A Man & His Tools Handyman Service

 

Reasons why you might call me:

You don't have time to do it yourself.

You don't have that tool it requires.

You could do it, but it would take you a really long time.

You are not confident how to do it because you have never done it before.

You have put it off, and now it's a bigger project than you want to tackle.

You don't want to work around electricity.

You don't have even the slightest idea where to start.

You don't have the experience.

You don't a way to get the part to your house.

You read my website, and you thought, "This guy is humorous. I bet it would be fun to have him do the repair."

You lost your mind.

You inherited Howard Hughes' fortune, and you no longer want to do things for yourself.

You won the lottery.

Your dog is old.

The wind blew out the candle you were using for reading, and you finally decided to get that lamp repaired.


Things people tell me:

I think I'll start writing stuff in here that people tell me which are funny.  Look for stuff to be added soon.  It's early and I can't think about stuff before coffee.  

Stuff I have been asked to do:

Light Bulbs and Stilettos

Back many years ago when I had not been in business very long, I got a call from a person who asked me if I could change a couple of light bulbs.  Now my friends all hear from me about how often I get that question in this business.  And, you, dear reader, don't know that. So, take it from me, I get that question a lot.  

But this person asked if I could do that. I then asked them the customary questions like, what is the height, and are they a particular type of bulb, or are there any special requirements about the fixtures?  No, nothing out of the ordinary.  Just one porch light, on the wall near the door, and one carriage light out by the garage.  Both could be easily reached.  OK. Now I'm curious.  The person  didn't offer any personal information about being infirm in any way, so I just ask them if they know my fee.  They did. They wanted the 2 bulbs changed. When can I come?

OK.  So I schedule the work, get in the car, go to the address, get out of the car.  The house is smallish, one story in a reasonable looking neighborhood. No red flags.  Lights are easily changeable by me. But then, I'm 6 feet tall.  Maybe this person is short. Maybe they are short and don't like ladders.  No matter, I'm tall enough.

So, I go to the door and ring the door bell.  OK, here is what greeted me.  A man came to the door.  This next part is interesting.  How he was dressed caught me by surprised.  And after a second or two, then I realized why he had asked me to come change the bulbs instead of doing it for himself.

First impressions can be very important.  They can set the tone for what comes next.  I heard one time in some training I received from AMP or DELL or someplace, that the first 10 seconds (or was it 3) determine your impression of the person and your brain makes a whole bunch of assumptions.

Well, my brain was busy right then.  We all live here in Austin, so by extrapolation, most of us must be liberal to some degree.  Maybe pretty liberal.  Some of us are VERY liberal.  That's OK.  I grew up in a conservative small town in NE Texas outside of Tyler.  I got a lot of Baptist upbringing.  That's pretty conservative stuff.  But, I moved here and now I have a more liberal viewpoint.  Even so, I was still taken aback when the man opened the door.

He was about my height, but maybe a little shorter. There was evidence of a 5 o'clock shadow.  Looking down, it was hard to tell at first glance how tall the stiletto heels themselves were.  They might have added about 2 inches to his height.  But, I couldn't be sure of that because the long blond wig he had on added a little height too.  He was a white male, mid fifties, medium build.  The longish black hair on his legs made the red shoes stand out.  But the pink sparkly evening gown really pulled the outfit out of average and pushed it all the way into spectacular! 

From top to bottom, that's a long blond wig, mid length pink evening gown, red high heel shoes.  

You can ask my wife about this part, I am pretty easy going. It takes a lot to rattle me.  This surprised me and I'll never forget it, but I didn't get rattled. I just took it in stride and told him I was here to change the light bulbs.  I did the work and he paid the bill.  He didn't do anything untoward.  I didn't offend him.  

Robert, if you ever read my website and realize I wrote about you, just let me say this.  You made my day.  I wish you well.  Keeping it weird in Austin.

