wing and antique door moldings theynfound in a pasture somewhere. Butnthey pay a terrible price for this ability,nas people with irrepressible talent oftenndo. They go around for three yearsn(the required renovation period) lookingnlike they just witnessed a trafficnaccident. They begin to talk incessantlynabout wood and become oblivious tonthe bits of dried plaster stuck to theirnforearms. And when they are finallynfinished, they go and sell the place,nwhich I don’t understand at all. If Inwere capable of turning a shack into anshowplace with my own hands, I wouldnwant to gaze upon it for as long as Inlived, and I’d make my children promisento maintain it after I was gone, sortnof like a shrine.nObviously, this is something I willnnever have to worry about. My husbandnand I have other concerns. It isnour lot in life to be the kind of peoplenwho are repelled by the thought ofnhandling lumber or discovering whatnthe inside of our TV looks like; thenkind of people who think words likenwrench and power tool have the ring ofnviolence.nAs a result, we have been forcednthroughout our marriage to “hirenhelp.” If talent extracts a price, well,nineptitude is no picnic either. Over thenyears, the cost of enjoying plaster-freenforearms and an unintimidating toolboxn(half a dozen bent screwdrivers, anbag of old washers, and a hand-medownnelectric drill that originated innmy husband’s family only slightly afternmy husband did) has been the acceptancenin our house of a regular paradenof plumbers, carpenters, and repairmen.nYou might think that bringingntrained professionals into a situationnsuch as ours would be a comfort — annexpensive comfort, but a comfortnnonetheless. And you might be wrong.nWe have discovered that these menngenerally are just human extensions ofnthe appliances we fear and the skills wenlack. The various tradesmen we havenhired over the years have been responsiblenfor some of the weirdest momentsnof my life — so weird, in fact, that mynson figured that there had to be anreason for it, and the reason was thatnthese people always seemed to show upnon Monday.nBut that theory was put to the testnwhen a carpet installer showed up atn54/CHRONICLESn8:30 on a Wednesday morning andnspoke his first words to me: “Boy, it’snhot. You got any beer?” I gave him thenonly reasonable answer I could think ofnunder the circumstances: “No.” Thatnmight have been a mistake, because annhour later my son came downstairs andnannounced, “The carpet guy is asleepnon the bedroom floor.”nAnd there was the summer we hiredna carpenter, highly recommended, tonbuild a deck in our backyard. Thencarpenter’s name was Harvey, and henwas aided in his labors by a son callednDuke. On the days he actually showednup, Harvey would, at the slightestnopportunity, pop open a bottle ofnPepsi-Cola (“aluminum cans will makenyou sick,” said Harvey) and tell menthings about himself I really didn’t carento know, such as, “I’m allergic tonfruit.” For his part, Duke would kicknback, Pepsi in hand, and relate the plotsnof his favorite Burt Reynolds movies.nAnd it was Duke who asked one of thenmost memorable questions ever put tonme. Seeing my two children come innfrom school one day, children whonhappen to be not only different agesnand sexes but also different races (notnhard to figure out when you thinknabout it), Duke desired to know, “Arenthey fraternal twins?”nAnd then there were the screw-ups,nlike the paperhanger who pasted a stripnof wallpaper over a plugged-in radioncord. When I pointed out this error, hensaid, “Damn, I guess I’ll have to fixnthat.” And not to be forgotten is thenTV repairman who listened to menexplain the problem with my television,nthen asked, “Are you American?”nI said that yes, I was American and whyndid he want to know? Said he, “Inthought by the way you talk you mightnbe from Boston.” If I’m from Boston,nthis must be Monday.nBut my favorite (in a manner ofnspeaking) encounter with a repairmanncame the first time my garbage disposalnquit on me. I called a plumber, whonshowed up at my door two hours laternaccompanied by a man of slight buildnwhom the plumber introduced as “mynassistant, Dickie.” The plumber wentndirectly to the disposal, while Dickienhuffed and grunted as he draggedntoward my kitchen a large and ominousnpiece of equipment that looked like anweapon from a World War II movie.nThis pair would become known in ournnnhouse forevermore as “Dickie and thenso-called plumber.”nWhen the so-called plumber hadnfinished his examination of the disposal,nI said, “So what’s the problem?”nThe so-called plumber hesitated briefly,nlooked me in the eye, and told me,n”It’s broke.” It was one of those momentsnwhen you feel like your life is anmovie and you’ve been forced into anseat to watch the show. There I was,nasking, “Why is it broken?” There wasnDickie, preparing the war weapon fornuse. And there was the so-callednplumber, giving me his professionalnevaluation: “Probably it’s a lemon.”nTo make a long story short, I called ansecond so-called plumber, who installedna new disposal, which caught onnfire six months later. I hired plumbernnumber three. Told him my disposalnhad caught on fire. Told him it wasnonly six months old. And he told me,n”You got a lemon.”nIn fairness to tradesmen, I shouldnsay that I have had a few positivenexperiences over the years. Twice mynwashing machine was repaired withoutnincident. And years ago I hired a housenpainter who was a gem — honest, competent,nneat, and good-humored —nand we became friends. But he retirednlast summer and turned his businessnover to his nephew — discouragingnnews, since I am almost positive therenis a rule somewhere (I’ll have to checknwith my son) about not hiring people’snnephews.nAnd while I’m afraid to say it outnloud, I have even found a goodnplumber — an elderly Italian man whonworks with his two sons, neither ofnthem named Duke. When they comento my house to fix something (theynrecently installed my fourth garbagendisposal), “the boys” attend to businessnwhile Pop, who sits at the table shootingnthe breeze, yells sporadic instructionsnin Italian in their direction. Thesenmen show up on time and clean upnwhen they are finished. They don’t asknfor beer, and never once in my presencenhave they used the word lemon.nStill, I avoid taking chances. I try not toncall them on Mondays. It’s true: superstitionnaccompanies ignorance. It’s alsontrue that I would never get my hair cutnby a man named Buster.nJanet Scott Barlow covers popularnculture from Cincinnati.n