They said we just needed 2 weeks to flatten the curve, and you believed them.
So to continue your job virtually, you moved your computer to the basement, where you wouldn’t be disturbed by your newly at-home kids. You found and dusted off an old desk and desk lamp from your storage room, and ran extension cords to it from all over the basement. You pointed the Zoom camera back at yourself, and the roughly-painted wall behind you that was decorated with a mounted shelf with your grandmother’s Precious Moments and Cherished Teddies collections, and a poster of fallen Cardinals home run hero Mark McGuire.
But just about now, the virtual reality of it all is about to set in. This is going to be your PERMANENT office for 1, 2, or maybe even 5 days per week. Forever. Shattering dreams of someday having your feet up on a desk in a corner office. And while it may be slightly better than that Dilbert cubicle you were working in, your self-respect and your mother-in-law require you to do better than this.
You need a makeover. And while an old handyman like yours truly might not be the first person to come to mind when thinking of a “makeover,” in the year 2020 anything is now possible. So, let’s pretend Fix St Louis has a magic wand, and you are Cinderella toiling at a virtual office instead of scrubbing floors.
Good grief, what are those incoming Zoomers to think when their minds momentarily drift away from your important pronouncements, look past your silhouette, and study your wall? Does it reinforce the idea that you are a competent, well-credentialed professional who has his/her act together in work, personal, and family life?
Fix St Louis can help transform that wall into one you might EXPECT to see in an office. We can paint it, panel it, or even shiplap it (for those Joanna Gaines Fixer Upper fans out there). We can hang shelves, pictures, diplomas, or other objects to make you seem like a smarter, kinder, more virtuous, or more successful person. We can even assemble inexpensive IKEA shelving units, so that you don’t have to embarrass yourself in front of some stupid androgynous instruction manual stick figure.
Today’s virtual office warrior needs a whole lot of electrical outlets. There’s desktop computers, monitors, laptops, phones, modems, bluetooth devices, and more. If you’re lucky, there’s an outlet on the wall directly behind you, and not 6′ away. Even then, chances are it’s just a duplex outlet with only 2 places for plugs, assuming neither of them are the type of plug that’s part of a bulky transformer box. Fix St Louis can install new wall outlets, in the right place on the wall, and with 4 or more places to plug-in. We can also hide those non-power coaxial TV cables, and a/v and Ethernet wires behind walls and drop or drywall ceilings.
Fix St Louis can put a light on the ceiling above your desk, so that you have adequate lighting and can use the space on the desk now taken-up by a lamp. We can also install a ceiling fan somewhere else in the room, where it won’t blow all the papers off your desk, assuming paper is still a thing.
Maybe you’re now working in a basement with a yucky bathroom you’ve never fixed-up because there was never a compelling reason to — until now. Changing out the sink/vanity, medicine cabinet, and light fixtures can make an enormous difference.
And while you’re at it, if you’re changing out the vanity, you might as well have Fix St Louis install new vinyl plank flooring at the same time. Usually, installation is surprisingly inexpensive because it can simply be laid over the existing floor, it requires no fasteners or adhesive, and you don’t need much flooring to cover the small floor space. BONUS: You’ll be converting your basement into an acceptable living space for guests.
Let’s look at the bright side. You’ve lost some or all of your commute. You’ve got a full house to work in that includes a kitchen. And, you’re not limited by the unexceptional, standard-issue space, furniture, decorations, and utilities provided in a nondescript office building. Let Fix St Louis turn your office into a place fit for a Prince or Princess, and the envy of every mean Cinderella step-sister.
Just about every day I listen to stories from homeowners puzzled by the behavior of a past or would-be handyman. Why did they never hear back from him? Why did he suddenly quit before the job was finished? When will he ever return to fix the thing that immediately broke again?
You know, I hate to be the one who has to stick-up for lawyers, but when it comes to those who maintain a good social distance from the truth, lawyers are mere amateurs. Generally speaking, a handyman is a better target for that old joke about you can always tell he’s lying “when his lips are moving.” But, what’s a homeowner to do these days, with handymen now wearing masks covering their mouths, when even THAT clue can’t help you?
So today, we at Fix St Louis are pleased to deliver this very short online class. The topic is how to translate the garbling coming from behind the mask of your handyman into the truth. Just to be clear, NONE of this applies to Fix St Louis. We’re the folks trying to professionalize the infamous handyman industry, remember?
Introduction: The First Principle of the Handyman Industry
“The value of your job to the handyman, and his associated willingness to achieve customer satisfaction, are directly proportional to how big your job is versus his other jobs.”
So, if you have a relatively small job, your “customer service” (geez, am I being kind here) will generally be worse than a customer with a bigger job. That means things like later start dates, longer times to finish, less competitive pricing, reluctance to return to fix subsequent quality issues, and lack of responsiveness to phone calls and emails.
