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Published October 08 2011

Swift: Learning lingo of the repair guy

Must. Not. Hover. Must. Not. Hover.

That is what I’m telling myself as the repair guy checks out our furnace.

It’s very frustrating. I never really know what to do when a repairman makes a house call. Suddenly, there is a virtual stranger rooting around in the furnace room or pulling out the refrigerator, and I feel like I have to do something.

Should I give helpful advice? Offer him coffee? Apologize because Jake won’t stop sniffing his pants? Casually mention that my own dad was a furnace repairman so he doesn’t try to sell us a new Johnson-rod? Hold a wrench?

Of course, I know better. If it were my job to go into people’s homes and repair something, I would want to be left alone. I would not want to be accosted by some nervous, micro-managing rubbernecker, who announced: “I looked on Google, and some lady said when their furnace made this sound, they found a dead muskrat in it.”

The only thing I would need is for the client to clear the work area and write a check that cleared. As one of my friends once quipped: “The repair fee is $100, $200 if you help.”

Still, my pesky inner codependent keeps wanting to participate. At what point do I stand back and trust him to make the right decisions? How do I gently offer information when needed, without overstepping the client/provider boundary?

Forget helicopter parents. I’m a helicopter patron.

It doesn’t help that Irwin has made a list of things I’m supposed to tell the guy. I hate to announce, “My husband thinks it’s the blower” when the guy is a trained professional. Won’t it make it look like I don’t have faith in him? Isn’t it a bit like tapping a cardiologist on the shoulder during surgery and hissing: “Did you check the left ventricle?”

To complicate matters, this particular repairman keeps talking to himself. As I try to work quietly on my laptop in the next room, I occasionally hear, “Shoot,” or “That’s not good,” or “How am I supposed to reach all the way back there?”

This puts me in a spot. Should I mind my own business? Maybe this monologue is simply part of his thought process. Should I make sympathetic clucking sounds? Offer to help?

Instead, I stay put. I resist Googling “How to communicate with your furnace repairman.” I have decided to speak only when spoken to. He does emerge from the room once to ask me about the constant, high-pitched squeal in the furnace room. I had heard the very same sound a week ago, only to be told by Irwin that the “water softener always makes that sound.” Now I feel validated, as if this guy is on my side. Perhaps we share the same excellent hearing, like an aristocratic line of wolfhounds.

Then he reemerges. “I’m leaving,” he says.

I panic. Was it something I said? Is our furnace so old and dirty that he has walked out on it? I should have made cookies.

“I have to see if I can find a relay for this thing,” he explained. “I’ll be back.”

In a flash, he’s out the door. What does this mean? Will he be back today? Next Wednesday? In 2012?

Is it him, or is it me?

And so I wait.

Maybe I should get started on those cookies …


Readers can reach Forum reporter Tammy Swift at (701) 241-5525