Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Handyman 101

Early in our Hong Kong sabbatical, I established a close relationship with the building's handyman and this sabbatical proved to be no different. I attribute most of this to my inability to run foreign appliances. On my first two days in Eindhoven, I discovered several things that endeared this new apartment to me: 1) The washer leaked water onto the floor 2) The fabric softener drawer of the washer was filled with water 3) the shower was leaking onto the bathroom floor each time it was used 4) there was not a single towel rod, hook or horizontal surface in the bathroom.

On Friday, I made 2 dates for Monday; one with a washer repairman and the other with a handyman. The washer repairman arrived first. He was a distinguished-looking 60 year old, dressed like a banker with little round glasses and nicely combed hair. I assumed there was no way he was going to get down and dirty with this tempermental, water-spitting machine when he was dressed like that. I walked him up our 3 story spiral staircase where our laundry room is so conveniently located. (my calf muscles now look like a speed skater's) I explained to him what my main problems were and he said he would check it out while I went downstairs. He obviously didn't want me to see his trade secrets in fixing a washer and be out of a job. After a full 15 minutes, he called me upstairs. Lucky for him, I have those speed skater's legs. Our conversation went like this:

Washer guy: "Your zof-ner dizpenzer iz flooded. Dat iz not nomal."

Me: "I thought so"
Washer guy: "Do you uze zof-ner?"

Me: "No"

Washer guy: "Den vee don't need to fix it."
Washer guy: "An' you haf vater on da floor?"

Me: "Yes"

Washer guy: "A lettle vater on da floor iz not going to hurt anyteng. Call me if you haf any more problems."

I walked him downstairs and showed him the door, hoping the rental company didn't spend a lot on this service call. About 30 minutes later, my doorbell rang again. I opened the door to see a very skinny man in black tight jeans, a black t-shirt with a matching tiny, black moustache. He held up a couple of tools in each hand and announced, "Handyman!", like it was the answer to the bonus round question on a tv quiz show. Like a true tourist, I repeat back, "Handyman?!", with the same inane enthusiasm. Having established his role in both of our minds, I took him to the second floor to show him the leaky, rod-less bathroom. It became apparent very quickly that when he was taking English classes as a child, he was caught several times daydreaming out the windows. This resulted in very few words that were familiar to both of us (other than the warm salutation of, "Handyman!") so we knew we were going to have to perform our best pantomime to get our ideas across.

He mimed  ripping all of the caulking out of my already leaking shower and then repeated the actions, leading me to believe he was next going to replace it with brand new caulk. Then it was my turn to look dumb, so I mimed shaking out an imaginary towel and then hanging it on the imaginary towel rod that was bolted to my real bathroom wall. He nodded that he understood and told me he would be back. I asked him when. He held up an index finger to the ceiling as if about to announce a great scientific discovery and said, "Friday!" (remember that this is Monday) I wasn't sure what would take so long to get back with rods and a tube of caulking but figured it must be a Dutch thing. I agreed and walked him to the door.

On Friday he returned, as promised, this time with a helper. The helper didn't know how to hold up tools on either side of his head and proclaim, "Handyman!", but he did hold up tools and make a grunting sound, so I assumed he was a legitimate stranger that I was suppose to let into my house and take charge of my bathroom. The helper ripped out and replaced the caulking while my original handyman used a noisy drill to install, I hoped, about 17 strategically -placed hooks and rods. I envisioned towels hanging all over my dry bathroom.

He called me upstairs and showed me the lone hook he had installed by our sink for a hand towel. Then, he showed me his ingenious solution to my four-person family towel problem - a shower rod, spanning from one wall to the other. While I have nothing against shower rods in general,  I was not real excited. Resuming our earlier pantomime routine, he demonstrated the way I would be hanging up four towels, making a little "dat" sound as he hung up each one. "Dat, dat, dat, dat", he said, and then turned to me, triumphantly waving his hand in front of the newly contained pretend towels. I smiled and told him that he had done a good job. After a week of towels hanging from doors, chairs and radiators, I didn't care if he had installed drywall nails to hold up our dripping towels.

That night after my shower, I hung my towel up next to my husband's on our brand new, shower/towel rod. I stood back and admired the towels, hanging up like clean laundry on a clothesline. I went to bed, contentedly thinking of dry towels and drifting off to sleep. My dreams were interrupted though by a loud crash in the bathroom - the casualties were few - a shower rod and 2 damp Dutch towels.