April 14, 2023

Article at Medium

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An Old Man’s Regrets While Waiting for the Handyman

Crow’s Feet
Orrin Onken
AI image. Bing. Prompt by Author.

I need an electrical outlet installed in our bathroom.

No, that’s a lie. My wife needs an electrical outlet installed in our bathroom. She wants a bidet and that requires a new electrical outlet. In our house, new electrical outlets fall on a Venn diagram of household duties within the set of things that the man takes care of. I’m the man.

But I don’t know how to put a new electrical outlet in the bathroom. I know the theory. There is an outlet facing the other way in an adjoining room, from which a man could run wires to a new outlet by the toilet. I would have to cut a hole in the bathroom wall, a tile-covered wall, and install some sort of electrical box. I don’t know how to cut that hole without shattering all the adjacent tiles. I don’t know how to install the box, take the measurements, or run the wire through the wall.

I watched YouTube videos. That didn’t help. I consulted with ChatGPT. It gave detailed instructions and convinced me I could never do it.

I have a guy coming over. I found him online. I’m hoping he can do it.

I feel like a failure as a man.

My father, rest his soul, could have done it. He could build or fix anything. He built a house once and lived in it with my mother for many years. When I was young, he hung out in the garage with his tools and built things. I wasn’t interested in what he was doing. I was indoors reading books. None of those books taught me how to install an electrical outlet in a bathroom.

I tried. As a boy, I bought a book about electricity. I had two books on how engines work. But I never joined him in the garage, which was a great disappointment to him and is today one of the great regrets of my life. Reading the books didn’t work. Even after reading the books, I couldn’t fix engines or install new electrical outlets.

The handyman coming to my house appears to be about thirty-five years old. He is half my age, yet he can install a new outlet in a bathroom. I imagine he learned it by working with his father in their garage. So if his wife wanted a bidet, he wouldn’t be thrashing about on sketchy internet sites that promise to take the pain out of finding someone to do home repairs. He would go to the hardware store, come back with exactly the right things, and get the job done.

I have tried to do handyman things and failed.

I once did some plumbing underneath my kitchen sink. Later I went through a divorce and she got everything, including the kitchen sink. We had been apart for a while and she called me to tell me that my plumbing job beneath the sink had failed and she’d had to hire a real plumber to fix it. Just in case I had forgotten what a failure I was as a man.

I’m sure the handyman didn’t go to college to major in English and, when he couldn’t get a job, then go to law school so he could spend his days collecting fees for reading stuff and then telling people what he’d read.

That’s what I did. But now that I’m retired, I don’t even do that.

The handyman probably doesn’t write articles for Medium or mystery novels that no one reads. Nor does he want to. But I want to do what he does, and what my father did. I have the time and the desire, but it’s not in me.

I was a disappointment to my father. He never said that, but I felt it.

In his final years, he lived in a care center with my mother. He had never been a happy man, and he wasn’t happy in the care center either. I was once visiting and telling him about a case I was working on. His eyes lit up. He wanted to come to the courthouse and see me in court. I said that he could, but he lived far away and really couldn’t. I was glad. He expected to see a trial like they have on TV. But I’m not an actor and professional screenwriters did not write my lines. He would have been disappointed again. And even if he had seen me in court on a good day, I would not have been able to impress him the way I might if I’d been able to install an outlet in our bathroom.

Both my parents wanted me to earn a living with my mind, not my hands. They didn’t want to see my body broken by physical labor by the time I was fifty. I was an obedient child and did what they asked. Now, when I am in my seventies, I am thankful that I followed their advice. But I regret some roads not taken. One of those is the road that would have led me to being able to install a new electrical outlet in my bathroom so my wife can have a bidet.