So now we learn that actresses Felicity Huffman of “Desperate Housewives” and Lori Loughlin of “Full House” used bribes to get their daughters into elite colleges. Of all the recent news stories, this one REALLY bothered me. As someone who hates seeing customers waste their money on things they don’t need, it irks me that they could have gotten SO much more value for their bribe money.
Now, as an old handyman who spends his days knee-deep in broken toilets and rotted wood, no one is likely to mistake yours truly for a member of the elite. But that doesn’t mean I don’t pick-up wisdom along the way from the often “desperate housewives” who I come across every day.
What I do know is that Fix St Louis is “desperate,” too – desperate to find skilled, responsible, and personable employees to fix our customers’ houses so that we can grow. Yet, here we have all this wasted bribe money churning out even MORE majors in 17th Century Belgian Gender Pronoun Studies, who can’t tell you which end of a toilet plunger is up.
If these actresses’ daughters are so interested in being worshipped and sought after, they should enroll in St Louis’ own Ranken Technical College, then attend a Job Fair, where hundreds of companies the size of ours and larger will slobber over them like paparazzi. Then, after Fix St Louis has hired them, we’ll send them to our customer’s houses where everyone from desperate housewives to the highest paid professionals will show great respect and gratitude for work that is extremely important to them, but they have no idea how to do.
And, if these actresses are concerned that their designer-name-conscious friends won’t think that the name “Ranken Technical College” has the same panache as Yale, USC, or Georgetown, they should be shopping for new friends rather than colleges. Ranken is a hidden gem, albeit increasingly unhidden. It is a 100+ year old, private, non-profit college that under its charter recognizes and promotes the “dignity of labor,” thinks of the trades as professions, and functions as a ‘boot camp’ to instill good work values. Think what you would have if TV’s Mike Rowe were a college, that’s what Ranken is. Automotive, carpentry, electrical, heating & air conditioning, machining, welding, you-name-it. Among other things, it’s where all auto dealers of all auto manufacturers send their auto mechanics to get trained and certified from several surrounding states. And, while Ranken doesn’t take bribes as far as I know, they do take donations from an impressive roster of companies.
But enough about these Hollywood elites, whom we spend too much time thinking about anyway. And enough about colleges. If you know someone who already has the skills we need at Fix St Louis, or know a young person who would like to learn them, please have them send us a resume. We may not be as desperate as these actresses, but we sure could use a few more technical professionals right now.
So far, it’s been a rough and controversial awards season, including an Academy Awards show that absolutely no one wanted to host. You wouldn’t think its purpose was to celebrate people whose main job is to entertain us and make us happy. Well, who cares about them and their lives, anyway? Despite their wealth and fame, they seem absolutely miserable. So, it’s time to announce this year’s Suburbies Award winners brought to you by Fix St Louis, recognizing outstanding performances by apparently MUCH happier non-celebrities living in everyday subdivisions in the St Louis flyover area.
Never gotten over the Beatles? Let me take you down, cause I’m going to Strawberry Fields, where Beatlemania is real. It’s located in the Penny Lane subdivision in St Peters, where other local streets include Long & Winding Road, Blackbird Lane, Sergeant Pepper Drive, Revolution Drive, and Kaleidoscope Lane. Parking is free, so you won’t have to worry about running into Lovely Rita Meter Maid.
This Cottleville home builder probably could not believe his great fortune upon discovering this statue of a head more than 7,500 miles from its brother and sister statues on Easter Island in the South Pacific. Nice touch that he built a front lawn around it so that it wouldn’t end up in the middle of a compost pile. Could a National Geographic Special airing at 3 a.m. be far behind?
Last year was a big year for Hollywood revivals, including the 5th for “A Star is Born.” But, revivals in residential housing are MUCH less common, which is why we were so pleased to stumble upon the Stonehenge subdivision in High Ridge, roughly 5,000 years after the original Stonehenge was built. The folks who live there don’t seem to mind being associated with prehistoric homo sapiens and, if anything, proud they could build structures still standing after several millennia. Can your builder do that?
In some parts of the country, coastal elites pay architects lots of money to create buildings deliberately designed to look like they are falling apart, while local art critics dutifully gush over them with words like “the optical motif of the line-space matrix undermines the substructure of critical thinking.” But that kinda talk sounds like a foreign language to us plain, toasted ravioli-eating folks here in St Louis. We’d simply tell this homeowner to find a good mud jacker and an even better lawyer. Nevertheless, we bestow this award to recognize this Oakland homeowner’s courage, and to extend our empathy to someone longing to live someplace else.