Handyman: “Great! We’ll start your job in about 3 weeks, depending on how fast we finish our other jobs between now and then.”
Oh, that’s a good one, always makes me laugh like hearing it for the very first time! What this really means is we’ll start your job in about 3 weeks depending upon whether any BIGGER jobs pop-up between now and then. Now you may think, well that’s OK because he didn’t ask me for any money in advance. But as a result, you actually HAVE no agreement, and he may never call you back at all – while you Mr/Ms Honest Homeowner, have in effect made a commitment to not hiring anyone else. It may seem counterintuitive, but assuming the handyman is not a crook (beware: we believe ~25% are convicted felons), you are better off paying money in advance because then at least you do have some kind of legally enforceable commitment. Assuming you’re into that lawyer kind of thing. Or you can just call Fix St Louis – we provide firm start dates so you can just put us in your calendar, schedule around us, and stop thinking about it.
Handyman: “Sorry, I’m going to have to take a few days off to go to the out-of-town funeral of a Great Aunt.”
Let me start by apologizing for what I’m about to say to that infinitesimally small number of you out there who have large extended families where EVERYONE gets along and SOMEBODY in that family keeps meticulous family trees – these remarks are not meant for you. But for everyone else, this just means you are being bumped by a handyman’s customer who has a bigger job, and it’s possible you will NEVER see him again. I’ve got news for you. NOBODY knows what a Great Aunt is. Even if they did, NOBODY could figure out who she is. NOBODY would take a few days off and forgo their wages to mourn her. And NOBODY would travel out of town to attend her funeral. Nothing against Great Aunts, but how could they be THAT “great”?
Handyman: “Sure, we’d be glad to change that light bulb. That will cost you $500.”
Yeah, I made this one easy on purpose. Unless that light bulb is on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and illuminates God’s finger reaching out to Adam, changing a light bulb should not cost that much. But some handymen think quoting outrageous prices on small jobs is a win-win situation for them. If their bid is rejected they didn’t have to explain the job was too small to interest them. But if the bid is accepted the money is worth it. Unfortunately, for most jobs you may not even KNOW what a reasonable price is. So either get additional bids, or call a company that cares about building up a portfolio of happy repeat customers and wants to keep its great reputation. Oh, coincidentally, have I mentioned Fix St Louis?
Geez, this online teaching is exhausting! I don’t know how the school teachers do it. So everyone, you can take off your masks now. Be sure to maintain appropriate distances from normal people and suspicious handymen.
The image of Missouri either got a big boost OR took a big hit last week, depending how you look at it. On one hand, photos from a pool party at the Lake of the Ozarks went viral, showing us to be a fun-loving bunch, and it might have offset those uncool Branson-area billboards featuring the Baldknobbers. But, unfortunately, after the pool party ended, the partiers returned home and went viral themselves.
So now we’re all being treated like a classroom where the entire class must be punished for the misbehavior of a few. In this case, the principal is your “County Executive,” who you maybe never even had heard of, and has job responsibilities you probably never understood. That is, until you learned of those unlimited powers to completely control your day-to-day life.
As punishment, we may now be held in detention even longer, delaying when we can send our kids back to school, go to restaurants that are financially viable, and go to bars to re-enact scenes from the Lake of the Ozarks, except without being waist deep in pool water.
As your humble handymen, we at Fix St Louis don’t think it’s our place to make you suffer through yet another one of those overwrought, hand-wringing expressions of sadness and lectures that are now filling your inbox, from folks you never did business with, making you wonder how they got your email address in the first place. But as a public service, just in case the pool partiers’ mistake was that they simply didn’t know of any good options to communal bathing, we would like to share with you what’s available in social distance-compliant bathtubs-for-one.
If the name “al-COVE” immediately makes you think of “Party Cove” at Lake of the Ozarks, you may not be ready for today’s lesson. These bathtubs, the most common of all tubs, are almost always 5′ long and are surrounded by 3 walls that form an alcove. Since the tub’s all hemmed-in by walls, there’s not much you can do to upgrade the tub, but you CAN make dramatic changes to those 3 walls, aka the “tub surround.” Wall tiles have gotten a lot more interesting these days. And, if you really hate the dirty and disintegrating grout between the tiles, you can replace the tiled walls with panels of “Onyx,” which is the new cultured marble. Also, if you have separate hot and cold faucet handles, we can change those to a single lever faucet. Fix St Louis can make these upgrades for you.
If its name makes you think these tubs are for people like you, who want their friends to just come on over, drop-in, and join them in the tub, we can assure you that what happens at Fix St Louis stays in Fix St Louis. Actually, these are tubs that are carefully lowered, NOT dropped, into a platform that we can build for you. Typically, the sides and top ledges of these platforms are made of tiles or that Onyx stuff we mentioned above. Of course, you’ll need a larger than normal bathroom to pull this off, usually a master bathroom.
