Why is it that we feel so uncomfortable around mechanics and builders? The mechanic hitches up the car bonnets and tuts, or just looks inscrutable, and already you feel the need to make excuses. By the time he (it’s always be a he for me) deigns to hazard a guess at the source of the problem, you’re ready to believe anything and pay anything, to escape the humiliating reminder of your ignorance and inadequacy.
It’s the same with the builder. There’s a crack in the wall. Is it merely a crack? Or could it be due to subsidence which is endangering your home to the point of imminent collapse? Or something in between? Who knows? Not me. Again, it’s embarrassing.
But why? Cars are important. Homes, more so. But the health of our own bodies trumps both. So why don’t we feel even more embarrassment about our medical ignorance? There’s no shame in not knowing your own exact diagnosis. That’s what the doctor, the expert, is there for.
And it’s no good saying: Stop whingeing and get off your arse and learn about car engines or house maintenance.
That’s not the answer. Sadly.
I’ve poked about inside the innards of cars, changed bits, fixed others, cleaned doofers, restored whatsits, and come up with temporary repairs when disaster strikes out on the road.
I’ve also not been afraid to get stuck in when it comes to buildings – rendering, climbing, treating, painting, replacing, digging, hammering, etc. Sometimes with a sense of dread on icy bone cold days. But I’ve done it.
(To do otherwise would be even more shameful having been brought up by a fairly handy father deeply suspicious of all outside assistance.)
So why the enduring shame. It’s not embarrassment I feel when something malfunctions. More of a sense of moral culpability. That repeatedly troublesome awkward-to-get-at gutter is a sinful stain on my soul. Crazy? Maybe. Excessively Catholic? Despite my best efforts to transcend that possibility, I fear it may be so.
Which is why the feeling of relief and release were intense after a visit from a local builder this week. (Naturally he was not answering any summons of mine. Oh, the shame! My wife called him.)
It turns out there’s a flaw in the way the gutter was installed, leading it to repeatedly falter. And: My decaying rendering is not inherently flawed, but being destabilized by something else I hadn’t thought of. And: The suspected damp in one room is merely superficial – the wall is fine.
In terms of cost and disruption the reprieve on dampness is the important bit. But the verdict of innocence – my personal innocence – on the first degree faulty guttering gave me such an unexpected spiritual lift.
I feel bizarrely cleansed, free and lighter of step. My life is now better. I feel better.
It’s like Jesus miraculously curing the lame – except in reverse. Jesus says: “Your sins are forgiven. Pick up your bed and walk.” And the cripple reportedly rises, legs working fine.
The village builder says: “Ah, that guttering has been installed in such a way that the wind always catches it and pulls it apart.” And my soul sings as if my sins have been forgiven. Even better, it turns out I hadn’t sinned in the first place.
How often do you get that from the builder?
There must be a mind/body/spirit self-help book in there somewhere…