It’s one thing to have a beer on your porch, but quite another to have on your Florissant front lawn a beer wagon equipped with driver, 8 Clydesdales, and a dalmatian. Only a true St Louis patriot would install this lawn display. It’s almost enough to bring a tear to this old handyman’s eyes.
Congratulations to all the Fix St Louis Suburbie winners who prove that you don’t have to move into a Beverly Hills mansion or Gone With the Wind’s Tara to live in a great home. Come to think of it, isn’t there a subdivision called “Tara” on Wild Horse Creek Road? Do you suppose its residents would rather their subdivision be named after Stonehenge than a slave plantation?
I’m not making this up. As I am writing this, I’m sitting in a booth at the St Louis Bread Company in Kirkwood. To my left is a cup of Broccoli Cheddar soup, and to my right are 6 men seated at a table including, I’m thinking, 2 mayors, 2 police chiefs, and 2 city manager-types. They’re openly discussing what they can do to defeat this “Better Together” plan to merge St Louis City & County that’s been all over the news.
Now, I’m just a humble handyman who spends most of his time thinking about things like running toilets, rotted wood, and cracks in drywall. And I’ve long accepted that no politician will ever be interested in taking advice from a handyman on how to solve all the world’s problems — PARTICULARLY a handyman eavesdropping on their conversations.
So I turned back to my Broccoli Cheddar soup, and sipped and reflected. Fix St Louis has been running a “Better Together” program for years, and it must be successful because, to my knowledge, no St Louis Bread Company table has ever been populated by homeowners discussing how to undermine it. Here’s how we’ve brought Better Together to the St Louis area:
Homeowners are often not sure whom to call when something goes wrong in their house. A plumber? An electrician? Some nice, but hapless fellow who wears overalls, and does stuff like tinker with broken door knobs? With us, you can lump all your home repair problems together into one category — “Call Fix St Louis.” And if it happens to fall outside our comfort zone, we’ll give you a referral to a contractor we can vouch for, which is just about the best referral you can get.
Have you ever hired a plumber who had to cut open part of a wall? He fixed your leak, all right, but then he simply screwed the cut-out wall portion back into place, and left it for you to figure out how to patch the gaps around it, and how to paint or re-tile. The truth is, lots of home repairs require skills from more than one trade, and we can handle all these skills together with our OWN employees. Unlike most contractors, Fix St Louis can complete whatever repair we start.
Have you been living with small home repair issues because you thought no contractor would be interested in a job that small? Well, you were CORRECT — that is, for every contractor EXCEPT Fix St Louis. While we do handle bigger jobs, most of our business is small jobs, and that’s the way we like it. Actually, once folks realize that we like small jobs, we’re often asked to fix many things that have piled-up, together at the same time.
If you are still getting referrals for home repair contractors from neighbors and friends, it may be time to embrace more technology. No offense to your neighbors and friends, but chances are that the opinions of these 1-2 non-experts are based upon 1-2 experiences, limited to 1-2 required skills, and NO background checks in an industry where up to 20-25% of the handymen out there are convicted felons (yes, that’s what our recruiting efforts have found). We’ll take care of the criminal background checks, but we welcome you to find out what everyone on the web together thinks about us — >4.5 out of 5 stars on Home Advisor based on >100 consumer comments, Top 5% on Angie’s List, A+ rating by the BBB.
Well, the public servants at the table to my right are still at it. But, I’m afraid that this even more subservient public servant has to get back to their running toilets, rotted wood, and cracked drywall. Maybe I’ll just quietly drop my business card on their table on the way out.
Yes, last week was outrageously cold. And amazingly, it’s gone from 0 to 60 in four days, oddly similar to your humble correspondent’s first pick-up truck.
But that POLAR vortex was SO January, and now we’ve moved on. TODAY we must continue to grapple with a much greater threat to our daily existence, the disappearing KOHLER vortex. I’m referring to that swirling whirlpool of water you see in the toilet bowl after you flush, which over the years has become weaker and weaker. The result of this has been… well, you know.
Like allegedly so many of our problems, the Kohler Vortex problem is NOT a natural occurrence, but is man-made. More specifically, CONGRESS-man-made. Not satisfied that only 71% of the Earth’s surface is composed of the non-exhaustible resource, water, zealous federal regulators have driven toilet tank capacities way, way down – over the years, from as much as never-need-a-plunger levels of 8 gallons per flush to as little as forever-calling-Fix-St-Louis levels of 8/10 of a gallon per flush.
