One year for my birthday, my husband booked us a cabin on a little guest ranch outside of Prescott, Arizona. The ranch lay off a twisting of Forest Service roads in the Pinon/Juniper forest, and in the dead of winter we were some of the only guests.
The ranch itself was a sprawling attempt at turning what was obviously once a working ranch into some sort of yoga guest retreat. They'd turned a variety of buildings into guest rooms and plunked down a few kit cabins.
We were in a kit cabin, which I only learned was a kit cabin because within ten minutes of getting to it, my husband had assessed the workmanship and explained to me all the ways the people who'd put it together had f'ed it up. From my layperson's eye, I could say, the joints didn't sit flush. My husband had a lot to say about spray foam and drywall screws. He also informed me some idiot had been trying to fix the leak in the kitchen sink by cranking down on the hand tighten only fittings with a wrench.
Workmanship aside, the cabin was decorated in what was an obvious attempt at BoHo. The problem was, the thrift store finds didn't really meld into a chic aesthetic. The lace doily, crumbling paperback selection, and horse knick knacks made it seem like a cross between an estate sale and Goodwill, not an impossibly cool cabin tucked away in the high desert.
But, it had a wood stove, a huge reason my husband had booked it, and we spent one afternoon reading on the couch in front of the wood stove.
About mid afternoon, someone knocked on the door. An overly sweaty, weirdly dirty man in his thirties stood on the porch. He wore a tie-dye T shirt, had a scraggly beard, a pierced ear, and he held a tool box. But he held the box like he wasn't really comfortable with it.
We'd been told that the ranch was going to send someone over to fix the sink. This man looked like he'd woken up in a gutter after a Grateful Dead concert, but we let him in, anyway.
We sat back on the couch and the hippie repairman got to working. He opened the cabinet and started tapping on the pipes. Soon he was muttering. Finally, my husband asked how long he'd worked here.
"Oh, a couple of months. I'm like the handyman guy. I do all the work."
"Are you from here?"
"Well, I'm not from Phoenix. They're invading. Ruining everything. It's all we can do to maintain our way of life out here."
I waited to see if he was going to say where he was actually from, but the information was not forthcoming. Then I heard the wrench on the pipes. My husband looked at me over his book.
"Someone really cranked down those hand tighten fittings, huh?" My husband said.
"Well, it was leaking, so you know, tighter stops the leak."
Looking at my husband, it was clear he did not know this.
"I'll be back. I need to get another tool."
He left. My husband shook his head and face palmed, and we went back to reading. He was gone so long I figured we were just going to not have a kitchen sink. Then eventually he returned, a sawzall in hand, the odor of freshly toked marijuana clinging to his clothes. My husband stared at the guy, eyes wide.
"The people from Phoenix are all about stopping marijuana," the guy said, plugging a battery into the sawzall. "They're ruining what makes it special up here."
And then, without donning hearing pro for himself, or offering us any, he proceeded to cut out the section of pipe with the too-tigthened hand fittings.
If you've never been in a confined space with a sawzall and no hearing protection, let me just tell you, it's loud. Really loud.
Once he was done, a section of the under sink pipe now gone, he set the sawzall down, clearly proud.
"I'm pretty well cut out for this handyman stuff. It's part of being self reliant. The Phoenix people just expect everything to magically work out here. But this is real life. That's what they don't get."
"Do you have another section of pipe to put in there?" My husband asked.
"Sure, I found a piece that should work."
That made my stomach turn. I'd lived in enough buildings with cobbled together plumbing to know, that this repair man was about to make a long term problem. Then I heard the wrench going. I looked at my husband. Without asking anything, I knew the handyman was attaching the pipe with more hand tighten only fittings, and he was using a wrench to tighten them.
"You guys aren't from Phoenix are you?"
"Nope," we said.
"That's good. That place is death. And the people in it, they're just spreading it across the state."
He pulled on the wrench a final time.
"Well, looks like it's fixed. I hope you all have a good day."
He hastily threw the mess of tools he'd yard saled across the floor into the box and grabbed the sawzall. Dirtier and sweatier than when he'd arrived, he shuffled out the door, leaving only a few tools behind.
Neither of us spoke for several minutes after the man left. Finally, my husband said, "What do you bet that guy's from Scottsdale?"