Am I the only one who worries about having repairmen in to service appliances? That’s neither a euphemism for a porno, nor a worry that I’m going to be murdered in my own home. It’s just a fear of the same conversational awkwardness that one experiences when getting into the back of a cab.
What on earth to talk about? Do I really want to start a conversation with them? – they’ll probably ask about ‘the game’ and I’ll have to improvise. Am I even supposed to talk, or should I just politely let them get on with their work?
The whole unpleasant experience begins when the repairman arrives. I show them into my home asking the usual stock question: If it’s an AM appointment, “So, is this your first appointment of the day?” If it’s a PM appointment, “So, got many more appointments today?” I then always make a twat of myself by showing them the faulty appliance – as though they aren’t already familiar with them – pointing at it and announcing, “There it is then, I don’t know what’s wrong with it.” This makes me look a moron on two counts; firstly I have asked the guy to come and fix my dishwasher, shown him the said dishwasher, pointed at it, and then told him that what he is looking at is a dishwasher. Secondly, having told him I don’t know what’s wrong with it he’ll put me on the spot by asking, “What happened when it stopped working?” I get flustered at this moment. I realise that in the intervening period between calling him and his arrival I have completely forgotten what the hell has actually happened to the appliance. Instead of admitting my lapse of memory, I’ll just make something up. “Er, there was a noise, and then it stopped getting hot, and ah, some lights were flashing.” The repairman will sense that I’m bullshitting and not-so-subtly let me know this by cupping chin in hand and muttering, “That’s odd, I’ve never known one do that before… which lights did you say were flashing?” Shit, he’s got me cornered. I sweep my finger across the front panel, “Some of those ones.”
But, the greatest concern for me by far, beyond that of making small-talk is that I’m going to be made to look like an idiot who doesn’t even know how to use simple domestic appliances. As I sit on my sofa unsure whether to offer them tea, or to continue pretending I’m watching daytime TV, I am bracing myself for the shaming embarrassment of hearing, “Mate, you do know you have to put salt in a dishwasher?”