To be fair, you can’t really blame Congressional leaders like Mitch McConnell or Nancy Pelosi for not seeing this problem from their distant thrones, given that they don’t actually FLUSH, much less PLUNGE, their own toilets. Those functions are handled by unpaid interns.
Fortunately, we are Americans, and Americans will never sit still for tyranny, by toilet or otherwise. Manufacturers and consumers are now standing-up and defending the people’s “business.”
Yes, it’s true that toilets don’t flush as well as they once did, and an unsightly toilet plunger has become almost mandatory next to every toilet (Martha Stewart, are you listening?). But there’s no question that today’s toilets work a whole lot better than when these federal regulations were first introduced, and they should continue to improve as, hopefully, more college students realize that opportunities in toilet engineering now exceed those in the liberal arts. In the meantime, you should not be scrimping by buying the cheapest toilet. As a rule, you should be selecting from among the best ones you can find that do not have fancy, designey-type styling or bells & whistles you believe to be silly or unnecessary.
And speaking of bells & whistles, are you aware that some of the toilets sold have TWO buttons for flushing, one with diminished water flow for #1 and the other at the government-mandated maximum flow for #2? Yeah, at first I thought it was a joke, too, but I’ve actually seen them in person! I don’t get the sense that these have really caught on – after all, it doesn’t make your toilet flush any better. I say, don’t buy one, you’re only encouraging the federal bureaucracy. Who knows? When the regulators dig deeper, just imagine how many classifications of human waste they’ll find? These dual flush toilets might go from 2 buttons to a full keyboard!
Q. How can you tell if a homeowner owns a Toto toilet? A. Don’t worry, they’ll tell you. These toilets are made by a Japanese company, and they have a reputation for clogging less often. They have been said to have less convoluted piping below, and larger flush valves in the tank. However, Toto competes against at least two VERY strong and innovative companies, Kohler and American Standard. Sooner or later, if not now, I suspect whatever performance difference there is or was will disappear. We are already seeing signs that Toto is becoming just another high quality brand, not that there’s anything wrong with that. You once had to pay up to $1,000, and in many cases MANY thousands, for a Toto toilet, but Home Depot now sells some units with the Toto brand at standard toilet prices. So shop carefully, and beware of the hype.
Looking into my “crystal bowl,” I’m going to predict that someday there will be an electrical outlet behind every toilet. That home inspectors will even write you up if you DON’T have one. These outlets will almost certainly be used for pumps to improve flushing performance in light of the onerous federal water capacity limits, but they will also be used for functions unimaginable, some of which you can see today at the Kohler showroom on Clayton Road west of downtown Ladue. Motion-sensing toilet seats that open when you approach, man-resistant seats that lower automatically when done, foot warmers, music, remote control by Blue Tooth, colored lighting, seat warmers, massagers, checking by smart phone to see if it is “occupied,” bidet-type features, and more. You have no idea.
As we approach the promise of adding electrical power to toilets, surely federal regulators must now be plotting to curb the energy use from those additional electric outlets. Must be frustrating to think they may never get us back to that waterless, powerless outhouse with the cut-out crescent moon.
I just watched that controversial Gillette TV commercial, the one suggesting most men are violent, harassing, sexist, and condescending bullies. Maybe I should have been offended. But, I just assumed it was some sort of marketing gimmick, maybe to make men feel so depressed and ashamed of themselves they might consider using more of Gillette’s razor blades on more parts of their body, especially their throats or wrists.
But apparently, I was wrong. Gillette is out to change the behavior of every man in America, using the moral authority they’ve earned by being world-class experts on removing unwanted facial hair.
Look, I’m just a simple handyman in no position to judge the genius of Madison Avenue. Unlike Gillette’s ad agency, I couldn’t drive-off 30% of a best-selling brand’s customers even if I wanted to. But if I may be so bold, I’d suggest that rather than paint all men with such a broad brush, they might have done better to focus in on that subset of men who PARTICULARLY deserve the scorn of women (and men) — HANDYmen.
Yeah, I know, I know. It’s not fair to condemn the entire handyman industry, just because 95% make the rest of us look bad. And maybe it’s sexist to presume that all handymen are MEN. But to tell you the truth, while I have HEARD that handywomen do exist in REAL life, REALITY TV is the only place I’ve ever actually seen one. And even then, doesn’t it seem like the closest thing to a power tool Fixer Upper’s Joanna Gaines ever holds is a ballpoint pen? Not that you can blame sexism for the near absence of handywomen — after all, it’s not exactly every mother’s dream for her daughter to become one.
