Monday, July 14, 2008

Rick -- My Hero

My landscaper put me in a really bad mood. I mean, worse than normal. Usually, I will at least try being civil before I rip out someone's throat, but after last week's totally disheartening debacle with my yard I just didn't see the point any more. My belief in any kind of goodness in mankind was gone, replaced by the feeling that no one is to be trusted, not even if they look nice, calm, and clean. You know, that's how I should have known that landscaper was a fraud -- he was just too clean. I'll file that away for later. But I digress. Since last Thursday I have been walking around like a hunchback due to the giant chip I had on my shoulder. I was just waiting for someone to piss me off so I could pounce on them like a spider monkey, hissing all the while about the evil of landscapers. And today, I thought I was going to have my chance. Instead, I got back my faith in humanity.

One problem my landscaper pointed out to me was that our water problem was being made worse by a constantly running sprinkler. He said he would fix it, no charge. Of course, I forgot to remind him of his offer when I was yelling at him to get his shit out of my driveway, so now it was up to me to fix the damn thing. I was actually excited. After all, I really enjoyed fixing the leaky toilet earlier this year, and I thought this would be another notch in my tool belt. Oh, how wrong I was.

First, I replaced the sprinkler head. Nothing. Then, I read everything I could on the Internet about sprinkler systems and figured out it was probably a leaky valve. Then I went to try and figure out what was wrong with the valve and hit a stopping point: bugs. You see, the valve box for our back sprinklers is under our deck. That is also the place where every kind of creepy crawlie imaginable lives. I think they actually have put up some condo developments. So, I went back to the computer and typed in "sprinkler repair," knowing with a feeling of absolute certainty and dread that whoever I called would never be available, and would want at least a hundred bucks up front. I thought just talking to one of them would be enough to force me to under the deck and stop being such a pussy. So, I just picked the first random name that popped up on Google and dialed the number. Rick answered.

Rick, as I would come to find out, is the longest working sprinkler repair man in the valley. He's been doing it for more than 30 years. His father was in sprinkler repair. His grandfather was in sprinkler repair. And his great grandfather started the first sprinkler repair shop in the state. Rick is all about sprinklers, and he was, coincidentally, just finishing a job in my neighborhood. He said he would come by and check it out. If he could fix it in under a half an hour it would $70. If it took longer it would be a little more, but if he couldn't fix it there would be no charge. Warily, I gave him my address, thinking "how much more is more?".

It wasn't that much more. And it was totally worth it. Rick sprung into action like a man possessed. He was under the deck in a shot, checking all the valves, and finding the one that was cracked. He fixed it, but then still wasn't happy with the fact the sprinkler still looked like it could leak. The problem, he surmised, was that it was the terminal sprinkler in a sloping yard, so any drainage came up and out. He said it needed a new connection that would keep the water from building up. I saw my chance to attack. "How much will that be?" I asked, luring him into my trap and sharpening my pinchers. "Oh, about eleven dollars," he responded, "I have one in my truck." Touché

The whole job took about 90 minutes. I did the quick calculation: 70 times 3 = 210. Plus parts. Plus the "screw over the customer" fee. I was thinking it was going to cost at least $300, and suddenly I wondered why I am so afraid of bugs. You could have knocked me over with a feather when he handed me a bill for $165. An itemized bill for $165. Every wire nut and piece of PVC pipe was detailed, and he charged me one dollar a minute for labor. Yes, that's more than most people make, but a lot less than what most contractors get. I wanted to kiss him full on the lips, but he was really dirty, and I was sure there were probably spider eggs in his hair from under the deck. Instead I just shook his hand and watched Rick ride off into the sunset, a little poorer, yet a little richer. See, meeting him even makes me drag out bad clichés

And so, now I have a good story to tell along with the bad. A person I can actually recommends to others, instead of trying to determine how many public agencies I can report them to. His name is Rick, and he fixes sprinklers. And he's my new hero, even if the spider eggs in his hair.


Amanda said...

That is really cool! Congratulations on finding an honest man to do the work - maybe he could recommend a contractor.

Spiders & earwigs would have sealed the deal for me.