The Pandemic Relief Money Came In Handy Yesterday

Getting the garage door fixed was a big deal.

Yesterday, we were all set to take our kids to gymnastics class. The girls were dressed in their leotards. They were primed and ready to go. We had snacks and water in the car. Then I got in the car, pressed the button to open the garage door, and nothing happened. I tried the button on the wall, nothing happened. I tried my little Android app to open the door and still, no dice.

I got out of the car and pulled the red cord to pull the latch that would allow the door to be opened manually. The door wouldn’t budge. I pulled it again and broke the cord. We pressed the button again to see the chain moving, but it wouldn’t pull the door up. Something was really broken and it was pretty clear we weren’t going to class with the girls last night.

So I found the decal on the door left by the last serviceman who came out the last time we could not open the garage door. Actually, we could open it then, because I was able to release the latch and open it manually. At that time, we learned that the door just needed maintenance on the rails on each side of the door. So I gave them a call.

A human being answered the phone. For an evening visit, it was going to cost $89, $39 if we waited until the next day. My wife wanted the door fixed now. I could have waited, but I could see her point about, “what if we really need to leave tomorrow?” So we asked them to come out last night. A serviceman showed up in less than an hour.

Once he got in the garage, I could see him go to work, analyzing the condition of the door. I could see myself in him as he checked the easy stuff first. He checked the same things I had already checked and nothing seemed to work. Then he tried to open the door, manually. The door wouldn’t budge. After some analysis, he concluded that the problem was the torsion bar.

The torsion bar is a spring-loaded tube that provides some assistance to the motor as the motor pulls the door up and down. You might recall the old, monolithic garage doors with giant springs on the sides. The torsion bar does the same job as those giant springs on the old-style doors, but this door is a roll-up door.

I enjoyed watching the serviceman work. He replaced the torsion bar, the rollers on the side of the door and he oiled everything up with WD-40. As he replaced the rollers, I realized that he was doing something I had been planning on doing someday. Well, that someday was yesterday. Only he added that work and the parts without charging for it, though I’m sure he had built that into the cost of all the work that he did last night. I could see that replacing the rollers was an investment of goodwill, a part of the gift economy, an act designed to foster loyalty to his company the next time I needed the garage door repaired. So I paid $684 for all the work that was done, with gratitude.

Now I have a garage door that opens and closes so quietly. I know that all the squeaks and rattles that I heard before were stressing some part of the door, and that part failed yesterday. The serviceman had a fully stocked truck. He didn’t need to go anywhere for parts. Whatever he needed to complete the repairs, it was on his truck. When he was done, he cleaned up everything, and he left no trace of his work beyond a garage door that is good for at least another 5 years of use.

He did point out that the weather seal needs work, $250, and that the motor, having been stressed by the broken torsion bar, may fail sometime soon. He didn’t say how much replacing the motor would cost, but I didn’t think it was going to be cheap. I don’t like to go cheap anyway. When I buy something, I pay more because I only want to have to pay for it once if I can.

I’ve been living in this house for almost 6 years now. I expect that maintenance is required. My wife was not happy about it, and she did make some comments to insinuate that somehow, I could have done better. The timing was bad, but we usually have trouble with the garage door when we try to open it and it fails to open. We were on a schedule and we missed our class because the door wouldn’t open. I’m sure that was frustrating for my wife and my kids.

I was OK with spending the money because I’m a practical man. Repairs had to be made unless we wanted to change our occupation to “hermit”. I made the decision to get repairs done, and I did so easily. I could see it in my wife’s eyes, though. She often has this idea that I should have been able to fix it myself. I’m a software engineer by trade, not a garage door repairman.

While I do fix a few things around the house, I know that I would have spent days fixing the garage door myself. I have replaced light fixtures, fixed doorknobs, sprinklers and the garbage disposal in the kitchen sink, and other easy bits around the house. I know my limits. I know when it’s time to get a professional to get the job done right.

What I liked about my experience yesterday was that the serviceman was experienced. He exuded confidence. I knew that he had already made many mistakes repairing garage doors and could anticipate and avoid those mistakes. He was mentally and physically prepared to do the work. I was not. He had repaired enough doors that he could anticipate 90% of the problems he might encounter while repairing the door. He was practiced in his trade.

I’ve seen the same thing with electricians, bicycle repair shops, and auto repair shops. A professional knows how to prepare for the job, including setting up the environment to make the job easy to do. A pro has the tools, the attitude, and the experience to complete the job without making several trips to Home Depot for parts. He doesn’t make excuses about his work, either. For all that, I was willing to pay the fee to get the work done right. The first time.

The best part about my experience was that the pandemic relief money was spent locally. The serviceman that fixed my garage door was not a member of a huge, international conglomerate that can easily ship the money they earned for their service to a corner office in New York. I knew that the money I paid will be spent again, somewhere in the town where I live, supporting the local economy. Huh. Another virtuous circle.

I look for virtuous circles everywhere, and I’m keen to find them in the economy. I’m particularly interested in ways that I can spend money on local services. The plumber, the electrician, the landscaper, and the garage door repairman, cannot be outsourced. Sure, there may be immigrants who will do the work for less money, but undocumented aliens don’t usually get bonded and insured, and a business license, just to make repairs around my home.

This isn’t to say that immigrants can’t do good work, I know that they can. I just want to know that I’m doing business with someone I can find again if there is a problem later. I want recourse, and it’s hard to get recourse when the other party is slippery. I know I can find the company that repaired my garage door again if I needed to.

I’m really glad things worked out. I’m really glad that I had the money to get the garage door repaired. I enjoy having the peace of mind, knowing that it was done right the first time. I know that I have made an investment that will yield a small dividend of peace in my life.

Write on.

Written by

Husband, father, worker, philosopher, and observer. Plumbing the depths of consciousness to find the spring of happiness. Write on.

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