Then, there’s this tub that needs neither to be wedged-in nor dropped in. In the past, most of these tubs had legs, like those “clawfoot” tubs featuring a large bird claw grasping a ball — pretty creepy if you think too much about it. Newer versions come in all kinds of cool shapes, and often don’t have legs. Fix St Louis can install these, too.
Sometimes referred to as Jacuzzi’s, which is actually a brand name, these are tubs that have jets that shoot-out hot water from the sides. Now I know that a lot of folks really like them, and we handymen are not exactly known for our appreciation of luxury items, but given the quality of the “massage” you’re gonna get from a whirlpool tub, your money might be better spent at Massage Envy/Deluxe/Whatever or for a boiling pot filled with round stones from your backyard.
You should know that Fix St Louis hears lots of stories about how excited people were when they first got a whirlpool after spending lots of money, used it only once or twice, then 2 years later, feeling guilty for not having used it since, found it no longer worked because of lack of use. Now, there’s nothing at all wrong with oversized tubs in general, but you might consider whether getting one that also shoots out hot water is worth having another motorized appliance in your house that will eventually fail.
These are bathtubs with doors, mostly for older folks and others who have trouble lifting-up their leg to clear the top of the tub. Maybe there’s a walk-in tub salesperson out there who wants to correct me, but I don’t get the sense that these ever took off, and I think I can guess two reasons why. First, the investment may never pay off for an elderly person with this leg problem because, pardon the expression, they’re just one step away from having to move someplace else because of mobility issues. And second, if you have to wait for all the water to drain out before leaving the tub, aren’t you going to get the chills?
OK class, so please resist the temptation to bathe with others until your all-powerful County Executive releases us from detention. And, if you simply MUST have a bath time companion, try a rubber ducky.
Just when you thought things were getting back to normal, THIS appears in the news earlier this week. Hornets the size of BASEBALLS have been spotted in the state of Washington. This new enemy, known as “Murder Hornets,” are ONCE AGAIN an import from Asia, where they are considered a DELICACY, possibly appearing on menus alongside pangolins and Cream of Bat soup. Is it crazy to think it’s THEIR restaurants and not ours that should be closed?
I don’t know about you, but this time we at Fix St Louis have no intention of listening to so-called “experts” who wear fabulous scarves, use models that spew-out projections off by 3 or more decimal places, and insist we’ll just have to forget granny in memory care.
No, this time we got this. Well, let’s say a combination of Fix St Louis and your choice of Bob the Bug Guy or Pete the Pest Killer got this. Yes, it’s true that this formidable team was deemed “essential” in the last pandemic, but this new threat will be OUR moment, and we are ready and prepared to be elevated to the status of your “humble heroes,” worthy of yard signs thanking us for our service.
Personally, I have every confidence that Bob and Pete will find ways to flatten whatever curve needs flattening, kill off Murder Hornets, and slow down their breeding. This seems pretty doable if you look at that picture above, and wonder if they’re even CAPABLE of attracting mates.
The indispensable role of Fix St Louis will be to maintain appropriate “social distancing” between you and the Murder Hornets. Now, we’re sure we’d have no trouble convincing YOU to comply with staying at least 6′ away from a Murder Hornet. But, not to brag, Fix St Louis has had quite a bit of experience engaging in confrontations and delicate negotiations with hornets, particularly when we work on your decks. And, our “models” show that trying to talk sense to THEM only makes them madder.
Our main weapon against Murder Hornets is our “screening program.” One of these options may be right for you:
Finally, a panic-demic where the cure is not worse than the disease. Not only will Fix St Louis fixing your screens keep out Murder Hornets, it will also keep out flies, mosquitos, and those mysteriously-appearing lady bugs and stink bugs. And unless you have a thing for Asian delicacies, you aren’t likely to miss any of them.
Folks seem surprised to learn it’s been pretty much business-as-usual at Fix St Louis, and even MORE surprised it’s because handymen have been recognized as “essential” by just about every state in the union. Yes, we have been appointed to today’s pantheon of heroes, which has membership qualifications that range from the indisputable to the debatable, and now includes truckers, marijuana retailers, and grocery store clerks.
But even though “essential” might be the nicest thing anyone has ever said about your humble correspondent, I promise we won’t let it get to our heads, which will never swell large enough to keep us from poking them into your toilets.
In fact, some of you have found these quarantine days among the BEST days to have Fix St Louis over. Especially those who are reluctant to take time away from the office, and prefer to be home the entire time we work, even though our criminal background checks and insurance make that unnecessary.
