Seeing Another Man

Don’t give me the righteous side-eye, but: I’ve been seeing another man. These things start innocently enough, as some of you darn well know. Your honey-do-for-hire guy has to go off-Island for a spell. Or his back is out. Or his assistant quit. Or he’s catching up on that re-shingling job in Katama that got delayed on account of weather. You understand, and yet: leaves are heaped in your gutters. The screen door is dangling by one hinge. The beeping smoke detector is out of your reach. You have needs. They’re going unfulfilled.

Say…what’s this crumpled thing in your coat pocket? Why, it’s the card that other handyman gave you some months ago. He seemed like a hop-to-it kind of guy. Businesslike. Congenial. Or maybe your neighbor keeps gushing about her own handyman. Johnny-on-the-spot. Meticulous. Reasonably priced. “…And such a nice, nice man.” One phone call later, you’re having what she’s having.

And his technique! OMG. Danged if he doesn’t spackle, hammer, or mulch better than the guy you’ve been going steady with. That’s the other thing: not even the best of handymen/contractors/caretakers excel at everything. Oh, they may tell you they do, but no. Nevertheless, we should all be satisfied to find a Jack-of-most-trades, a Mr. Mostly Right, and put a ring on it.

Chris Burrell

Yet I am prone to overthink these things. Do I let my dump-run guy also build me a shed just because he says he can? Do I let the guy who can slap together a shed also craft my custom cabinets? Can the reputable roofer also shore up my foundation? Dare I let my exterior painter with the splattered shoes have a go at my indoor rooms? Should my lawn guy be let loose with shears around my shrubs? Conversely, why pay a ritzy landscaper top dollar to do something a smart, everyday yardman can do perfectly well for less?

In short order, I’m playing the field big-time, and there is no sneaking around on a small island. Just let a truck sit boldly in my driveway one day and my irregular regular guy will come down the road by happenstance. He knows full well that the truck, marked or not, belongs to Bill or Johnny or even Jane. Sooner or later, I will spot him at, say, the P.A. Club or in the produce section at Reliable. Does he spot me, too? Is that a snub on his pursed lips or is he merely miffed at the price of broccoli? I think it’s a snub. Oh, the shame of it.

Wait a sec: shame? I remind myself that I have my reasons. And if I get blasted with a shot of male ego, I’m ready with pushback.

“I noticed Jerry re-staining my deck for you.”

Your deck?”

“Yeah, the deck I built for you five years ago.”

“I’ve been asking you to re-stain ‘your’ deck for over a year.”

“He was using an inferior product, and it doesn’t look like he double-coated the edges like I would have done….”

“Well, I didn’t know you had resolved the problem with your __________.” (Fill in the blank: arthritis, truck, supplier, kid’s hockey schedule….) “So, can you finally repair my fence?”

“Maybe in 2019. I’ve got a bunch of projects to do for the Johnsons.”

“You mean the West Chop Johnsons with the mega-mansion and the boathouse and the deep-water dock?”

“Yes, you know them?”

“They’re my clients. I referred them to you.”

“Oh yeah, I forgot. Well, they’ve been great. They give me full rein to do whatever I think needs doing, however and whenever I want, and then bill them for whatever it costs.”

“Is that a ‘thank you’?”

Well, danged if I don’t cave sooner or later and try to get back in my old flame’s good graces. I’m sweet-talking and offering beer, maybe cooking him dinner. Because shudder the thought that I might not be good enough for him anymore. He may quit me for good. I could become the butt of jokes along the bar at The Wharf. I could wind up alone. So I string him along. And okay, maybe I string Jerry along too. Oh, the shame of it. But I’ve got needs.