just as bad -- they'd call while you're at work performing open-heart surgery on the pope. "Uhm, can you wait about 20 minutes? I'm in the middle of something important but I really, really, really need my toilet at home to start flushing again."

And, of course, they can't wait and you then have to reschedule until the next pass of Halley's Comet.

Then there are the guaranteed same-day repair people. They do come. They do give great service. They also surgically remove your favourite body parts before they leave as part of their fee. "I know I can live with only one kidney, but I really need it. Would you settle for a big toe and a slightly lint-filled navel?"

Every time something in my house breaks, it's always the same thing. The repair technician looks at it, looks at me, looks at it again, then looks at me -- this time with tears in his eyes -- not because he's sad for me, but because he happily knows that after this job, he's going to be able to buy that gold-plated Cadillac he's had his eyes on. "Sir, we're going to put you in touch with a person who specializes in second mortgages."

The parts I always need are the ones that are the rarest, too. It's never something that they have in the truck with them. It's never something that will take five minutes to get at the local hardware store. It's never something that can be sent by courier for next-day delivery. It's always the part that they've never replaced before. "We read about this in technician school, but I've never seen one break... and I've been doing this since the Mona Lisa was still drying."

I remember that when I was a kid, we had an old television set that my parents bought when they got married. It was a combination radio, television and stereo -- a big sucker that took up half the living room. On Sunday mornings, we used to play records on the stereo incessantly. The stereo worked fine -- and so did the radio, but the television component was constantly needing repair.

A man who lived up the street named Frank was a television repairman and we saw him often. It was just like Christmas when Frank appeared at our front door to fix our poor old television set. He'd open up his big case of tubes and replace the one that was burnt. That was in the days when people actually fixed television sets.

Frank died years ago, but I wonder if his ghost will fix my oven if I ask nicely?

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