Finally this month I called an electrician to fix a switch that’s been going out for months. I come from a long line of procrastinators, but that’s not the only reason I took so long: I don’t like letting strangers into my house.

Not strangers at one of my parties (I meet them, and then they are friends), but specifically, strangers who arrive at my door to fix things.

In this case, I was anticipating embarrassment weeks in advance, because I wanted the electrician to investigate the mysterious, intermittent noise in my master bathroom (not a noise I’m making, thank you very much). It’s rhythmic, like a drip, but when I stand in the shower, I can clearly hear it coming from the fan over my head. And I never hear it when the shower is on.

I told this to the receptionist at WireNut, and she noted it. But she also talks in the reassuring voice one uses for children. I’m pretty sure she was talking that way before I mentioned the noise and the tiny entrance to my attic…

When E stepped into my house, he put hairnets on his shoes and I led him to the bathroom, where I explained that the switch was going out and that I would like him to investigate this noise. With a straight face, he said he would listen for it and that he would check out the attic. And then he gave me an estimate of $168.

The noise chose to be silent while E was here. Nevertheless, he climbed up through the closet into the attic (What is this, Narnia?) and looked at the fan from the top and discovered all the things amiss in the attic. He even had me climb up there and see how the duct from the shower had been taped to a hole in one of the main vents leading to the roof.

Great. Something else to fix. At first he said I should call a tinner, a word I didn’t know. But later he mentioned HVAC.

E went through WireNut’s standard spiel, called a “25-Point Electrical Safety/Energy Inspection.” He informed me that aluminum wiring was used in the 1970s because copper was needed for the Vietnam War and that the main problem with aluminum is its tendency to expand and contract, which loosens the connections. That was interesting.

I also learned I could replace the entire electrical panel because it’s maxed out ($2,000) and that the EMF levels in our house were 1,200 and should be 200.

I thought of asking whether reducing the radon levels wasn’t enough. By the time he was done, I was bored. Todd and I want to sell our house. We don’t want to put any more money into it than the inspector requires.

And then E made a fatal mistake: he began musing about his wife, who in discussing the renovation of their home asked him to remove a bearing wall. I was already feeling self-conscious about the noise in the bathroom that no one else hears. I didn’t need to be reminded how sexist fix-it guys can be.

His aside came between his presentation of all the things that were wrong with my house and my writing of the check. He had just explained why he’d changed the estimate to $217 (because he made the estimate before he took the cover off the switch and saw that the entire unit needed to be replaced). I asked, “Was this a binding estimate?” (The website implies that estimates are final.)

I still can’t believe I pushed that question out of my mouth. Todd, who was sitting downstairs at his work computer, was also impressed.

I remember my tone as polite, but maybe it was mean. Maybe it was the tone that inspired a former roommate to tell me I went for the jugular.

In any case, he caved almost instantly. I didn’t expect that.

The switch works now. I might even call WireNut again, because dealing with E was better than dealing with Jared, the last electrician I let in my house (in 2002). I think he worked for Candlelight Electric, which was recommended by Tom Martino.

I wish I could find an electrician I like as much as Brothers Plumbing. Their employees are always nice.

Leave A Comment

  1. Denveater August 3, 2010 at 11:22 am - Reply

    We’re going through the exact same thing. Right now we have kitchen cabinets without a countertop/sink, which means I’m washing dishes in the bathroom, a roof that’s leaking onto our brand new back porch, and a lawn that’s dying though we just sodded it 2 months ago. And we’re broke.

    I bet you’re very good at like a sinister, icy tone. Scaree!

  2. Beth Partin August 3, 2010 at 1:10 pm - Reply

    Oh, dear. Have I used that tone on you? I thought it was a secret known only to electricians and telemarketers and the Seacret employees at the mall who yell at passersby about skin care.

    Our kitchen remodel was stressful, but it’s nice to have a better kitchen.

    Your lawn may be dormant, not dead.

  3. Connie August 3, 2010 at 1:19 pm - Reply

    At least you got an electrician to come to your house. Last time I called one, he said he wasn’t interested in the project I wanted an estimate on (grounding an outlet). Even though his ad in the yellow pages said “No job too small.” Sheesh.

  4. Cara Lopez Lee August 9, 2010 at 6:41 pm - Reply

    I share your feelings about fix-it guys in my house, Beth. My favorite line, “Was this a binding estimate,” qualifies you as my hero of the week. Perhaps the word should be heroine, but I’ve never liked that word, also on feminist grounds.

    My husband usually walks out of the room when I go toe-to-toe with dodgy service pros. He finds my assertive side a bit scary. I’ll admit I kind of like the thought.

  5. Beth Partin August 9, 2010 at 7:19 pm - Reply

    Connie, I had someone do that with me when I called for a second quote on the radon mitigation. He was mad because I already had a quite and he felt he would have to low-ball it, so he didn’t even try. I tried to explain that I don’t always go with the lowest price, but he wasn’t interested.

    Cara, I’m glad I’m your hero! I also have mixed feelings about “heroine.”

  6. James June 5, 2015 at 5:55 am - Reply

    It seems your electrician was trying to rip you off in the end and at least you stood your ground, well done you :-), Im an electrician myself and always try to be honest as repeat customers is where you get your most customers from so this guy dont know business! Anyhow Im glad to hear that it was not all to bad and you got your switched fixed