He had a William Shatner thing going. He was older than me, by at least twenty years, but young, nice jeans, good shoes, great smelling cologne that I caught a whiff of as he whizzed by with his tool box. He sang to himself as he walked from his van to my front door.
I was in denial about my dryer, the rattling that got louder and louder that one week, during softball season where there was mud on all of my daughter’s clothes.
With a family of five, Laundromat was a dirty word. I desperately called around to friends to find a repair person. His name came up over and over. He was good, I was told. He was honest. He got there quickly.
We make small talk as he works. He tells me about his recent trip to Disney with his grandchildren.
He sings to himself as I run to other rooms to check on my children and take phone calls.
After fixing the rattle in the dryer, he scolds me – nicely – for the overabundance of lint sitting in my dryer filter.
“I’m the worst at that,” I say, without any excuses. I smile apologetically.
We settle the bill.
“You have a good aura,” Robert says as he writes out my receipt.
I ask myself if I heard him right.
“Some houses, I walk into and I feel the negativity all around. You? You have a happy soul. It’s a happy house.”
“Thanks,” I say. I feel like I should say more. But I’m not exactly sure what.
“You should see some couples fight over their appliances. One house I went to yesterday with a broken washing machine, the two of them couldn’t stop taking shots at each other over whose fault it was that it stopped working. This one was blaming that one, and that one was blaming this one. It was no one’s fault that the washer broke.”
I nod in understanding. “It’s almost as if they needed to blame something on each other. Just because.”
“Exactly.” Robert looks at me, his captive audience. “There’s so much blame in this world. For nothing.”
“I know. I see it too. Isn’t that a shame?”
“All that rehashing. It takes up energy. If it’s broken, just fix it. Fix it and move on. Do you think this dyer is going to sit around for the next six months rehashing the fact it was broken? Or trying to place blame on someone for why it wasn’t working? Although on a side note you’d go to appliance jail for the amount of lint I found in that filter. But seriously. The dryer is fixed now and it will work again as it’s supposed to. We humans are the only ones that complicate that process.” Robert shakes his head and hands me my receipt. “Too much rehashing. Too much finger pointing over nothing. ”
We chat for a while. I’m a little sad when he gets up to leave.
A year later, I call Robert for a bad hose in the washing machine.
“I remember you!” He says excitedly as he walks into my kitchen. “You have a happy soul!”
“That’s me!” I squeal. It feels like the best compliment in the world.
The last time Robert comes, for a leak in my refrigerator, the “For Sale” sign is in front of the house. When he walks in, he looks serious. “You’re moving? Where to?”
When he leaves me that day, with a refrigerator as good as new, he stops at the door. “I wish you luck, I hope I don’t have to come back here again before you leave, but I’ll miss coming here.”
“It’s always so nice to see you,” I say, as if I’m talking to an old friend.
“And for crying out loud, can you please remember to empty the lint filter?” He shakes his head back and forth as he walks toward his van. Even from behind, I can see the smile in the corner of his face.
Earlier today, I left the owner’s manuals for my appliances in an envelope on the windowsill for the buyers of my house. On the front of it, I wrote Robert’s phone number. The new owners will think I’ve done this to be helpful, should there be a problem with an appliance, they can call a repair person who has a history with these machines. But it’s more than that. They will be calling a repair person who has a history with me. Robert will come in and hum his song and chit chat and work on his repair, and even though I won’t be there, I will be there. And Robert will remind me that what’s broken can be fixed. It’s that simple.