It took only half a century, but at long last, I know a guy.
For years I could only listen at block parties as my neighbors spoke glowingly of "the guy" who combined superior knowledge with cost savings one would only find at thrift stores. Ray knew a guy who was a wiz at fixing computers, while Shawn's guy was a super-aggressive accountant who saved him thousands on his income taxes. Mike swore by his air conditioning guy, and Ed would never consider getting his car fixed by anyone other than "a guy I know who charges half what the other guys charge."
I yearned to jump into the conversation, inform the group about my "guy" and then feel my status in the "'hood" rocket upward as assorted neighbors came by with six packs, presented them to me and said, "Thanks, Greg. I called your guy."
And then I met Don.
I owe our meeting to a lame attempt at humor. During the Schwem family's annual garage sale, where we sell useless junk -- or "antique treasures" if we are talking to a potential customer -- a tech-savvy gentleman stopped by and purchased a Hewlett-Packard printer that I had listed for $15. He was overjoyed.
"This is perfect!" he said. "Just this morning mine started making this sound." And he cleared his throat repeatedly, which I assumed was his impression of a faulty printer.
"Sounds like my lawn mower," I joked.
"Oh, is your mower acting up?" he asked. "I know a guy. He can fix anything with an engine."
So could my local lawn mower dealer, although it cost 85 bucks just to enter the premises, and by the time the mower was repaired, small children could hide unseen in my overgrown lawn. I was all ears.
Whipping out a pen and paper, the printer guy wrote down a number. "His name's Don. Call him."
Thirty minutes later, mower in tow, I was at Don's house. He greeted me at the door, told me he'd retired from his career as a maintenance supervisor at a large casino and led me to a shed out back that he'd converted into a workshop. Don was certainly not lacking for work; mowers of all shapes and sizes awaited his expertise.
"The grass will be dead by the time he gets around to me," I thought.
"What's wrong with it?" Don asked.
"The wheels don't turn, and it grinds whenever I pull it back. Also, it's 15 years old so let me know if it needs to be put out to pasture."
"Give me a day and a half," Don said.
Sure enough, my cellphone rang at the precise time he promised.
"I replaced a couple of bearings and tuned it up," he said. "You owe me 43 bucks."
Did he really say 43 dollars? My local dealer never charged me two digits for a mower repair.
When I returned, Don was once again waiting for me. In addition to new bearings, he had sharpened the blade and changed the oil, two tasks I hadn't even requested.
Still skeptical that ANYTHING could be repaired for that amount, I took the mower home and fired it up. It literally catapulted from my grasp, racing across the yard and pruning the grass with a "zing" sound that I knew came from a freshly sharpened blade.
Why is it so difficult to find a "guy" like Don -- individuals who work for the sheer joy of helping others and who don't say, "Well, the labor took a little more time than I thought. That will be $1,800"? Blame our deteriorating work ethic and lack of honesty. But take comfort in knowing that, when you least expect it, a guy will surface.
In three months, my snow blower will receive Don's loving care. I may even bring along a six pack. Once my neighbors hear about him, I know I'll have plenty to go around.
(Greg Schwem is a corporate stand-up comedian and author of "Text Me If You're Breathing: Observations, Frustrations and Life Lessons From a Low-Tech Dad," available at http://amzn.to/schwem. Visit Greg on the web at http://www.gregschwem.com.)
Greg Schwem: Everybody should know a guy
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