Essential Work Begins at Home


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The Babylonian Talmud advises, “Make yourself a teacher, make a friend, and judge everyone positively.” I would add: hire an electrician, hire a plumber, and judge the bodyworker’s work on your fender positive.

After 2½ years of Covid much of which has been spent sitting around the house the whole country has noticed things that need fixing and rooms that need redecorating. The wait for materials is long and good people to work with are scarce.

We’ve spent months talking about key workers in hospitals and nursing homes, but what about those in our homes? I mean the handymen who help when the toilet breaks or the wires cross. The best time to find a good electrician was 10 years ago.

In Favorites on my iPhone are Joe, Sean, Jon, Jim, Terry, and Angel—my electrician, plumber, bodybuilder, cleaner, and handyman, listed by name, not job. They appear surrounded by family and friends, which is fitting because they’re family of sorts (usually with less baggage). Posting bail for brothers, buying plane tickets for girlfriends, helping out with lawyers, and even serving as best man are things my relatives didn’t ask me to do. On the other hand, no one in my family can wield a caulking gun.

Most of our handymen know our house entry code and work when we’re out of town. More than a few times I approved a job without asking for a price upfront, certain I would be treated fairly. This trust works both ways. Izzy Goldberg was the most sought-after carpet mechanic I’ve ever met, and he never laid a yard of carpet. He sat down at the kitchen table with the housewives for coffee while his “helpers” moved the furniture and stretched out the carpet. The customers trusted Izzy, Izzy trusted his men, and they trusted to be paid promptly.

Determining the day the work is done is a biblical commandment, and doing the ethical things is always good business. Donald Trump was notorious for not paying subcontractors and Antonio Brown’s foibles, like forging his Vax card, were exposed by an unpaid chef. Tommy Lee and Pamela Anderson’s sextape was released by a contractor he stiffened. Karma.

Discounts help too. I’m not chasing Google or Meta yet, but is it any coincidence that they have omelette stations and bok choi side dishes for their workers years after I brought my donuts, bagels, and pizza? Angel and his crew are a reliable order for six Subway cheesesteaks. More than a few times, late-stay workers have joined our family to enjoy my wife’s exquisite cuisine.

I don’t like to brag, but for the past few months (and as per the obligatory timing of system outages) I’ve had blown smoke detectors fixed on Sunday afternoons, water-jetted a sewer line the day before Thanksgiving, and picked up our battered Forester the day after Christmas and two days later returned – after that I was told the price for the repair. My family and the vendors joked and shared candy bars. Many of us may never swing a hammer or rewire an electrical circuit, but we can all develop these non-mechanical skills that will stand us in good stead.

Mr. Weiss is a carpet salesman in Pittsburgh.

Journal Editor’s Report: The best and worst of the week by Kim Strassel, Kate Bachelder, Mene Ukueberuwa and Dan Henninger. Pictures: Paramount Pictures/Zuma Press/Getty Images Composite: Mark Kelly

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Appeared in the print edition on June 6, 2022. Essential Work Begins at Home

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