“American men like to fix things. They love to do home repairs.”
I was listening uncomfortably, glass in hand, to a know-it-all Brazilian lady who had lived in California for many years.
“Sure,” I told her, “many American men do love to tinker in the home. Look at the great success of businesses like Home Depot. Unfortunately, I’m not one of them. A tool in my hand is a dangerous weapon. I promise you that I will do more harm than good whenever I try to fix something. Instead of a fixer upper, I’m a fixer downer. I destroy things. I have the manual dexterity of a dead fish.”
With this spewing of emotion on my part, she gave me a strange look, and then moved on to talk with someone else.
She thought I was joking. I wasn’t.
A long history of failures has convinced me that my life would be happier and much less complicated if I leave the fixing to those most suited to those tasks.
However, this severe deficiency in my talent pool has caused me some difficulties in Peru.
When we first arrived in Peru, I tried to palm off on my wife all duties relating to house repairs. Early on, she complained to me.”These guys are macho. They don’t like taking orders from a woman. You have to talk to them.”
This was a daunting task for me. Not only did I lack the basic skills and knowledge relating to home repairs, now I was faced with language problems. For example, what is the Spanish phrase for “doesn’t flush?” Or how do I understand and answer the questions put by repairmen such as,
“Where is the fuse box?”
Or “What is wrong with the refrigerator?”
It seemed as though there were thousands of important and useful phrases in Spanish that I don’t know when it comes to home repairs. Gestures and bad Spanish didn’t seem to work too well.
Unfortunately, none of my language courses or phrase books prepared me to deal with such situations. If this were a typical Hollywood movie, Larry, the hero, would be pushed around by the bad repairmen.
Then, he would study strenuously for a few days, maybe find a wonderful teacher like Mr. Myaggi in the Karate Kid films and then spout perfect orders to the repairmen who would bow in respect and immediately start doing what they were told.
Well, forget that. It didn’t work that way. The truth is that I was an utter failure in my role as commander of the repairmen. I had to be replaced. Now I cower silently in the corner when one of them comes to the house.
My designated role in home repairs is to be sent as a messenger with a note to the local hardware store. Interestingly enough, the owner of the store looks like Mr. Myaggi.
Hmmm. Maybe he can help me defend myself against the repairmen?