I spent last Wednesday waiting for the electrician. You know what that’s like: He says he’s going to be there between 2 and 6, so you spend those four hours in a state of heightened expectation.
You dare not run an errand, walk the dog, take a nap or go to the bathroom, for you know that as soon as you do, he will show up.
People call you on the phone, but you’re distracted: “Look, I can’t talk now,” you say. “I’m waiting for the electrician.”
You hear the sound of a truck outside and you rush excitedly to the window, after first looking in the mirror to make sure you don’t have any lipstick on your teeth or toilet paper on your shoe.
You want to look good for the electrician.
You are not surprised when he doesn’t show up at 2.
Yes, you were hoping he would. It would make things so much easier. You could perhaps salvage some of your day. But it was silly to even think that he might, to even entertain the notion. You’ve been given a window — 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. — and doesn’t it make sense that he’ll come in the middle of the window, not at either end?
Four o’clock, you tell yourself, that’s when he’ll come.
But 4 o’clock comes and goes, and there’s still no sign of him. You start to think of all the hours you’ve spent waiting in your life. Sure, the hours spent at the motor vehicle agency and in the dentist’s waiting room are bad. But there’s something even worse about waiting in your own home, where you are a hostage to your own anticipation.
You start to imagine what you could accomplish if you had all that time back: You could have learned another language, written an operetta, cleaned the crumbs from your cutlery drawer. In fact, you could still clean the crumbs from your cutlery drawer, but you feel logy and enervated, the known side effects of waiting for an electrician.
At 5:30, the electrician’s dispatcher calls. His earlier job ran late, she explains. No kidding, you think. And traffic is bad, she adds. Yup. He may not get there till after 6, she says.
She pauses. You know what she wants you to say. She wants you to say, “Well, let’s reschedule then.”
But you don’t. You say, “I’ll be here.”
“It could be quite late,” she says.
You imagine the electrician coming at midnight. It would serve him right, you think. Teach him a lesson, him and every cable guy, dishwasher repairman and telephone line installer who kept you trapped in your house.
And that lesson is this: The window is sacrosanct. Do not defile the window. If you say you’ll be there between 2 and 6, be there between 2 and 6.
But then you wonder about the damage a tired, cranky electrician might be capable of. You imagine him drowsily shoving a crowbar into the circuit-breaker box in the basement, which is odd, since all you wanted him to do was install a light fixture in an upstairs bedroom.
He hits the 220-volt main line and lights up like a Christmas tree, his hair standing on end, his arms and legs outstretched, his skeleton somehow visible and glowing yellow. You prod him with a broom handle, and he falls to the floor, smoldering.
He is now an ex-electrician, and you have just six hours to dispose of his body. So you find the hacksaw and the quicklime, and you drag him to the bathtub.
But as morning comes you realize you have clogged the drain. So you call the plumber.
Yes, the dispatcher tells you. She can send a plumber out today to take a look. How about between 2 and 6?
The electrician finally came the next morning, and the once-dark bedroom now has an operable light. I mentioned this to my older daughter, off at college and living for the first time in an apartment. She’d spent the day waiting in vain for a man from the gas company.
When you’re young, you think being a grown-up is all about seeing R-rated movies and staying up as late as you like. But when you become a grown-up, you realize it’s all about waiting for the gas man.