THE HANDYMAN

Editor’s note: Following is a page from my spiritual journal. Editor’s note: Following is a page from my spiritual journal. Editor’s note: Following is a page from my spiritual journal.

Though the day was bright and sunny, storm clouds hung in our front room. Lightning flashed from his eyes as JK sat on our faded flower couch with our handyman arguing the man’s bill was too high.

It is higher than I expected, but arguing about it is not good manners. Besides, I had spent a good year asking around for a handyman reference before I finally found Sandy.

The previous year, the same man had replaced a broken soffit and painted it. While blowing off the roof, he had also discovered a hole that let in the water that damaged the soffit. He patched it. His bill had been OK.

Hired work is getting more expensive.

Now the trim needed some caulking and repainting. The latter project had been a long time coming. Two years ago when I broached the job to JK he had said, “Never mind. I’ll do it.”

Once the heat passed last fall, I mentioned the maintenance again. He had said, “I’ll get Bob to help me.” (His son was coming for a visit in late February.)

At the end of March, no-thing had been done and I approached the subject again.

“How about I hire our handyman to do these jobs?”

When JK said nothing, I went on. “I already asked him if he could install the birthday toilet. He said, ‘Yes.’ All I have to do is call him back for a date to do the work. Is it ready?”

After a pause, my husband said, “OK, it’s almost done.”

Three days later JK pronounced the birthday toilet ready. I pulled out my cell and called Sandy. I did not mention the toilet’s break and repair. I’ll see how it goes!

Sandy arrived one morning the following week. After he shut off the water, he carried out two sections of JK’s old toilet. Next, he carried the two sections of the Birthday Throne into the small bathroom. He never said a word about the obvious repairs. In about an hour he appeared at the dining room table where JK and I were drin-ing coffee. “It’s done except for the grouting. I have to buy some.” Hooray! It’s all done. Maybe the repair will work out!

Sandy’s installation bill was less than I had paid my Indiana handyman when he put in a new toilet there. It’s fair. I asked the Florida man if he was available to tend our other maintenance needs.

He nodded, “I can start next week. I’ll do the toilet grout then.”

The next week Sandy began miscellaneous work we also needed as well as power washing the house, window casings and screens.

That day, I noticed a scrap of paper where JK was keeping track of the hours Sandy worked. JK doesn’t want to be cheated.

The following morning, Sandy put the screens back in –a tricky job –and prepared to paint. His brushwork began in earnest the third day and finished three days later.

JK used to run a painting business. The second day Sandy painted, my husband commented how slow Sandy was. It was a clue trouble lay ahead.

My mother and later, other women in my life, had in-structed me on how to “handle” men. When I was young, I made a few efforts, but they always felt wrong. If a man has to be handled, I am not the girl to do it. I didn’t know how to diffuse my husband’s brewing anger. So, I did nothing.

Between my lack of male-management, and JK’s upset over the hours Sandy brushed and rolled, tension built.

Once I showed JK Sandy’s bill, my husband put on his storm cloud face and confronted the other man about his price-per-hour for painting. (Next.)

Oh, no! I paced and JK’s lightning flashed. Once I ventured, “JK …” but he waved me off.

I heard JK holding forth as I strode to the office and wrote the check. The job is done, Now is not the time to argue.

When I returned to the front room, JK’s face had become red. Oh-oh! Sandy wasn’t saying much. I tried to break in again. “JK …”

He glowered at me, “Stay out of this, Frances.”

My stomach clenched. The situation brought back other events I lived through when men would not stop a harangue. I handed Sandy the check and left the house. Pacing, I waited in the garage.

Several minutes later the handyman thundered out. He called to me over his shoulder as he climbed into his vehicle, “Your husband insulted me!”

Looking innocent, JK ambled out of the house and went to Sandy in his truck. After a minute or two, Sandy left. JK passed me watching him from the garage and said, “You’ve been taken, Frances.”

I was livid. Not because I had been “taken,” I was angry because I had asked JK to stop his angry talk. Twice.

Due to my history of guys not stopping rude behavior when I told them to, my hackles were up. I don’t have to tolerate un-acceptable behavior. I reviewed my three choices: ignore, leave and confront.

Had JK been a visitor in my home, I would have told him to leave. But our house was half his, so I left. Had she been alive, I would have gone home to Mother. Instead, I grabbed my keys called to JK, “I’m going to the grocery.”

On the road, I changed my mind and called a girlfriend asking if I could come for a visit. She said, “Sure, come on over!”

My friend gave me a listening ear and nods of under-standing. She also made me a cup of coffee and offered me a cookie.

An hour later, I had shed the worst of my history-based upset and headed back home.

Entering the house, I didn’t say much. I still needed to gather more inner calm.

Did Sandy take advantage of our good faith? Probably. Was JK out of line to not stop his angry cross-examination? Maybe. Was I irrationally upset? Yes.

In this kind of situation there is no “right” and “wrong,” only a problem to let my Higher Power help me work through.

Thank God!

Frances Fritzie

Editor’s note: After reading my story, JK felt I had left out important details. He wrote up his version of the tale.

JK’S STORY

Sandy the handyman, had done previous odd jobs for Frances. She found his prices to be reasonable. She hired him to paint the outside of the house. Because his previous work seemed reasonable, she did not ask about the cost of painting.

When he finished painting, the bill he presented to Frances was more than she had expected. She wrote him a check for the full amount. When she gave JK the bill, he said he wanted to talk to Sandy.

When he asked Sandy what he thought was a fair price to do the painting, Sandy replied, “$88.00 an hour.” When JK divided the full charge by the twenty-three hours Sandy took to paint the trim, it came to $142.00 an hour.

When JK asked Sandy to adjust the bill to reflect the $88 pe hour, Sandy said he was insulted and left.

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