The struggles of being the unhandyman

“Hey girls, gather round because of what I'm puttin' down. Hey, baby, I'm your handyman!”

My wife recently needed someone to do a home-improvement project. Needless to say, she didn’t turn to me, so I’ve made a personal pledge to start watching those fixer-upper shows to improve my skill set.

She bought a new mailbox, and when the store manager asked who would be installing it, she responded, “I know a handyman.”

With some embarrassment, I confess I’m not that man, although I’m convinced I could do the job if I had three weeks to hone my handyman superpowers through the miracle of the modern Internet. Heck, if I had four weeks, I could become a gastroenterologist by relying on my cell phone and WiFi, and pretty soon I’d be able to diagnose illnesses, with a 50-50 success rate.

In my early years, I did a few handyman projects, but not as many as guys I know who have degrees in handymanism. They finished off their basements, repaired plumbing, stained woodwork and illegally installed electrical wiring, a crime for which they could have been sent to prison with El Chapo.

I suppose I’m an apprentice handyman. I come from a long line of carpenters, masons and painters — house painters, not Raphael or Pablo Picasso. Along the way, I’ve picked up a skill or two; however, my wife doubts my abilities, and if something needs to be done, she scours the church bulletin for ads that say “Handyman, will travel.”

When she finds one, she starts making a wish list of work she wants done, and before you know it, I’m paying the handyman to stain the deck, paint the living room, install ceiling fans, seal the driveway and grout the bathroom tile.

I’m a bit jealous of my sons-in-law because they’re on their way to becoming handymen of distinction who take on home-improvement projects with the enthusiasm of Tim Allen. One of them built a patio and the other refinished a bathroom. My daughters, I was surprised to learn, helped them, so they’re going to be inaugurated into the handywomen hall of fame. This was a miraculous turn of events because when they lived at home, I couldn’t get them to rake the leaves, shovel snow off the sidewalk or replace a light bulb.

I don’t want to get on the wrong side of handymen who may be reading this because I may need their services someday when I have to set up my home stereo system. Nevertheless, there’s something about that term “handyman” that troubles me. All I think of is James Taylor singing, “Oh, baby, I'm your handyman ... I'm not the kind that uses a pencil or rule. I'm handy with love and I'm no fool.” (And let’s not overlook Del Shannon and Jimmy Jones, who wrote the song.)

While I realize that not all handymen are Lotharios or gigolos, the term “handyman” has a creepy connotation if you believe James Taylor. And I hope they know how to use a pencil and rule, not to mention a level, a trowel and a table saw.

How, I wonder, do they become handy? Is there a night course you can take? A certificate you can earn with training in carpentry, plumbing, landscaping and broken hearts? (“If your broken heart needs repair, I'm the man to see. I whisper sweet things. You tell all your friends, and they'll come running to me!”)

I’d like to take that training, so I could make a little extra cash to help me pay the other handymen my wife hires. I could putter around the house, fix broken toasters, patch cracks in the sidewalk and leaks in the roof — if I don’t fall off the ladder — and repair chipped tile, not to mention broken hearts.

I can’t wait to get started because there’s a lot to do. As the song says, “Here is the main thing I want to say — I'm busy twenty four hours a day.”

Joe Pisani can be reached at