ShaneHalbach.com

Shane Halbach, handy man about town

I was visiting my Grandma. Actually, that’s not true, she wasn’t even there. We were just staying at her house on the way up to the family reunion. We got the kids into bed first thing, so we didn’t get around to unloading the car until dusk. We were standing outside unloading the trunk, when a lady wandered up to us.

“Are you handy?” she asked me.
“Uh…I guess so. I mean, it depends on what you mean by handy,” I replied. “I can fix things around the house I guess, but not like, repair my car.”

This answer was apparently sufficient, because the lady proceeded to tell me her entire life story. She was fighting with her son-in-law, blah blah blah, running the air conditioning all day with the window open, blah blah blah, ungrateful, can you believe it? it’s her house, blah blah blah, kids these days, what with this economy?

Long story short, she decided to punish her (adult) son-in-law by removing the window air conditioners, but she needed help replacing the windows.

::Whew!::

So of course I said I’d help her. I mean, when someone you don’t know traps you for 10 minutes with a drawn out story and then asks you for help, what else would you say? “How is it always you? It’s like they can sense you somehow,” Sara said later. It’s true; I give off some kind of “sucker” pheromones or something. They always know. I guess a sane person would have just said no, but I don’t know. If someone needs help, I feel like I should help them. Unfortunately, being a human being apparently makes me vulnerable to opportunists.

Still, I could see the indicated window from where we were standing. How long could it take to pop over and check it out?

As we were walking over to her house, she continued her prattle. “Now, I apologize for the state of the house. We had the carpet torn up, but I don’t have the money to replace it just yet…”

Wait a minute, why was she talking about the inside of the house? I thought I was just going to help with the window? The one I can see from my Grandma’s driveway.

So, of course, we go inside, and I have to walk through the middle of not one, not two, but three adults in the house. Obviously they could have helped her with whatever it was she needed done, but they couldn’t because they were feuding with her. And now here I was, in the middle of it all, aligning against them with this lady who was quickly turning out to be crazy. “Uh, hi,” I said, but I got no response.

I should have known there was trouble just by the fact that she was asking me, a total stranger (in fact an out of towner!) to come into her house. How did she know I wasn’t a serial killer or a robber or something? The only way is because she knew that, odds are, she was crazier than I was. Nothing to fear.

“Sara knows where I am,” I thought. “If anything happens to me, Sara knows where I am.”

We walked through this junk heap of a house to the bedroom, where she showed me the window. At this point my only thought was to take a look at the window and get out of there as fast as possible. Sure enough, it was thoroughly screwed up, but I managed to fix it after maybe 10 minutes or so. I had no idea what I was doing, but I was able to just sort of look at the mechanism and figure it out, the way any adult should be able to (much less the 4 adults resident in the house). Night had fallen outside. At this point I was ready to make a run for it. Sayonara. It’s been weird, but at least now it’s over.

“Thank you sooo much!” she said.
“No problem,” I said. “I’ll just be going now, then…” I edged my way toward the door.
“You know, as long as you’re here, there’s just one more thing, if you wouldn’t mind looking at it…”

Alarm bells were clanging in my head. I just kept picturing that guy from Misery, chained to the bed while Kathy Bates breaks his legs with a sledgehammer.

What I wanted to say was, “Lady, are you kidding me? I’ve really gone above and beyond here. You have 3 adults in this house staring daggers at my back for helping you, and now you’re going to ask me about something else? I don’t even know you!” Instead I said, “Okay.”

Back we trooped through the gaggle of goth 20-somethings hanging out in the kitchen and NOT helping this lady they lived with, until we reached another window in the dining room. I stood around while she removed a second window air conditioner. “Okay, can you help me get this window back in?” I cannot express how much I did not want to help her get the window back in, and maybe she finally sensed that she had pushed me too far. “Actually, you know what? I think I can figure this one out. I think you can probably go.”

Oh thank god. I could practically feel the fresh air on my face. I had to struggle not to run. Finally I reached the front door, and I grasped the doorknob in my hands, freedom in sight, where it promptly fell off the door, trapping me inside.

As I stood there, stupidly looking at the doorknob in my hand, I made my final peace with the world and mentally sent a “goodbye, I loved you” to my sleeping children. This was obviously it. The End.

“Oh, do you need help with that? The door is a little tricky sometimes,” said the unhelpful son-in-law, with whom I was currently feuding.
“Yes,” I said. I left the “please don’t murder me” unsaid.

Spoiler alert: I didn’t die.

He reattached the doorknob and showed me the trick of opening the door. And he didn’t even conk me with a brick when I walked past him and out into sweet, sweet freedom. In no time flat I was back in the quiet safety of my Grandma’s house.

One thing’s for certain: I will think long and hard before answering next time someone asks me if I’m handy.

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