April 5, 2001
Put a Man On It
It is simply amazing that the Jewish people have managed to survive as long as we have, given our utter inability to do anything.
Oh, sure, we're whizzes in the areas of law, medicine, arts, marketing and, lest we forget, religion, but if you actually need something done around the house, we're useless.
If you need an excuse not to hammer something, screw something in, use a wrench... just say you're Jewish. That'll get you off the hook, explain your inability to do mechanical things. And yet, in Israel, there must be Jewish plumbers and Jewish handymen. I don't know for sure, but I think things work pretty well over there. And, need I remind you, that there was at least one very famous Jewish carpenter?
I come from a long line of helpless men, men who have fought in wars, but were utterly at the mercy of plumbers, electricians, carpenters and anyone else who could actually do anything useful. My father looks on having "a guy" as a sign of accomplishment: "I didn't go to Yale so I could screw in a light bulb."
"But Dad, you're sitting in the dark."
"It's okay, the guy is coming over tomorrow."
Great men, before and since Edison, can't be bothered to know how electricity (or anything else, for that matter) works. Great men deal with worldly issues: Should we eat French or Italian? Should we invade France or Italy? Maybe this is why plumbers don't make history. (They just make money.)
Somehow, I have become The Guy in my family. I don't know much about computers, but I know more than they do. In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. So I'm not surprised to get a hysterical call at any hour of the day or night from my sister -- who is, in most other respects, the smart one -- asking something beginning with "How do I?"
It never occurred to me that I was a capable person until I met my own family and friends. Now that people know I have my own tools, they call me to hang pictures and do all kinds of things. Once you start on this path, it quickly becomes a slippery slope. My friend Michael called to say his CD player was jammed. So what do you want me to do about it? I went over to his house one evening and did the one thing that it says, right on the back of the CD player, that you should never do: I took off the back. And you know why that makes me The Guy? Because I had the will to do it and he did not.
I just moved into a new house and found a lot of little things that need to be done to make it a home. Before I could even begin to concentrate on the interior decoration, the color scheme or drapery rods, I had to change the shower head. This is the kind of thing one might easily overlook when house hunting, but not when house living. I can live for quite a while without window dressing, but I simply wouldn't make it a week with that hateful, sadistic shower nozzle spraying me flush in the face like a fire hose wielded by riot police. What I had in mind is closer to a fluffy little rain cloud drizzling on me.
When the plumber said he couldn't make it until next Tuesday, I went to Koontz Hardware and marched over to the plumbing aisle, which was full of strange, unknowable things. A team of trained diagnosticians gathered around me for an impromptu conference. Specialists were called in. We decided on a course of action involving a wrench, some pipe fittings, some plumber's tape and the gracious will of God to guide me. I am happy to report that I fixed the offending spout, and no one was hurt.
I thought, wrongly, that being handy with tools would make me more attractive to women, another asset that makes me a "good catch." It turns out that most of the women I meet think it's weird that I know how to fix things. They're happy to call me when they need a new CD-ROM drive installed, but they don't necessarily want a handy man for a boyfriend, they didn't go looking for a lover in the Yellow Pages.