The Gambler

Right around 2013, I got a referred to a gentleman by a landscaper I know.  His name was Harold.  The gentleman called me and asked me to come do some things around his house. I went on what I always consider at first, an interview. I always expect an interview, and lots of times that is what it is.  We met, he asked me a few questions about what could I do, how did I get into the business, some other stuff.  We hit it off right away.  He was older, he was recovering from back surgery and needed some stuff done on his little one story house.  One of the first things he told me was, he was dying soon (like at anytime) and he needed to get his house ready to sell in case it had to be sold when he died.  He wanted a good price from the estate to leave for his heirs.  I'm no doctor, but I told him that he didn't look like he was dying to me.  He assured me I was wrong.  We continued to argue that point for the next five years.  Then he won the argument.  But that isn't the story.  This is the story.

During his long and storied life, he had traveled the world in the Army.  He had married a few times and had a few children, and a couple of grandchildren.  He had gained and lost very close friends.  One of his longest lasting friendships had recently begun to fizzle.  The other man had gotten a girlfriend, and he and the woman were spending more time together leaving Harold mostly alone with his cats and pictures and memories of days gone by.  And he led a full life as I would come to know in those next 5 years.

One of the things I found out about Harold was that he had a love of gambling.  He mostly loved 3 car poker machines and tables.  He told me that at one time when he and his friend were more active, they traveled to many of the casinos in the south and won a lot of money.  He conveniently left out that he probably lost more money than he won, but hey, it was his story to tell.  

So over the years, Harold's health did decline.  I got to be pretty good friends with Harold and we talked almost everyday.  To say that Harold was eccentric would be an understatement.  Harold was generous, cantankerous, weirdly particular about some things, and really smart.  Many of the tips and tricks I picked up for my profession I credit to Harold.  He taught me how to balance a ceiling fan. He showed me how to make a fixture to paint both sides of a door so that the paint doesn't get messed up on either side.  And other stuff.

But as he reminisced to me over the years about his love of gambling, and how he always felt treated like royalty whenever he went to the casinos, he also asked me almost continuously about planning a trip someday to go back.  He was pretty old, couldn't drive long distances any longer because of his poor health, and he really wanted to go one last time.  Eventually, we planned a trip.  I talked about it with my wife and she encouraged me to go with Harold.  

Harold offered to pay for the trip except for my gambling money. He needed me to drive and offered his truck and gas, he would pay for the hotels and dinners with the coupons he got in the mail from the casinos and he would have one last trip to gamble.  So, with a little planning and some coupons, we took off to Shreveport to gamble.

It's one of the last and most fond memories I have of Harold.  And over 5 years, there were many. So, I drove him, and we went to a few casinos. We had a couple of great dinners.  I gambled a tiny bit, I'm not much for gambling.  I basically donated a few bucks to the casino.  And as it happens, so did Harold.

I really wanted him to win big.  He didn't.  Not even a little bit.  However, Harold was very happy.  His overall desire to go back and have a good time had been met.  He loved the trip and I do believe it was one of his favorite memories.  It is certainly one of mine.  And it was by my observation, his last big hurrah.

I have lots of stories about Harold, and I wish his family had been more interested in him.  He had been firm with his children, and hard to get along with for his ex-wives.  Inflexible is the word that comes to mind when describing Harold.  He was extremely bright, a quick study, talented, and loyal.  It was my habit as Harold's health declined to call him daily. Or he would call me daily.  He was beginning to spend more time in the emergency rooms towards the end.  

One day in October of 2017, I called Harold in the morning.  I hadn't heard from him that day yet.  I got busy with a couple of other handyman jobs that day and didn't follow up with him.  He couldn't always get to the phone, but always returned my calls unless he wasn't home for some reason.  But he was always home unless there was something wrong.  I had pretty much become his caretaker. 

When I got home that evening, I tried to call Harold again and got a bad feeling when he didn't answer or return my call after a few minutes.  Given his decline, my wife and I decided to go check on Harold at his house.  When we arrived, we saw a car sitting in Harold's driveway that I didn't recognize. It was just idling in the driveway.  There were two adults in the car.

