Thursday, November 3, 2005

Desperate Housewives, Chicago style

Well, what’s been the most popular response to the last e-mail?

“Jeez, E, why are you SO darned repetitive?”

Nawww, just kidding. Only my good buddy Tim pointed out that I’d sent him the same e-mail twice the other day (and also twice to so many of you! ). For that I blame my erratic internet connection, which sometimes comes back saying “The message could not be sent”.

Then I usually panic, thinking, “My goodness, these poor poor people will not be able to read my next fabulous installment! Deprived of my genius! What to do? What to do?” And in a frenzy, I push the send button five more times, or redo the thing entirely, with multiple mailing lists, only to find that .... yes, it did indeed go through the first time after all! Hmmmph. Makes me look like an idiot. I know.

(And no comments from the peanut gallery, please, as to whether appearances reflect reality, thank you VERY much....)

So, “howzit“ here in South Africa?

Fairly dull, I suppose, this week. I have been working on “moving in” issues, unpacking boxes, buying household supplies, trying to get the phones to work, supervising painters and electricians and security company reps and cable tv installers and ... and ... and... the list seems endless. And it’s Johann and Fred and Fernando and Calvin and Edouard and Piet and Derrick and Arthur and Jan and Kelsie and Sipho .... in and out of the house, all day long.

But in a way, it’s nice to have the male companionship. All those guys! As Mr. D is off in Europe again (Paris, Geneva, damn it! I’m so envious!) Eight days, just me and Miss T, in this huge house by ourselves. Soon I’ll be one of those women who break things, just so a handsome phone company guy will come by to do repairs. “Women who break stuff, and the men who service them”. What an excellent, saucy title!

Years ago, in Philadelphia, my friend Raechel seemed to have someone at her house, working there, every time I ever phoned her. I threatened to write a short story, titled “Raechel and the Tradesmen.” Never got any farther than that title though. I would sit down to write it, but I think I found my day dreams were always much too lurid to write down, so I couldn’t have marketed THAT story to anyone but Penthouse Forum, and Raechel wasn’t that kind of girl!

But then we moved on to Chicago, and I forgot about Raechel’s marvelous tradesmen. With four little kids, I couldn’t afford to hire out repairs, and I had mostly learned to fix stuff myself over the years, or live with it “as is”, somehow. But finally, in 1994, I had some kind of a serious plumbing issue. Something that I couldn’t fix myself. A backed up main drain, I think. It needed a power auger or a line snake. Out of my league, for sure. So, I looked in the yellow pages, and picked the nicest looking local advert I could find. “Precision Plumbing”. That sounded like a competent plumber.

The plumbing truck drove up, and out of the cab stepped the most gorgeous creature I’d ever clapped eyes on. Matt, the Plumber. Tall, dark and handsome. White T-shirt and pressed blue jeans.

“What’s the problem?” he asked.

I’m sure I was nearly speechless, a frumpy tongue-tied thirty-something housewife in a baggy tracksuit, with four little kids hanging all over her. And I was embarrassed at the same time to present such a smelly and terrible problem to someone who looked so ... sweet. And he was such a pleasant guy. He fixed the drain, no sweat. I soon after had him install the new garbage disposal. Then the ice maker on the new fridge. The sump pump. The new washer and dryer. A utility sink. Gas piping for an outdoor grill.

And the bathroom renovation. He hefted a new toilet up the staircase like it was nothing at all. And as he knelt on the tile floor and jiggled it into place and connected the fittings, no plumber’s arse either! This boy could really wear a tool belt!

It turned out, he was a really smart guy. He’d attended university for two years, but just wasn’t into it, so he apprenticed on with a licensed plumber and went to trade school. He was just branching out, starting his own plumbing business, when I hired him the first time in 1994.

So after that, when anyone ever asked me, “Do you know a good plumber?”

Well! Gosh, did I!

“Let me tell you... Precision Plumbing... but be sure to ask for Matt. He’s ... exquisite...”

Book groups, PTA meetings, church coffee hour. Soccer field sidelines, grocery store aisles. Whispers, scribbled notes.... “Ask for Matt. Sooo good!”

And now? In 2005? Well, Matt doesn’t actually come out on jobs any more. He’s now got a fleet of 25 fully fitted trucks. Probably a staff of 40. Secretary, computerized billing, you name it.


All the housewives of Glen Ellyn are suffering, still, a little bit. A little bit heartbroken, a little bit bereft, hoping that one day, the toilet will stop up, they’ll dial Precision Plumbing, and Matt will show up once again on the front step, with his dark eyes and his gorgeous smile.

I think Matt always knew how appealing he was. Fantasy object of all those desperate housewives. And do you know how I know that?

Because Teri told me this summer, she had some major news, MAJOR NEWS, about our fave plumber! He’s just had his logo redesigned, and had all his trucks redone!

And what’s on the trucks now?

Matt’s beautiful face, enlarged to 6 feet tall.

Now there’s a guy who can market himself. Selling the fantasy, the dream.

“Let me come over and check out your pipes, baby...” Mmmm....

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