I used to think politicians and CEOs ran the world, but it turns out the real power lies with the blue-collar guys they boss around. I learned that lesson the only way I know how: by screwing up and almost wiping out my entire family. My furnace stopped working a few weekends ago, which was inconvenient since it was cold enough outside to freeze vodka. I had to settle for a Ketel One slushie to keep me warm while I shoveled snow. It was like living in a third-world country.
Since my kids and pregnant wife are whiners and wouldn’t drink my potato alcohol sludge, I made an emergency call to the HVAC guy. Our lives were in his hands. If he decided he was too busy to stop by, our pipes would freeze and it would be a race between dehydration and hypothermia to see which would kill us first. I guess we could’ve eaten snow and covered up under blankets, but it would’ve been hard to find a spot outside where our dogs didn’t pee and I’m not much of a cuddler. Fortunately, the furnace technician rescued us because he knew my life was worth saving. Either that or he showed up because I paid him money and it was his job. If it weren’t for his efforts, I wouldn’t be here right now to complain about him, which is of course what I’m about to do.
|Vodka is safe for kids as long as I put it in a sippy cup.|
I paid the heating expert $92 just to show up, but it took him all of 30 seconds to find the problem. It turns out those furnace filters aren’t just a frill used by hoity-toity people who insist on breathing clean air. Unlike Congress and most human emotions, that fiberglass mesh actually serves a purpose. I last changed that particular filter about the same time the Egyptians built the Sphinx. The ancient oxygen scrubber became so choked with dirt that the furnace lost airflow and overheated. It seems like a pretty major design flaw that a device whose sole purpose is to produce warmth can overheat, but I’m no mechanical engineer. I can’t even manage to change a filter once every three months. In my defense, I always waited way too long between filter replacements with our old furnace and it never made a difference. Then again, that furnace died mysteriously due to airflow problems. I’m sure those two issues are unrelated.
|My basic understanding of all mechanical devices is I push a button and then magic happens.|
It was an expensive lesson on home maintenance, but it could have cost me even more. And, no, I’m not talking about the lives of my wife and kids, all of which are easily replaceable. My fertility level defies the modern understanding of biology. If I didn’t cover my mouth when I sneeze, I would get at least six women pregnant. What I couldn’t replace were my meager financial reserves, which the HVAC guy could’ve pillaged on a whim. He said he had the option to charge me a $53 miscellaneous fee just because, but he chose not to do it since I’m obviously a helpless idiot. I’m not ashamed to profit from the pity of my fellow man. My life has gone a lot smoother ever since I abandoned any semblance of self-respect.
If the furnace technician had opted to charge the extra fee, I couldn’t have stopped him. He might only have a high school education, but he was the judge, jury, and executioner of the HVAC world. If I protested the arbitrary charge, he could’ve flipped a switch in my furnace and let my house be encased in ice. I never would’ve figured out what minor setting he changed, and any attempt I made to discover it would’ve led to third-degree burns if I was lucky and an explosion if I wasn’t.
Alternately, instead of a $1.50 filter, the furnace guy could’ve told me I needed hundreds of dollars’ worth of parts not covered by the warranty. I would’ve argued, but then he would’ve explained I had no choice in technical terms that he made up or possibly stole from a Dr. Seuss book. But instead of doing any of those things, he was honest, and it saved me a tremendous amount of money. Unless he was lying about that, too. Maybe there was no on-site visit fee, and he pocketed that $92 check simply because I was dumb enough to pay it. People who work with their hands make less money than useless cubicle drones like me, but they have a vital set of skills for which there are no checks and balances. If blue-collar laborers ever realize we need them more than they need us, they could take over the world.
People who fix stuff love me. My total ignorance about how things work makes me the world’s most vulnerable mark. Nowhere is that truer than at the mechanic’s shop. I have two options: Pay for everything the car guy says, or keep driving my vehicle to see if it really will burst into flames. Sometimes it’s nice to turn the key in the ignition without the fear of total immolation.
|Girl, are you my check engine light? Because I’m totally ignoring you.|
I have faith in my current mechanic because I once took in my Toyota Camry for what I expected to be hundreds of dollars in repairs. Instead, he found an easy fix and charged me less than $20. I assumed if he passed on the opportunity to screw me over once, he must have integrity, which is obviously a misguided conclusion to make. A smart mechanic would bait a rube like me with a cheap solution the first time and progressively more expensive ones after I was hooked. The naive trust I place in him prevents me from ever getting a second opinion. If I did, that would just give a second mechanic a chance to lie to me.
Mechanical things make noise. That’s a fact of life. The trick is to distinguish between the sound of “I’m working properly” and “I’m about to detonate like an atomic bomb unless I get thousands of dollars in repairs.” Since all the devices I own make sounds I don’t understand, I’m constantly at the mercy of blue-collar contractors who give me expensive advice I have no way to verify. They have the real power in America. If they ever realize that, they might not take over the White House, but they’ll charge me twice as much, which is even worse.