I had a very specific image of what the landlord’s handy man would be like, all a product of the sound of his name: Shalom [insert very Jewish lastname here]. I imagined a roundish sort of person, the kind with belted pants and the threat of plumber crack, a thick mustache (don’t ask me why the mustache), a pleasant disposition, and speech peppered with endearing yiddish phrases like schlemiel.
I called him about the phone on Friday. He called on Saturday to say he would come on Monday. Milie called on Tuesday morning about why he hadn’t been on Monday and he said he’d be there today. Late Tuesday afternoon she called again about why he hadn’t been there in the morning. He said he’d come Wednesday morning at 9am. Wednesday morning at 10:06am I called again and he said: “I’m on my way.”
And the first thing he says as we enter the kitchen: “Who did this? Phone company sees this they sue you.” He speaks with the sort of authority that perhaps only a Russian accent can convey —Can you survive Russian winter? Then don’t question me.
His words say, Why call me, call phone company, his tone says: ‘You are stupid little girl.’
Milie is upstairs in the air conditioning sleeping with the cat. I mentally shake my fist upwards at her. I try to explain why his dial tone detecting machine will not detect a dial tone, that you can order DSL without ordering phone service, and that there is nothing illegal going on here. Comic, perhaps. This modern ultra-fast surfing capacity, but a dated problem with the wiring to get it in the house. But in no way black market.
He keeps saying that he doesn’t want to go to jail. And as he opens the telephone company side of the box, saying “I am doing things I don’t want to do” and “fuck me” he says “If I go to jail, you going with me. You and me. Hand in hand.”
“Ok,” I say. “But I get the top bunk.”
He was supposed to be back today to run the actual wire. Wasn’t. He’d better be in jail.