The central heating engineer arrived at about 11am. He was greeted by the suspicion of a man who thought he was going to try and turn a two hour job into a five year mission to explore the extent of human patience and a comedian's wallet.
I showed him my leaking radiator and then told him that the central heating wasn't working either. In my layman's opinion I guessed that these two things were probably connected. He didn't comment, just kept an inscrutable look that could have meant "We'll see" or otherwise could have been interpreted as "This is going to cost you a small fortune". We went up to look at the central heating system. I showed him how the hot water was working, but how the central heating was not firing up. "Perhaps it is the thermostat" he opined. I wasn't sure what that was, or where it would be, but recalled having noticed a dial on the wall of my lounge the other day, so guessed that was it. We went to have a look.
It was turned right down to zero. "That's your problem," he told me, turning it up to higher than zero. I couldn't understand this. I had never touched this dial and my central heating had worked last year, so at some point in the interim some visitor to my house had inexplicably fiddled with it. Presumably to ensure that my heating wouldn't work and that I would be forced to call out an engineer who would fix the problem immediately and make me look like the idiotic simpleton that I truly am.
If the engineer was gloating inside at my idiocy he didn't show it on the outside, even as he went up to demonstrate my "broken" central heating was actually working.
This could have been an emasculating moment had it not been for the much more serious problem of the leaking radiator that appeared to be corroding. The man went downstairs, got out a monkey wrench and got to work tightening up the valve that linked the radiator to the wall. Within about 75 seconds the job was complete. "What about all the corrosion though?" I asked.
"That's just caused by the water that's been dripping out coming into contact with the air. There's no problem."
He got out a sheet of people for me to sign. It didn't actually say, "I am a hopeless excuse for a man with no idea of how to perform even the most basic DIY jobs," but it may as well have done. Far from staying for hours the engineer had completed the job in under five minutes from start to finish. He only had time to take two sips of the coffee I'd made him. He even made a comment about how he wasn't going to be able to finish his drink. Was he being sarcastic? Was he mocking me? Yes, probably. He got a cheque for eighty pounds for his trouble, which isn't bad for five minutes.
After he'd gone there was a part of me that felt I should keep him there for the full hour and make him do other things for me, with the time that I had paid for. But maybe I wouldn't have been able to stand his prescence, being as it would be a constant reminder of my own inadequacy.
Maybe it's good. It's like an incompetency tax. Taking from the technically poor and giving to the manually adept.