I wrote this piece in 2014. Imagining my future exit from home repair in Kansas City. I quit tool work in April of 2019, and I still wish I could hear my customers describing me to their new guy now.
Homeowners do the craziest things. I'm always amazed at what people show me they have done. The work is usually excellent and well researched. Homeowners will go online and look up materials and how they are applied, they'll hop on YouTube and find a how to video for whatever job they've chosen. They buy or rent tools and do the job. I'm glad to be working for these homeowners. Usually a couple days into a job with them and the real stories come out about the "did-it-themselves" job. The fiberglass shower unit torn of the top of the car pulling into the garage, dogs and cats tracking paint, kids wrecking the place! If there's more than one person living in the house it's hard to get stuff done. For the homeowner these jobs give them a sense of perspective. Scale. And effort. Homeowners find some of these jobs overwhelming, and end up a hassle to finish or never finished at all. Other jobs or improvements go without a hitch. Through experience the homeowner finds their level of interest and ability.
I know this about customers because I pay attention. Mostly. I know I lack attentiveness in certain ways, I'm lucky enough to have customers and friends who tell me this. But the rest of the time I'm soaking it up. It's why I've done this job so long without getting bored or promoted. Seems crazy but the people living in the house are just as interesting to me as the house itself. I've heard a lot of stories about nearly everything imaginable from homeowners. I weigh these shared moments with the job I'm doing and the house I'm in. I go through the days and weeks learning the real purpose of the house in these peoples lives. All along sanding and painting, rebuilding an old window, serving, maintaining and repairing
As special as this all sounds I'm just one of many workers sharing moments with customers in America. I've worked for a woman for 8 years who still tells me about Old Jerimiah and all the coffee that guy could drink. I've got customers who take service workers fishing, loan them money for furnace repairs or give them cars they've quit using. Customers have paid for stolen tools, helped out with truck repairs and have been forgiving when appointments are missed or schedules fall apart. Lots of my customers can tell about the guy before me with fondness. Some of the guys and gals before me have gone on to other work, moved, gotten a "W-2" job, died or just disappeared.
I'm the next guy. I drink coffee like an addict when it's offered, I don't borrow money, I don't need a car and I miss appointments sometimes and have lost track of weeks of work on my customer calendar a couple of times. I shoot good trim, can make plaster repairs invisible and am willing to do almost any work. I've got bills to pay. Some times I imagine what the next guy after me will hear about "Jonas". What will my customers be telling them over coffee and toast? What will I have gone onto that I'm no longer working on that home? I guess that's for the next guy to find out. I'm guessing it will be way more fun than dying or getting a W-2 job.