A Hapless Handyman's Guide to Self-Preservation
Rent in Los Angeles is an inescapable annoyance. Repetitive. Unapologetic. Expensive. But the alternatives are even less promising. Santa Monica is filled with haggard rent avoiders cat-napping on the beach who wake up without the appropriate portion of organic Aloe Vera to soothe their burnt skin. So, if you’re like me, the kind of guy who burns easily and always gets stuck with a wobbly wheeled shopping cart, being homeless isn’t the solution.
So what’s to be done about the pesky rent issue?
A law here dictates that buildings over a certain number of units must have an on-site manager. In-exchange for a roof and lead-based paint covered walls to call your own, you could be responsible for looking after the well-being of said complex. So when the sweet but simple managers where you live pack up that U-Haul to escape their creditors, go after their job.
Despite lacking basic handyman know-how, pursuade someone to hire you by saying, “Sure, I have my own tools. Doesn’t everyone?”
Phrases like “soldering iron and circular saw,” prove you’re an industrious, competent adult who didn’t almost sever an index finger in shop class while trying to make a canoe, a canoe which never amounted to more than a feeble dog raft that fell apart when you tried to carry it home. But not knowing that, the owner is impressed with your ability to quote Mike Holmes and lets you take responsibility for the various needs of the fifty apartments which are outstretched on the finely manicured grounds.
But what happens when something needs to be fixed?
Call a professional. You’re middle management.
You walk amongst the tenants shaking your head at the shabby workmanship of the hired help. “Yup, that wasn’t adequately caulked,” you say when a tenant complains about the gap under her air conditioner. “Probably needs a flex valve adapt modulation device,” you add when tenants mention their gas heaters refuse to light. “I’d fix it myself, but the insurance policy requires a licensed professional. It’s all about curbing liability.” People buy this. You’re known as the guy who gets things done. “So much better than the other managers,” people say.
Life will be good until the day you decide to clear out the old food from your fridge. FYI: rice expands and will clog your garbage disposal.
If you don’t know this and proceed to empty a large container of rice in the garbage disposal, because garbage disposals are supposed to “dispose” of food “garbage,” then you’ll have to call the snippy dispatch lady at LA Hydro Jet and explain that your kitchen sink needs to be snaked. When she says, “Can you hold?” it’s really code for ‘why can’t you just snake the sink yourself?’
“I would but the owner requires a licensed professional,” you say. But the dispatch lady with her fancy head-set and bowl full of peanuts has already put you on hold.
After three hours of watching your sink bubble with fluffy mounds of rice that no amount of scooping or wet-vacing can make disappear, the plumber from LA Hydro Jet arrives with his stained blue shirt, pulling his tools on one of those dollies. Yes. He has so many tools he can’t even carry them without assistance. You pull out the Allen Wrench and Duct tape from the kitchen drawer and ask if he needs help.
As the plumber arrogantly frees the mounds of food debris by working the snake further and further down the pipes, he glances at you in a way that questions your qualifications to manage these fifty apartment units. If you clog your own sink with rice, what other acts of destruction are you capable of? In this instance, you should rebuff his accusatory glances by saying something like, “Sounds like it’s really jammed up around the L transition,” which is vague enough to make him think you might know something he doesn’t.
If you’re lucky, most of the week-old rice you stuffed in the garbage disposal will reappear in your neighbor’s sink (along with week-old carrots and lentils – which were supposed to be lentil tacos, but someone over seasoned them and it turns out over seasoned lentil tacos are disgusting) … so when the plumber from LA Hydro Jet sees the pile of food in your neighbor’s sink, shake your head and say something like, “These tenants have no respect for this place.”
“I see it all the time,” the plumber says.
And when your neighbor stands in the doorway certain the lentil tacos didn’t come from her fridge, shake your head in unison with the plumber to solidify his belief that you’re merely an innocent victim. That’s it. Good. Don’t say a word when the plumber lectures the tenant about how to properly dispose of their leftovers. What’s most important is that your reputation as a knowledgeable and benevolent apartment manager remains unblemished – even if everyone in your house knows you can’t cook lentil tacos to save your life.