Calling the Guy

Chris Farmer RSS / 22.08.2009. u 12:29

When something is broken in my immediate surroundings, I will call The Guy to come fix it.

This means the kitchen sink, the boiler, the fuse box, the electric outlets, the washing machine, the ripped shirt, the car, the window. Anything that we touch may break or cease to function at a moment's notice, whether or not I have struck it with a sledge hammer or tried to fill it with tomato juice. At that point, there is always someone out there whose special purpose in life is to repair the damage. We call the guy.

I say "we" call him, but more and more I am getting the impression that it is only me. Every time something goes wrong and I want to call the guy, I seem to get looks of sympathy and condescension. People (men in particular) think it is a personal failure if we cannot fix something ourselves but have to appeal to a mercenary "majstor" to come in, assess the situation, shake his head sadly, and fix it in three minutes.

Today the Sink Guy came. I have had a leaky faucet for at least a year and finally I decided to call the plumber to come DO something about it. If I put my mind to it, bought forty different wrenches and spanners, I could spend about three days to remedy the leaky sink. I would wipe my brow in satisfaction of Good Job Well Done. And it would start its insidious dripping again in 48 hours. Instead, I called the Guy who fixed it immediately.

What's wrong with this?

It's like the man who cannot start his car. He will open the hood, stare vacantly inside the motor. He will tap a few metal things with a wrench, stand back with one hand on his hip, and when no one is looking, he will close it all down and call the mechanic. I estimate that about 80% of men know NOTHING about fixing cars. I also estimate that about 90% of that 80% will pretend to try to do it themselves first. I have no such grand delusions about my Inner Mechanic - he does not exist. So, being part of the 10% of the 90% and at the bottom of the 80% of the 100%, I call the Guy.

My psycho-social evaluation of this state of affairs plays out on two distinct levels: A) all guys think they should know how to fix everything; and, B) the importance of finger-pointing.

Point A. A large portion of male humans are born thinking that they can repair a short-circuit, fix a transmission, or replace a calcified thermostat. Moreover, an even larger portion is born thinking they could fix it BETTER than their next-door neighbor. It seems to be part of our genetic code, right there next to the hunting of mammoths and slaying of sabre-tooth tigers.

I am man. I hunt. I fix.

Point B. This part I think is far more determinant. It is very important to be able to effectively blame someone for a Bad Job Done Poorly. If you do it yourself and it does not work, you can always say: "What do I know? I studied philosophy and ontology! What's a gasket anyway?" On the other hand if you hire someone, you buy yourself an instant scapegoat. You can then say, with chest righteously puffed up: "That idiot! He had no idea! I will sue him!"

Which is more satisfying?

But in the end, you are still responsible as you did pay him for the work. You did choose him and you did engage him. The best solution is Secret Option C. You get your cousin to do it. Or you get a recommendation of a Guy to do it. Mostly these people will not charge you for the work (or not much) but then they become FULLY RESPONSIBLE for the bad job they did. You are not only able to point your finger at the Guy, but also at your friend/colleague/cousin/whoever who recommended the Guy.



Komentari (6)

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Piromanski Piromanski 13:21 22.08.2009

Different dimensions

I like your post. And agree with you at most points. However, you keep forgeting something. Western and serbian way of doing something are two different categories. First, many people in Serbia cannot afford to buy new things when old go broken. Second, many of them cannot even afford to pay the professional "Guy". Third, due to years of powerty and decaying social standard, many families poses devices belonging to some past era. I guess that even the bravest serbo-amateur-mechanic wouldn´t be bold enough to start doing something on that mono-block of an engine he sees under the newest car hub. However, this guy usually faces something more analogue, produced by the national car company and in average, 15 years old.
To cut the long story short, when serbian citizens, and I guess this post of your concerns them mostly, "go west" and live there far away from dad´s, uncle´s or friend´s tool box, very soon they start calling the "Guy" when they need it. See Strongman´s blog about his experience with a broken car in the USA. It is all question of the circumstances.
Chris Farmer Chris Farmer 18:47 22.08.2009

Re: Different dimensions

Ok… but consider this.

A guy has a leaky faucet. He looks carefully at it and decided to change the washers or the rubber rings around the screws. This should do the trick. So he goes out to buy the appropriate parts and a wrench to fit his needs. He spends money.

Getting back, he tries to take apart the sink to find where he should put the new washers and finds that the screws are held fast by horse hair which should be replaced. If you are NOT me, you could use your own, but since I have none to spare, I have to go out again.

Out and back. Back to work. You finish the job and see that the bloody faucet is still leaking. And in the meantime a few hours have been flushed down the proverbial. So it seems you should replace the entire faucet. You go out to the plumbing shop (which you have to find by the way) and you see the choices in front of you. The cheapest looks ok but you figure you should pay a little more to get a better one. You get back home, install the new faucet (time factor ten). And once you are done you see that it drips. It drips. It drips.

Call the Guy.

The Guy comes and says

1) you spent too much money on the new faucet
2) your boiler under the sink will ALWAYS drip if it is on
3) the horse hair thing…. What???

And then, of course, you have to pay the Guy for coming to tell you what ass you make for a plumber.

My point, all economic considerations and exemptions made for Serbia – and by the way I was not just talking about here but everywhere there are men with tools, it is always more expensive and time-consuming to engage a job about which you know nothing than to pay the Guy.

(And in this case, Serbia’s “majstori” are less expensive than those I have called in Paris, London, and Rome).


This having been said, in your response I see that you want me to make allowances more for the mindset than for the actions. Agreed. But common sense will tell you that scratching your head and poking things of which you have never heard will not fix the sink. And by the way, did you remember to turn off the water in the flat?

Oh, says the Guy, you did not have to….

loader loader 17:03 22.08.2009

Hm.. ? .. :)

Vladimir Maričić Vladimir Maričić 21:46 22.08.2009

Hey Chris!

Good to see you on this website. Do you mention your blogging efforts on your CV?
Best wishes!
srdjan.pajic srdjan.pajic 21:51 22.08.2009


I love to fix my shit. Everything in the house, around my car, motorcycle, I even bought a sewing machine to repair my climbing gear (I ended up fixing it to half of my caving club). I am not sure what the reason for that is, maybe has something to do with me being engineer, not just a Serb. I like when I start from scratch, and then learn things. Like couple of days ago when I completely dismantled stuck garbage disposal. But from the practical standpoint, you are right - it is expensive, and unless you really enjoy it is a biggest waste of time.

I think problem in amateur repairing things is that one never reach proficiency of a professional "guy". That is why almost all of those "fixes" don't hold very much and you end up going to a pro, no matter what.

I am not sure if it us, Serbs, only, but it is true that as soon as we learn some basic repairing skills, we honestly believe that we can do anything better then anybody who is living of it. I guess it is in mentality, certainly not in the fact that we don't have money. That is why we probably have biggest number of "experts for everything" per capita ;-). And I think, our wives are suffering a lot because of that

But let me tell you one thing, Chris, that attitude saved me and my company/lab on several occasions from missing a deadline and loosing some business. Most of managers love to have that kind of worker, one that doesn't mind sticking his nose into a problem, even if he is not really "properly trained" to do it. Thanks God we don't build nuclear plants...

demonus demonus 20:19 23.08.2009

Money issue?

To tell you the truth, in my case, I always try to fix things myself. And it is not matter of masculinity. Simply enough, I can not afford to pay fixing of things I can fix myself. True is that I loose a lot of time on that, but since a phrase TIME IS MONEY could not be applied to me, I am my own repair guy. As soon as I get my finances straight, I shall start thinking like you. All you have written makes perfectly good sense.



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