Reality Truck

Wayne’s World

A fine example of the kind of negotiating approach you should take with contractors can be found in the excellent corporate training film, The Godfather, where as part of his negotiations with a movie producer, Marlon Brando gains a subtle psychological advantage by arranging to have the producer wake up in bed next to the head of a deceased horse. This is not to suggest that to get a good price you need to go around decapitating animals. No indeed; wild animals are more than adequate for most residential transactions. But the point is, you have to be firm.

—Dave Barry

There’s a new man in my life. I’m reluctant to say too much for fear of jinxing it....Because this is a guy I could really commit to. I also don’t want to say too much because, well, I find myself insanely jealous of his time…and I don’t want to risk some Other Woman coming along and stealing him.

It all started when my stove—after probably 50 years or so of use (or whenever it was stoves were invented)—went out with a blaze of glory. Literally.

I’d turned the oven on to preheat and left the door ajar to get the kitchen nice and toasty; walked into the dog’s room to feed him; and returned seconds later to find flames leaping out of the oven, where (on slightly closer inspection), the circa 1950s-1970s coils had spontanously ignited.

My mother asked me if I’d used the fire extinguisher they’d responsibly provided me with as a housewarming (pardon the pun) gift, and I quickly diverted her question by impressing her with my quick-thinking fire-safety knowledge, wherein I’d fearlessly slammed the oven door shut—thereby cutting off the oxygen supply, and extinguishing the flames.

(The truth is, I think that fire extinguisher is in its original packaging—alongside the carbon monoxide and smoke detectors they also got me—which I think are in a utility closet off the dog’s room. Where they are admittedly useless as he does not have opposable thumbs.)

To be honest, I hated that stove. But it came with the house. And it worked. Sort of. Sometimes.

And according to my Calvinist upbringing, you don’t throw anything in semi-good working condition simply because it is hideously ugly—“not if it has YEARS of service left in it missy!”

Sure, as colors go, it put the “burnt” in “burnt sienna”—two of the burners didn’t work, and the oven temps were wildly erratic and temperamental, and it was much too small for the amount of cooking I do, but what can I say....I wasn’t raised in the kind of profligate luxury where one just buys an unnecessary EXTRAVAGANCE like a NEW stove, just because they don’t like the one they have.

We’re NOT people who just FLUSH perfectly good money away (which reminds me of how I had to forcibly break a ballcock just to talk my stepdad into switching the hideously blue, sporadically functional toilet in my bathroom for a simple white one that works ALL the time, even when it rains, and you don’t EVEN have to jiggle the handle…but that’s another story). But any appliance that tries to burn the house down can be thrown away in perfectly good, guilt-free conscience.

So initially, I was kinda excited to hike on out to the burbs and see what sort of gleaming stainless steel bargains might await at their recent ONE DAY ONLY sale.

And I was crushed to learn: NONE. Not in stainless steel. Not in ANY color.

Because not only was my stupid burnt sienna stove ugly, it also turned out to be a non-standard 27-inch drop-in, which has to to be special-ordered, for about a grand.

So I took the advice of the appliance guys, who I’ve always found to be supportive and helpful, when they told me, “Lady, maybe it’d be cheaper to just make a bigger hole.”

That’s where Wayne comes in.

Oh sure, I’d had handymen before. Several, in fact.

I usually discovered that they billed out their hours at roughly the same rate as a pediatric cardio-thoracic surgeon (I only know what that fee is cause I used to date one, and trust me, it’s quite a bit).

They frequently broke (and/or stole) things and never finished anything. (Like when I hired one to rip up carpet in one room and lineoleum in another, he LEFT the black rubber tar-like substance that was underneath so everyone could track it through the entire house. As if I’d chosen it as part of the decor and LIKED it there. In the front hall, he left about 672 nails and staples, which I have spent the last PAINSTAKING year prying out of the floor—a fact which necessitates everyone being issued slippers when they come in the front door.)

All I knew was, I’d been scarred.

So I asked around....and one of my girlfriends gave up Wayne’s name and cell number. She rents now, so I guess maybe she doesn’t rely on him QUITE as heavily as she once did—plus, she knew I could be trusted. I’d passed the background check.

He and a buddy came right over and meticulously laid down drop cloths. They taped. They measured. I sat transfixed. Mesmerized. I initially hadn’t wanted to watch (warning them it was entirely possible that they might find anything from the Lindbergh baby to Jimmy Hoffa under that stove), but I couldn’t turn away.

They sawed. They broke off blades and replaced them with new blades. They drilled. They stripped wires and located correct fuses. They used a belt sander AND a random-orbit. It was a veritable ballet of mechanical precision. And then they SHOP-VAC’d up the ENTIRE MESS.

Where once there was a 27-inch hole, there is now a gaping maw of THIRTY. And I can go shopping in peace for a nice, standardized bargain—which I pray Wayne will install.

I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with my house—it’s got good bones, but the wiring’s shot; the plumbing’s aging fast; and the exterior has certainly seen better days. It’s a lot like me.

But I got NUTHIN but love for Wayne. I’m just tryin’ not to blow it. n