My dad didn’t listen to what other people thought about tradespeople they’d employed. Instead, word of mouth to him was listening to what his friends said about the things we wanted to make our lives easier and telling us they were all death traps.
Microwave? Nah. Couldn’t get one cos one of his friends knew a bloke who cooked his insides while heating pies at a fair. A lawnmower that wasn’t the reel mower he made us use that had a stop go gear and a demonic mind of its own? Nah. One of his mates had had a cylinder mower that had shot up stones and broken every single window in his house. The way dad told it, any contraption that we imagined could make our lives easier and fun was, in fact, a sure fire destroyer of health and home.
When it was time to get someone round to fix something or make something Dad relied on the Yellow Pages. He would sit by the phone, thumbing through the pages, getting numbers and taking a punt.
Everyone he got around only had to pass two tests – price and availability. Dad picked the cheapest and the bloke who could do it when he wanted him to. So, dad’s car caught fire when the mechanic welded something too close to a fuel line. Our path looked like the yellow brick road cos the fella he got in to redo do it though that spirit levels were something on the side of a whiskey bottle. The slate he wanted to surround the garden at the front of the house wasn’t really slate and fell into dust over a short period of time.
The surprising thing is how little attention my dad paid to word of mouth about tradespeople. I know my mum did, cos she always had a handy tip about a more reliable tradie after dad had got burned, yet again. Household politics were still in the 1950s in the 1970s and dad got to be in charge of hiring disaster merchants, while mum went about the business of working a night job and keeping the house going.
The thing is, my dad still relies on taking a stab in the dark and getting let down, time and time again. I think he’s so used to it that he engineers it, cos it doesn’t have to be that way. He bemoans the ‘family luck’ while failing to notice that nobody else in the family shares said luck and looks for reviews online before getting things done.
My dad will always let his fingers do the walking even though his fingers get scorched, nearly every time. It’s made for some great memories, not least going to pick up the car from the mechanic he found only to see the bloke with the fire extinguisher, dousing the flames of a fire that gutted the engine and destroyed the car. That one ended up in the small claims court, as did the one where the builder took the perfectly good windows dad wanted to keep when he put in new aluminium windows that were meant to keep in the heat but never really did.
By the way, we told dad over and over that you could only cook your insides with a microwave if you were in it at the time, as a microwave doesn’t work with the door open. We didn’t know what we were on about, apparently, though we did get a microwave a few years after that. Dad still uses one to heat up apple pie and he’s never been harmed, once.