I’ve never been a particularly handy guy.
Whenever any device or object I own breaks down my first thoughts are either “who do I call to fix it?” or “where can I get a new one?”
I’ve never crawled under the sink to fix a pipe, lifted a car hood to tinker with the engine, or opened up the back of radio except to change the batteries.
I don’t paint, plaster, spackle, varnish, scrape, file or saw. I don’t wear overalls, safety glasses, workman’s boots, or tool belts.
Many people live for a do-it-yourself project, God bless them, and I’m sure they’re saving money and feeling pretty good about themselves for taking matters into their own hands. Me, I just reach for the phone.
My last repair job was about a year ago when I glued the handle back on to a coffee mug my company had given out for Earth Day.
I had managed to break the thing in under a month and while I don’t drink coffee, I do guzzle gallons of tea during the day, so going mugless was not an option. I could’ve asked for a new cup, but I decided that no, damn it, I was going to fix this thing myself.
I got some industrial strength glue and did the job in a snap. I was so proud of myself you would’ve thought I’d overhauled a jet engine, but I couldn’t help it.
Every time I looked at that tiny crack on the handle I’d smile and think yeah, I fixed that.
Then one day not too long ago I look at my mug and noticed the crack wasn’t there. I had done a respectable job repairing the thing, but it certainly wasn’t that good. What could be the explanation for this? It took me a few seconds, but then I got it.
I had somebody else’s mug.
The only way this could have happened is when I stopped at the men’s room on the way to get more tea.
I leave the mug on a shelf outside the lavatory, like a lot of other guys do, and I must’ve picked up the wrong mug on the way out. Or someone had picked up mine.
My first impulse was to gag at the thought of ingesting somebody else’s germs and dunk my head into a bucket of rubbing alcohol for some serious disinfecting.
But then I realized that I’ve been filling the cup with boiling water every day and zapping it in the microwave—I like my tea hot—so any microscopic marauders must have been long since vaporized.
The mugs all look the same, of course, since it’s company issue. Still, this isn’t my mug. It doesn’t have the scar, the mileage, the memories that we shared over the last year or so.
But my cup could be with any one of the men on my floor and I wasn’t about to do a cube-by-cube search just to find the correct clone.
I had just about forgotten this tempest in teacup when I walked into the company kitchen last week and saw one of my co-workers making a cup of coffee.
He’s one of the many people I’ve seen every day for years without speaking to or even acknowledging. I don’t know his name or what he does, but it’s not out of animosity. It’s just a gap that neither one of us ever tried to bridge.
I was stepping around this man went something told me to check out his cup and there it was—the tiny crack around the handle. This mug had my mug!
But what do I do? Say something like, excuse me, I know we’ve never spoken to each other once in the last five years, but I took your coffee mug outside the can and I’d like mine back? It just didn’t sound right.
So I kept my mouth shut and walked out of the kitchen. I’m not sure what to do now. I can wait until the next time this guy gets a refill and tell him the story. Maybe I could hang around after work one night and sneak into his office to make the switch.
Or I can just let it go. My mug has a new owner now and they seem quite happy together. The guy hasn’t noticed the change, which means I did a pretty good repair job. Maybe I can be a handy guy after all.
I think I’ll try some sandblasting.