So let’s imagine for a moment, Gillette had a 2nd lapse of common sense, and made the questionable decision to turn over its entire advertising budget to yours truly, Dr Steve. And let’s say I immediately changed their campaign from “The best men can be” to “The best HANDYmen can be.” Wouldn’t these common failings of handymen ring true?:
If you’ve worked with Fix St Louis, you know that, unlike everyone else, we set firm, scheduled appointments — an exact time, an exact date, and we confirm it by email. We don’t say things like we’ll show-up “sometime between 8 and 12 noon if we’re running on time” or “someday next week depending on when we finish our last job.” That’s not fair to you because it leaves you tied-up at home for hours, unable to leave for work or errands, while constantly glancing at your watch and calling your handyman who never picks-up. In fact, it’s not uncommon for handymen to never show-up and never contact the homeowner.
Trust me, every handyman with the sole exception of us does NOT want your SMALL jobs. The more tied-up they are on big jobs, the better — more total dollars, more continuous work without gaps in their schedule, less time chasing new jobs, less need to deal with customer service issues, etc.
But they’re not going to tell you that. Instead, they’ll tell you that if you knew as much as they did about home repairs, you’d realize that a bigger job was needed. For instance, they’ll “HandyMan-splain” that it can’t be fixed, so it must be replaced. Or that, “yeah that window can be replaced, but frankly all of your windows are pretty old, so you really need to replace them all.”
An even worse practice is the handyman giving you an estimate 2-3 times higher than they would normally charge for that small job. If you turn it down, no loss because they didn’t want that job anyway. But if you accept it at that price, they’d be happy to do this job that does not take them much time, but gives them a good profit.
These are the often little, and sometimes big, untruths handymen tell to smooth over the situations from the items above. If your handyman is in the middle of a project, and would rather work on a bigger project than finish yours, you may suddenly hear something like he has to be “out-of-town next week for a few days to attend an aunt’s funeral.” By design, you’re not going to feel like challenging that excuse because it’s about a death in the family, even though no one in human history, with the possible exception of the British Royal Family, has ever had more than a week’s notice of a funeral, much less had to spend several days out-of-town to attend one for an aunt.
So, hey Gillette! Doesn’t this make Fix St Louis “the best a HANDYman can be?” Wait, don’t answer that! On 2nd thought, maybe you should just stick to unwanted facial hair.
With the government shutdown now underway, we all brace for the imminent catastrophe Washington claims is about to befall us. Accordingly, we the non-non-essential employees of Fix St Louis are stepping forward, and we pledge to do everything in our power to minimize the threat posed by the loss of 25% of our federal government.
We will keep you safe by installing those cool new video doorbells, and repairing or replacing your smoke alarms, CO2 detectors, and entry door locksets. And, we will re-secure all those off-track doors and detaching shelves so that they don’t fall on the heads of your loved ones or fellow Americans.
We are here to ensure that the lumber that keeps your home from collapsing is replaced and braced as needed. This includes rotted deck posts that are sinking into the ground, front porch posts with deteriorated base trim and bottoms, bowing floor joists, water-damaged boards at the base of your walls, and termite-damaged boards that rest on your foundation walls. As one of our greatest Presidents once said, a house subsided will not stand.
We will ruthlessly end all leaks in your house, whether arriving by air or “sea.” We at Fix St Louis can weatherstrip your doors to seal-off the outside air, and stop the water dripping from your sink/shower/tub faucets, down below in your sink cabinets, or from your outside faucets. As Benjamin Franklin once said, “a small leak will sink a great ship.” (He MUST have said that. I read it on the Internet).
Perhaps the greatest hardship of all will be the loss of the regulatory guidance we all need to live our day-to-day lives. Plastic straws will continue to be available. The march toward barely-operating toilets that require only a teaspoon of water to flush will be placed on hold. If your sink drains too slowly, it will not immediately be declared a wetland, so you may unsafely be continuing to use it. And you might find that the highly-regulated light bulb aisle at Home Depot will look EXACTLY the same if you visit the store twice in the same week.
Well, I gotta run. I need to find a temp agency to handle my diplomatic needs because the State Department is closed, and to handle my crony capitalism needs to fill-in for the Commerce Department. You know, if the nation’s suffering goes on too long, and the two parties can’t find the money to build the wall, Fix St Louis may just volunteer our OWN services. We build walls all the time.