The Process: Becoming A Handyman
My Pop was a construction worker, and one thing you learn very quickly being raised by a construction worker is there’s a tool to fix everything. From the time he moved in when I was in kindergarten to the time I was a freshman in high school when he and my mom separated, I never saw one repair man come to our place. But for reasons I won’t get into, I never fully grasped how important that concept was, no matter how much he tried to instill it into me.
Today, I have a few tools here in my apartment; a drill, a couple hammers, some screwdrivers (a Phillips and flathead), one or two wrenches, and a tape measure. I know how to change a tire, and if given a manual, I can install or fix most things. One of the proudest moments in my young life is installing a ceiling fan for one of my ex-girlfriends.
So I know how to work with my hands to some capacity, but definitely not at a capacity with which I’m comfortable. For as much as I know how to do, there’s even more I don’t know, and to avoid being the man who is always inviting another man into my place to have him fix what is probably a simple problem, I want to be the man who can fix it himself.
Now as is the case with most of the attributes I attempt to acquire throughout this process, becoming a handy man is something I definitely want to know not only for myself, but whoever I end up settling down with and my future children. My older brother built my old bed with his own two hands from plywood he bought at the lumber yard, and he’s not a bed maker. He specializes in sheet rock installation, but still, there’s no problem my brother doesn’t know how to fix. And just because I made a choice to not be a construction worker a long time ago, doesn’t mean I want to know any less than a construction worker. If anything, I think it would be a little bit more appealing to outsiders if I can be a writer who knows how to fix things.
What’s funny is, being a writer is exactly the reason why I want to learn more about working with my hands. It’s not because I need a side hustle, it’s because when I was growing up, as much as I hated working on all those construction sites with my Pop, in retrospect, the fruits of such labor were far greater than anything I might have written. From installing break pads on my Mom’s van to fixing the plumbing in our household, my Pop did it all. My brother bought a fixer-upper and fixed it all up himself, with his own two hands.
People say I have a gift, but when I think about the kinds of things my Pop could do and the kinds of things my brother could do, I wonder how can I get their gifts too. They may not be able to write like me, but when an ex of mine and I bought some Ikea furniture, my writing skills didn’t come in handy, nor did my reading skills. Ikea directions are ridiculous. So we had to call my brother to come in and save the day, which as it turns out, would require way more tools than Ikea was suggesting in the manual.
From learning how to change the oil to fixing loose cabinet doors and replacing old light fixtures with new ones, at some point soon, I’m going to need to acquire some more handyman skills. Maybe for Christmas I’ll ask for one of those Makita power tool sets, if not to use them, to at least appear like I’m willing to use them because some women don’t care if a man knows how to use the tools, she just cares that he has them.
Case in point: One day I was in line checking out at the supermarket down the street from me when I ran into one of my neighbors. The two of us see each other across the sea of people and she says, “Hey Jozen, how are you?”
“Fine!” I say. “Headed home?”
“Yeah,” she says. “I just had to pick up a few things.”
“Okay then, well have a good day,” I said.
I go back to check out when I hear my neighbor yell, “Hey, Jozen, quick question?”
Now everyone has their eyes on us because we are talking at each other with at least three aisles between us.
“What’s up,” I say.
“Do you have a drill?”
At that moment, I could feel the eyes of every woman within the vicinity of our conversation looking at me. I felt like I was on one of those Visa commercials where everyone is swiping their card and I was the one who gave the cashier some cash. Everyone stopped what they were doing and looked at me for my answer, but I knew I had it under control.
“A drill,” I said. “Yeah, I have a drill. When do you need it?”
Even my neighbor who asked me seemed a little shocked. “You have a drill?” she said.
“Yep, I have a drill, do you need it today,” I said.
“Uh yeah, if you can,” she said.
“Will do,” I said. When I took a quick glance around me, all the women who looked at me with question marks in their eyes now looked at me like they wanted me to make a house call. I was never more proud to own a drill. But no one knew about my inability to use the drill. It’s not like I was going to help my neighbor use the drill. When I arrived at her apartment, I just handed it over to her. Considering the repair was beyond my expertise, I figured it was best to let her handle whatever she needed to handle. I was just a guy with a drill. I wasn’t a handyman. But soon, I will be.
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