Big world news, and small local annoyances

I’m enormously distracted today by the US election. As I begin to write this, polls have closed in Indiana and Kentucky, another half dozen or so close in a few minutes, and some bellwether seats close half an hour later, with massive numbers in an hour or so.

Closer to home, I’m trying to manage some of the repairs and little jobs that are hangovers from the great make-hay-while-the-pandemic’s-on strategy of 2020, but I’m now (a) back in the office and (b) HSC marking nights and weekends, meaning I’m out of the house at least 13 hours per day and not therefore not around to deal with tradies, or even to let them in.

And, as it turns out, occasionally we still find people who just don’t want to work. Living in a regional area after almost thirty years of a booming economy in Australia means that there can be a distinct lack of competition in certain areas and some people have never known hard times, which can cause some really odd attempts at customer service. In the two decades we’ve been living in our current area I have to say we’ve seen marked improvements in customer service, and for the most part it’s now as good as you’d get anywhere, but occasionally we get a throwback. My personal favourite was when I contacted Shoalhaven Pest Control because I had pests (rats) in my roof. My roof is in the Shoalhaven. The reply I got via email was very honest: “I just don’t want this job.”

Last week, it was Kevin. Kevin, to quote my husband, is “just a prick.”

The seal on our oven is about as complete as the one in this picture. It’s hanging off at the top, and it’s hanging off at the bottom, and the oven takes a long time to heat up and doesn’t retain heat, which I’m pretty sure is not coincidental.

Kevin, who hasn’t looked at the current state of the seal, reckons it’s coincidental.

Once upon a time, I was away for work and Tony rang me in a panic because the handle had fallen off the oven. I pointed out I couldn’t fix it from miles away, and suggested he ring the local oven repair guy, who was advertising his services on a big green sign hanging off the pool company fence. So Tony went for a drive to the pool company, got the number off the fence, rang the guy, and he came and put the handle back on.

Neither of them apparently noticed the dodgy seal, which admittedly wasn’t as bad then as it is now, but let’s just say there was a reason I’d paid attention to the big green sign in the first place.

So I googled the company when I was home on leave a bit over a week ago, and up popped the Yellow Pages site with a mobile number and a “press to send an email” button. I rang the number. No answer. I left a message. I rang another three times in the space of a week, but no answer. I sent a message via the big “send an email” button, too. I persisted because (a) I need the oven fixed, (b) he’d been out to our place before when the oven door handle fell off and (c) the only reason I contacted Shoalhaven Pest Control that time was because our regular guy wasn’t answering his phone, but he did answer when I rang the next week. There’s no way to out an out of office reply on a mobile, I guess, and so I thought it was worth persisting, just in case he had been away, but was now back.

On the fourth try, he answered.

He didn’t identify himself or anything, but he answered. I only know that Kevin is a Kevin because of his reviews on the Yellow Pages site. Which we’ll get to.

So I began, telling him I had been looking for someone to fix an oven seal.

Kevin: “So you’ve been looking and not found anyone?”

I said, “yes.”

Now, I was definitive because I thought I knew the answer. But the whole conversation was like sitting a test for which I hadn’t studied, because apparently every answer I gave was wrong according to Kevin’s answer sheet.

Kevin had a follow-up: “who’ve you tried?” Which honestly, seemed a bit weird if I was calling him, but hey. Again, I answered truthfully.

“Actually,” I said, “I’ve called this number four times, and sent an email.”

Well, that set him off. “WHY would you keep calling?” he demanded. “Why would you call four times?”

Me: “Because I want my oven fixed.”

He persisted, “why would you call four times if you got no answer?”

I tried to explain that his was the only business that came up when I googled, and that he’d been out before. So he changed tack: “Did you leave a message?”

Me: “the first time, I did, yes.”

So then he asked when I’d called. I said the first call was last Friday. He seemed surprised I had answers to these questions, which were asked in an interrogatory tone. I had the impression he thought I was lying throughout the entire conversation.

So then he asked the name of our suburb and I told him: Bangalee.

He demanded verification that he’d been out there before. Asked me if how I could be sure it was him.

I said, “Well, if it was you that had the big green sign on the pool company fence, then you came and worked on this oven previously.”

He conceded that that was him, but then asked in a kind of sarcastic-aggressive tone, “And did I fix it?”

Me, deadpan: “Well, yes.” I mean seriously, Dude: if you hadn’t, I really wouldn’t call you four times. Or even once.

I asked, where do we go from here, but he was distracted by another trigger word he suddenly recalled: email.

“I never got an email,” he declared.

