Monday, January 2, 1984
It's one of those shingled mansions in Professorville, the old-style section of Palo Alto. My friend Tom meets me at this castle because his son had a sleepover at my house in the mountains.
Tom's son and mine are best friends, age ten, though they now live forty miles apart. When my power went out, as often happens on the dark wet days of winter, his son and mine played Dungeons and Dragons by the light of the fireplace.
Now Tom and I have met at the halfway point, Professorville. His son climbs out of my truck. Tom eyes the mansion. He says, "You're working here? Man, who are these people that can buy these houses? I sure missed out somewhere." And then he rumbles off to San Jose in a beat-up behemoth station wagon while I belt on my tools and go to work for "these people." Nice people.
I fuss with downspouts, patch a basement wall, hang a mirror, replace a window, install a curtain rod, rescreen two doors.
My employer is Mrs. Seeker, a pleasant and efficient woman. On this day her two children are repairing bicycle brakes and heading off to the airport, returning to college on the east coast, packing skis and bright woolen scarves. Mrs. Seeker tells me she has just one more chore for me to do: tighten up a hat rack that is wobbly on the wall.
Mr. Seeker, who has been wordlessly frowning at me all day, finally speaks: "Leave it alone. I'll take care of it."
Women hire me to do the chores their husbands never get around to. The husbands feel emasculated by my presence. Mr. Seeker installed that hat rack and, by golly, he's going to fix it. Some day.
"Honey, will you bring my checkbook?" Mrs. Seeker asks. "It's in my purse in the kitchen."
Mr. Seeker complies.
Quickly Mrs. Seeker nods her head toward the wall. Quickly I pull the screwdriver from my toolbelt and remove two screws.
"I can't find it," Mr. Seeker calls from the kitchen.
"Oh, I forgot. It's in the bedroom."
I poke two plastic anchors into the plaster, then rehang the hat rack with two screws.
Mr. Seeker returns, checkbook in hand. "Thanks, honey," Mrs. Seeker says with a smile. She turns to me. "Now what do I owe you?"