A Dandy Handyman


  • The best things in life sometimes arrive unexpectedly. A good example of this truism is the story of life with Bill (not his real name), our dandy handyman.

    We would never have needed his unbelievable know how if I wasn't the world's unhandiest male. That was not a handicap when courting my wife or while we rented. But one eventful day we had the pregnant idea of giving birth to our own home. That event completely revealed my manual disability.

    So we two innocents bought our first house. It stood on a countrified street, devoid of pavements and heavy traffic - a dream come true.

    Eventually the bubble broke. It wasn't fun walking in the mud when the elements went berserk, nor were we comfortable with all our neighbors having access to our outdoor mailbox. In addition, squirrels and birds soon adopted our fruit trees.

    The dream shattered, we became aware of the patching up we were doing of a dwelling approaching senior status. We also had accumulated a variety of experiences with those claiming to have all-around skills. Most seemed to need more fixing than the project on which they were working. Often they did not arrive at the agreed upon time or just not show up.

    All this is a prelude to the Story of Bill. The tale opens with the purchase of our present home. The house stood higher than the others, a license for the daylight to caress its interior. On a clear day we had a view of our favorite mountain. Our new citadel possessed many unusual and exciting features.

    Yet it also had a mottled history, having suffered from the "good-bye" blast of the previous occupant's teenagers. Towel racks had been ripped off, rugs stained and studded with spike marks. The interior showed signs of poor care and some light fixtures looked like they were survivors from another era.

    Prior to moving into our home, neighbors insisted we contact Bill for whatever needed fixing. Because of our previous experience with "handymen," we hesitated. But reality demanded action and we made an appointment with him.

    That meeting was full of surprises. Bill was perhaps in his late'50s, with an unpretentious manner. His hourly rate was so reasonable my wife soon increased it over his protests. Unlike the others we had encountered, he constantly astonished us with his knowledge, skill and his obvious enjoyment in righting mechanical wrongs.

    In a short time this amazing person cut a yearned-for mail slot in our door, arranged for greater outdoor lighting, put in railings along steep stairs, freed stubborn closet doors, installed outside lights and hooked up new fixtures.

    The exterior of our home also became his domain as he kept the weather-beaten areas in good repair, replaced the stair boards which had rotted out and built vegetable boxes designed to discourage adventurous slugs.

    Bill kept no record of the time he spent on any job. We discovered early this was to be our responsibility. We had to ferret out the bills for wood, paint, fixtures, faucets and the garbage disposal he bought.

    In our ten year contact we learned little about his personal life but we grew to enjoy his sly sense of humor, hearty laugh and his tolerance of customers' foibles. We discovered a passion for literature and a keen understanding of world issues.

    The saga of Bill has a disquieting epilogue. His fame spread so wide he recently was forced to get an unlisted number.

    His secret is safe with us.

    Henry Wiener is a good friend who loves to write and play with language. He can be contacted at (206) 523-2690 - I am attempting to talk him into getting a computor and email. This story was originally printed in The Journal on February 10, 1998.