“Oh, ” I said. “Ok. Well, I pressed the button on the Yellow Pages site. I have it open in front of me.”

“Yellow Pages” was apparently a big trigger. He started yelling, “That’s false advertising! That’s false advertising! I’m not listed with Yellow Pages!” This confused the hell out of me, because I had his Yellow Pages listing open on my screen at the time. I tried to tell him that I had it open and it was his business name and the number I was currently calling him on, but he kept yelling about false advertising and not being registered. Which was doubly puzzling, because there was no advertising involved. At all. Yellow Pages, like White Pages, is, after all, just a list of numbers.

“False advertising”

Nevertheless, I tried to redirect him, asking, “well, where do we go from here?”

But like a dog chained to his own vomit, he kept going back to the Yellow Pages and the no messages and the non-existent email. Seven times he told me he’d never had a message from Bangalee. I counted. And I did try to ignore the stupidity of this assertion, I really did, but in the end I couldn’t help but point out the obvious.

“You know, when I left the message, I left my name, not my suburb. Did that not occur to you?”

He asked, “Why are you being like this, so, so — you’re just not getting it. I’m not with the Yellow Pages.”

Me: “You’re the one wanting to talk about the Yellow Pages. I’m not sure how that’s pertinent to me actually getting my oven fixed.”

Kevin: “Huh? What does that mean? Why are you being like this? So- so-?” He didn’t have a word for the “this.” But I did.

Me: “You don’t think you’ve been at all abrasive in this conversation?”

Him: “WELL I’M NOT IN THE YELLOW PAGES! IT’S FALSE ADVERTISING! OH, AND NOW I’VE MISSED MY TURN-OFF!”

Unsure how that was my problem, exactly, I took another very deep breath. “If you can’t do the job and you know someone else who can, I’d be really happy to take that recommendation.”

He asked again, “why are you being like this?”

By this stage, I’m looking for the hidden camera because I appear to have slipped into a Monty Python sketch.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Jeff Gilbert/Shutterstock (10437343k) Guiness world record attempt for the largest gathering of people dressed as gumbys. The event formed the start of the offical 50th anniversary celebrations of Monty Python which took place at the Roundhouse theatre Gumbys Monty Python Event, Roundhouse Theatre, Camden Town, London, UK – 05 Oct 2019

Another deep breath: “You seem to be making out that you not getting my messages is somehow all my fault. And I really just want to know how to move forward and organise to get you to look at the oven.”

So then he decides to go for broke in the blaming me stakes: “You must be having a bad day or something.”

Me: “Well, I wasn’t before this conversation.”

(Which was 100% true, by the way. I’d just signed another book contract that morning. It’d been a relatively cruisey day at work.)

Kevin: “Look, I’m at another job now. You’ll have to email me the details.”

Me: “I can’t email you. I don’t have your email address. All I have is the big button on the Yellow Pages site, and you’ve been very clear that it doesn’t work.”

Kevin: “I’M NOT WITH YELLOW PAGES! WHY CAN’T YOU GET THIS? JUST EMAIL ME.”

Me: “I don’t have your email address.”

Him: Look, I’m at another job. Just email me.

Um, Kevin? It’s not me who’s “not getting it,” Honey.

At this point, I hung up on him and rang my husband, since he’d managed to speak enough Kevin-ese to successfully book a job previously.

“Maybe it’s because I don’t have a penis?” I suggested. “Maybe he’s a misogynist?”

Tony rang me back about half an hour later. “He’s not coming,” he said. “I thought I had him, but then he announced it’s Friday afternoon, and it’s probably not the seals, it’s probably the switch, and we should ring the manufacturer.”

Right. I’m sure the manufacturer will want to deal with “the switch” on our nine year old oven, and be convinced that the non-sealing seals are absolutely irrelevant to a problem with sealing in heat.

Me: “So not a misogynist; just a misanthrope?”

Husband: “I think he’s just a prick. Sometimes he wants the work and so he’s nice; other times he doesn’t, so he acts like this.”

I said, actually, that’s pretty much what the reviews on the Yellow Pages said. Later, I wondered if the reviews were the “false advertising” he was getting so damn upset about. Maybe I should just pop a link to this on the Yellow Pages reviews section?

In the meantime, if anyone has any recommendations on someone-other-than-Kevin who can replace an oven seal, I’m still very happy to receive them. But please, please, PLEASE don’t tell me to teach myself via YouTube. Between my day job and night-marking (and all-day Saturday marking), I’m more than OK with not learning any new skills for the next few weeks.

Plus, there’s election coverage to watch.

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