NORB RUG: Good help is hard to find

Norbert Rug

I ran a handyman-type business part time for 35 years until health problems caused me to quit. I put an ad in the paper for just one week and was busy until the day I closed it out. It surprised me that I would be so busy but in retrospect I know why.

My customers would pass my name around to their friends and family because I treated them like I wanted to be treated. Apparently this concept has gone the way of black-and-white television and rotary dial telephones. I have now reached the age where I am the one who needs some help.

I sided my house several years ago but a wind storm caused one piece to come loose. I called several people and the first person who showed up nailed it back up with the nail heads showing, and the next windstorm pulled the nails through the siding, leaving holes. So he went on the “S” list and I tried again.

One man showed up in the back seat of a car driven by a relative. He looked over the job and asked if I had a ladder to get up there. What? You don’t have a ladder? He then said he would have to go on the internet to see how to do the repairs I needed. Another entry to “the list.” Finally I had a man from Lancaster do the job and he did it the right way. The siding hasn’t been blown off since.

One day, the automatic garage door opener stopped working. Investigation revealed that the underground wiring I had installed more than 30 years ago had shorted out. Because I had a concrete patio installed right over the in-ground conduit, I decided to call an electrical contractor to install a new underground feed. They dug up my yard, burrowed under the sidewalk and put the new wiring into the back of my garage, instead of the side where I had originally installed it.

Shortly after that, after it had snowed, Donna came into the house and asked if there should be sparking where the old wiring entered the garage wall. I looked out the window and saw that the siding was melted and had black marks on it. I quickly ran to the basement and shut off the circuit breaker before my garage and two vehicles inside burned. If it wasn’t for the fact that there was snow piled against the wall, I probably would have lost the building and my cars.

Seeing as they were a licensed electrical contractor, I never inspected the job they had done. I figured they would do it right and to code. Wrong! My investigation revealed the old wiring had never been disconnected and they didn’t install the National Electrical Code required disconnect. So I called and read them the riot act including quoting the specific code they violated when wiring my garage. Then I presented them with two choices: Fix the problems including the burned and melted siding, or be reported. They were out the next day to repair the wiring.

I needed my gutters cleaned. I called several outfits that were recommended on Facebook but only one sent a crew. I would have called them Curly, Larry and Moe but I think Moe was still in prison. They did do what I asked. They cleaned the gutters but left the downspouts plugged tight as a duck's arse. I didn’t find this out until the next time it rained and they all overflowed. My list is getting longer.

I wanted my exterior doors replaced. They had been here since 1919 and they wouldn’t close in the summer and leaked so bad in the winter that the breeze would blow out a candle. One person showed up, from a large company that advertises on TV. They gave me a price but because my doors were oversize doors, they would only install a standard door, leaving a 4-inch gap at the top for me to deal with. I am running out of paper. Finally I found a person to do what I wanted: Replace two doors and two storm doors. All for the low, low price of $6,000.

I wanted a digital thermostat installed in the master bedroom suite. So again I went to Facebook for suggestions. A man contacted me and we agreed he would come over the next day. When he arrived, he had our new thermostat and his tools in a plastic “T-shirt” bag.

I had left the bedroom and was sitting in the living room when I heard a zap, saw sparks and all the lights in the bedroom went out. So I got up to see if the contractor was laying on the floor. Four and a half hours later, after several zaps, damns and F bombs and after he reinstalled the old thermostat that was not working now, I told him to go home. He took some of the pieces with him and left a pile of spare parts. My list gets even longer.

It was cold that night and it’s going to be a cold for a few more nights. We still have no heat.

Norb Rug resides in Lockport. Contact him at

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