We are a business that is not in business to make business. – Wilfried F. Voss
It was the first day that I pitched the idea of leaving Grand Fenwick to my wife.
“North Carolina?” she yelled at me. “Are you crazy? What do you suggest we do in North Carolina?”
“Well,” I grinned, “first of all, we could enjoy a warmer climate.” I pointed to the snowfall outside. According to the local weatherman, this was the tenth major snowstorm this winter. My back was aching from the continued snow shoveling, and the snow blower we inherited had died after the second nor’easter.
“Secondly,” I continued, “they have horse farms in North Carolina.”
My wife’s face lighted up.
“Okay,” she beamed. “In that case, we can talk.”
We agreed to discuss the details later. I had to leave early to make it through the snowfall in time to work.
“Don’t forget to take your suits to the cleaner,” my wife reminded me.
“No need to take them to Worcester,” I explained. “We now have an account with Dave’s Cleaners.”
My wife was shocked. “How did you manage that? They don’t take new customers.”
I winked. “Unless you are a man of the cloth.”
The interim priest of our church had been in dire need of a clean robe, and my wife had offered to have it cleaned. The poor man had been unusually busy with burial and christening services. Instead of taking the long drive to Worcester on a Saturday morning I had decided to push my luck and talk the owner, a skinny, stern woman in her seventies, into accepting me. Maybe I could dig up some of that old charm that had worked so effectively so many years ago when I met my wife for the first time.
“I know you don’t accept new customers,” I addressed the little dragon with a painfully produced smile on my face, holding the robe in my arms. “But if you could find it in your heart…”
“But of course, father,” the nice lady interrupted me with a warm and inviting smile. “Just give it to me.”
She pulled the robe off my arm.
“Will Tuesday morning be good for pickup?” she oozed at me.
I gulped. Should I tell her the truth? But why pass on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity?
“Yes. That’ll do. Bless you.”
I thought about gesturing the cross at her, but decided that would be too much.
Needless to say, but my wife was thrilled. Still, the task of bringing laundry to the cleaner was with me.
“While we’re at it,” she smiled. “Can you call the spa guy? I really would like my hot tub back, especially in this kind of weather.”
“Oh, I don’t think he’s gonna come to our place anymore.”
“Oh, he found that post on my blog, and…”
“You wrote on your blog about it?” my wife yelled at me. I only nodded sheepishly.
“No wonder we need to immigrate to North Carolina,” she growled. That morning I was denied a good-bye kiss.
The drive to Worcester was a mess, but my wife, as usual, had stuffed the local newspaper into my briefcase. You need to do something when you’re stuck in traffic half a mile away from work in downtown Worcester.
But the paper was not of big help. Drew Gingrich was fuming about an incident in New Hampshire. Apparently, another driver had run into the left headlight of his BMW and had fled the scene without leaving a note. The headline was accordingly “New Hampshire – Live free and die stupid!”
I thought that statement was a bit inappropriate, since the majority of Grand Fenwick’s blue-collar workers were employed there.
J. C. Penney’s had a sale, and the Grand Fenwick Diner was under new management.
Technicians at the New Hampshire Nuclear Power Plant had begun work to repair a pipe that had leaked radioactive water and, in turn, had forced the plant to shut down. But not to worry, operations would assume within twenty-four hours. I made a mental note to look up the term “Tritium.”
I turned the radio on, but all I got was that mindless blabbering and giggling of the morning show hosts. I really was not interested in the problems of wearing and adjusting a bra. All I wanted was some music; all I got was small talk and commercials. Fairly disgusted I turned the radio off.
In my mind I worked on a strategy to repair the hot tub myself. Over the years I had watched repairmen coming and going and charging for work that they couldn’t explain and didn’t solve the problem at hand. As a necessity I educated myself in the art of pool and spa repair and maintenance, sometimes with success, most the times without.
The last example of incompetence was “Ducky’s Pools & Spas,” the “most reputable choice when it comes to pools and spas.” “We’re in business for over thirty years, and a happy customer base proves it.” Well, I am not part of their happy customer base anymore, and I am not sure if they keep records of their unhappy customer base.
I had made an appointment with them and had to wait four weeks. Of course, especially in summer, these guys were very busy. The guy who showed up thirty minutes after the agreed time turned out to be the business owner himself.
He walked around the hot tub, poked at something here, knocked at something there, and shook his head frequently.
“The pump doesn’t run,” I tried to explain. After all, that was the reported problem. Ducky gave me a disapproving look like I had insulted him.
After two minutes he gave me the verdict.
“The pump doesn’t engage,” he said. “It’s either the pump itself or the electronic controller. I’ll come by next week Thursday and start working on it.”
A week later he showed up in time. The pickup truck pulled up the driveway.
“There is a child in the truck,” my wife said, looking out the window. “Is he going to keep that poor girl out there in the heat while he does his work?”
I didn’t have an answer, and I didn’t ask him. Only a few minutes later Ducky stood in the doorway, holding the rusty pump in his hands, leaving me wondering why I had taken a day off to be present in case he needed something.
“It’s broken,” he explained, “and I don’t have the same type in stock. I will contact my vendor to check availability and price. I’ll give you a call tomorrow.”
The next afternoon, after I was home from work, I listened to the message on the answering machine. It turned out he was unable to get the exact same pump, but he had done some research to find a compatible type. The costs for the pump would be around $750.
Then he explained the tub had been seriously neglected over the years – well, that’s how we inherited it from the previous owner – and the cover was falling apart. The truth is, we had bought a new one just a few weeks prior to the malfunction.
“Well, I can offer you $1,000 for your old hut tub and install a new one for $4,500,” he continued. “That makes only $3,500 for you. Just think about it and let me know. I don’t think it’s worth to pump more money into repairs.”
Okay, thinking about it I did… for about two seconds. The verdict was that someone tried to take advantage of the situation and make a quick sale. I had done some research myself, and I knew $750 was highway robbery.
Instead of giving the guy a piece of my mind, I called him and told him that $3,500 was not in the budget, and to please send an invoice and return the old pump he had removed. I stayed polite, being afraid he would not return the pump if I pissed him off.
Two days later I received the invoice for work rendered - $65 for one hour of work - plus the rusty old pump. There was also a note on the invoice. “I will be at the local fair next month. Please come by to look at the newest models.”
Rather than following his advice, I went online and twenty minutes later found the exact same pump for a mere $261 including shipping and handling. The shipment arrived two days later. It took me about fifteen minutes to reconnect the pump, and it started right up when I applied power to the hot tub.
After having proved my point, it was time to add another entry to my blog. Satisfied with the result, I leaned back, closed my eyes, and prepared myself for the next battle.
The roof of our house, after three days of relentless rain, had leaked water onto the bathroom ceiling due to an incorrectly sealed plumbing pipe. We had been out for the day to visit the in-laws, and when we returned the bathroom ceiling had collapsed. After receiving three quotations we decided to go with Tom, the handyman. He gladly took fifty percent of the down payment, but after six months he hadn’t shown up.
“I fell and injured myself,” he explained in a message on the answering machine. “At this time I can’t tell you when I can start the work. I’ll let you know.”