We’ve been doing our best to take BOTH the germs AND the “phobe” out of geromphobia. We’ve even introduced a comprehensive “Stay-Away-From-Me” program that we’re certain would be approved by the CDC, if they weren’t so busy on other things:
We swear, Fix St Louis technicians won’t come within 6 feet of you and your family members. It’s not that you smell bad or we don’t like you – we just want everyone to be safe. Beyond that, we’ve been accommodating all kinds of requests. For masks, just tell us what role you want our technicians to play – surgeon, bandana-faced stage coach robber, Phantom of the Opera, Dr Deborah Birx with a fabulous designer face-scarf – you name it and we will make every effort to comply.
If you REALLY don’t want Fix St Louis in your home, not even by the hair on your chinny chin chin, it doesn’t mean you can’t get the home repairs you need done. How about that deck outside that needs rotted boards replaced or could use staining? Those front porch columns that have deteriorated baseboards? That rotted white trim on the sides of your entry and garage doors? That detaching or fallen panel of siding? That thin sheet of metal, you didn’t know was even there, that fell from the angled side of your roof? Believe me, between emails, texts, speaking on the phone, and playing charades through the glass on your patio door, we can find a way to communicate.
There are even repairs we can handle for you that don’t require us to get anywhere CLOSE to your house. How about that broken, rusted, or leaning mailbox that has the neighbors wondering whether or not you really have your act together? Or that leaning fence, or broken gate? For these more remote repairs, let’s add to the communication alternatives above the use of a bull horn to tell us we missed a spot, or even smoke signals (depending on your local fire marshal).
So, feel free to take advantage of this unique time in history. A time when we call our customers to propose work dates and they’re more likely to say “yeah, sure, whatever” than “let me check my calendar.” Think of Fix St Louis as your go-to quarantine home repair specialists!
As you may have heard, Michael Bloomberg once stated he “could teach anybody in this room to be a farmer.” “It’s a process,” he said. “You dig a hole, you put a seed in, you put dirt on top, add water, up comes the corn.” On the other hand, he said he could not teach anybody to be a TECHNOLOGY worker because the “skill sets that you have to learn are to think and analyze, you have to have a lot more gray matter.”
Honestly, I am embarrassed to admit that Mr Bloomberg’s comments took your humble correspondent by surprise. For decades, I was actually under the delusion that being a successful farmer was one of the HARDEST things anybody could do, and would be a challenge for even the SMARTEST people I had ever met, like my wife’s late grandfather. Farmers’ skills seem to cover a wide range of so-called “gray matter” professions, including veterinarian, horticulturist, climatologist, animal behaviorist, geneticist, and businessperson.
So, I’m sitting here wondering. If this is what Bloomberg thinks of FARMERS, what must he think of us HANDYMEN?! Geez, being a HANDYMAN is one of the many things that even FARMERS can do! It’s not like we handymen NEVER deal with gray matter, but I can tell you, you wouldn’t want the gray matter WE work with stuffed into your head, either before or after it has hardened.
Now, I don’t know if Mr Bloomberg ever reads these newsletters and, even if he did, whether he’d think there’s anything Dr Steve can TEACH him. But I’m not going to take a chance, and miss this opportunity to teach Mr Bloomberg about Fix St Louis handymen, so he won’t embarrass himself if the subject ever comes up.
So, here is my list of things Mr Bloomberg probably would NOT be able to teach Fix St Louis handymen:
While Mr Bloomberg may have plenty of experience climbing onto boxes behind podiums, it seems unlikely he has the bravado to stand at the top of a 40′ ladder, which our technicians do routinely.
Fix St Louis technicians often carry TWO 80 lb. bags of concrete at the same time — one under each arm. If Mr Bloomberg could be cloned, I have no doubt they could also carry one Michael Bloomberg under each arm. Based upon his slight frame, I wouldn’t think he could teach anyone how to do this.
We at Fix St Louis are poking our heads into toilets every single day to get them working for you. But for all we know, Mr Bloomberg has people whose full-time job is to push his flush levers, and he would have trouble differentiating one end of a plunger from the other. Seems like Fix St Louis wouldn’t get much out of his toilet teaching seminars.
The magicians at Fix St Louis can make the seams between two drywall sheets disappear, using that gray matter I’ve been talking about (sometimes referred to as “joint compound”). Trust me, this is very hard to do and requires lots and lots of experience to get it right. Not that there’s anything wrong with it, but Mr Bloomberg has willfully chosen not to invest his time on his drywall performance, but instead spends it on his Wall Street performance and, believe me, those are two different types of wall altogether.
So, what have we learned from Mr Bloomberg today? We’ve learned that while we handymen may never be invited to a Mensa party or that annual elite get-together in Davos, an awful lot of folks there and everywhere else CAN’T or WON’T do what we at Fix St Louis do everyday — even the most ardent do-it-yourselfers. You might say we just had a teachable moment.