Charles has more tools than teeth. Far more. But what he lacks dentally, his fix-it knowledge and warmth make up for. Anytime the AC, heat, pipes or whatever else stop doing their assigned jobs, we wait and watch for his white, late-model, slightly rusted Toyota truck to pull in front of our house.
Charles always greets us with a “Hey now!” and giant grin. Before he gets into the plumbing or electrical work, he recites the same jokes, the same compliments, and the same questions. Did you hear that someone broke into our local police station and stole the toilet?!.... Right now, the police have nothing to go on! That’s a good one, Charles. How is that beautiful momma of yours doing? You make sure she knows if she needs anything, I would be there in two minutes flat. I will let her know for you, Charles. Has Elliott graduated from college yet? No, Charles. But he did just graduate from kindergarten. I like Charles’s jokes but mostly I like the enjoyment he seems to get from them, throwing his head back with a full belly laugh each time. Each of his visits ends with his offering a kiss for such a pretty girl, as he pulls the small, foil-covered, chocolate candy from the pocket of his khaki work pants.
Charles is a dying breed. While I have to admit I have pretended to be in the middle of an important phone call to avoid his routine, I eventually come to enjoy and respect it. So many handymen, utility workers, and other people quietly slide in and then out of your house and life without a word, only asking the most relevant questions and sharing the most important information about their work and your home.
Charles reminds me of a time when neighbors knew each other, asked about your family members by name, invited the street over for cookouts and holiday parties. Today, we are often too buys, wrapped up in ourselves, or only looking down at our smart phones. We rarely venture to even discover our neighbor’s names.
So rather than seeing Charles as someone who is just in our house to fix inanimate objects, I try to return his smiles. Listen to his jokes. And even participate in his routine: How is that beautiful wife of yours doing, Charles?
Anyone know a good plumber joke?