As it turns out, it was one of his daughters and her husband.  Harold had a heart attack that day, called 911 from his kitchen, but died on the phone with the 911 operator.  The EMS people had come a few minutes later and tried for a long time to revive him, but he didn't make it.  The daughter was called and she drove up but the house was locked.  I don't know what their plan was for getting in the house, but I had a key, so when I arrived, I let them in.

Harold was, and always will be one of my favorite clients.  He tipped me more than generously on many occasions, we ate a lot of meals together and he always bought. Not because I didn't try to pay. I'm not destitute.  I'm not even poor.  He just wanted to.  He often asked me to come by and sit and talk for a while before I started on whatever job he dreamed up for me to work on.  And after a while, the house was in really good shape.  He just kind of made up little things for me to come by and "fix."  Mostly, he was lonely.  And he really was dying.

I'm proud to have known Harold. Proud to have gotten to help him. We ate oysters. We told each other dirty jokes.  He told me all about his family and ex-wives.  He showed me pictures of all his cats.  He gave me advice and asked me advice.  We shared a friendship. There is more.  Lots more to say about Harold.  He shared his entire life history with me in those 5 short years.  He pretty much told me everything about him.  Vietnam was horrible.  He told me stuff that I can't share here.  He had a full life.  I miss him.

I miss you Harold.


Lawyers, NO guns, and money.

As you saw on the first page, I referred to lawyers arguing that they were right about a light bulb issue.  So, this guy (a lawyer) calls me and tells me about an issue he is having with his bathroom wall light fixture.  Apparently, it has 4 bulbs in it.  His issue is: he turns on the light, and after a couple of minutes one bulb turns off for a few minutes then comes back on.  I don't know how often it happens each time, but it happens everytime he turns on the fixture.  He calls me and I tell him: It's the light bulb.  He tells me, "No, it must be the fixture."  We have a discussion about the expensive charge he is about to pay for me to come change a light bulb, but he still thinks it's not the bulb.  And his brother who lives with him, also a lawyer, wants to sit on the couch and argue about it with me too.  It can't possibly be the bulb they say.  Uh huh.  You know, it is the bulb.  It's always the bulb. Well not really always, but a lot of the time.  

So, I get all mounted up and go over to change a bulb for $75.  I love this business.  I went in, asked for demonstration of the issue.  The customer, takes me in the room and turns on the light.  We wait and sure enough after a couple of minutes, the bulb flicks off.  Then later, back on.  So, I take out this bulb and notice it's an LED bulb.  Here's the thing about LED bulbs.  They have a circuit board in them.  I worked with electronic circuit boards for about 20 years in my past jobs.  I went to school to design and repair circuits.  I know one or two things about circuits.  And, I know how to troubleshoot stuff from experience.  I have taken apart everything I can get my hands on over the years. I know how stuff works.  I was born at night, just not last night.

So, I tell him, it's the light bulb.

He disagrees. Nicely, but still.  He disagrees.  So, I ask him for a new light bulb.  He gets one and watches me install the light bulb.  No ladder required. No special tools.  Just a regular 60 watt equivalent, soft-white, generic LED bulb. I remove old light bulb and install new light bulb.  No slight of hand. No special super powers required.  Just change the light bulb.

Of course, then the fixture magically starts working.  We wait. We chat. We wait some more. We chat some more. We wait even longer.  The light does not blink, turn off, or stutter in any way.

He is not convinced.  OK, really? Nope. Not convinced.  Nor is his brother, who remained on the couch the whole time, convinced. So, I take the questionable light bulb and ask if I can install it into a different fixture.  You know, to prove the light bulb is indeed the culprit, beyond a reasonable doubt.  I take out a bulb from a pendant light in the kitchen, and install the defective bulb in there.  We turn on the light. We wait.   A couple of minutes later, the bulb turns off.  Then, when it cools back down, it turns back on.

You'll think I am exaggerating when I tell you they are not convinced it was the bulb. But, I'm not.  It takes more cajoling and explaining on my part, and when I finally leave, they are a little skeptical.  But, you and I know: It's always the bulb.