Maureen Pratt

On Friday, my cable went out. An ominous error message appeared on the screen, sticking like glue.

I scheduled a technician to come out and waited nearly the entire “window” for him or her to arrive. An hour into the service visit, the technician said he was “confused,” couldn’t fix the problem without the help of his supervisor and left.

No one showed up during my rescheduled repair “window” yesterday. So, I scheduled a third appointment — the day after a very long, unplanned dentist visit (you can imagine my frame of mind — oh, how I prayed for patience).

As the minutes ticked by, I felt more, well, ticked, and began to suspect that I’d be stood up again by tech repair persons unknown. Then, Allen arrived with a co-worker, tools and unlimited patience.


He stared down the error message still inhabiting my television screen, and after several hours he and his colleague found a solution to the problem, vanquished the error message and left me with cable intact. Hooray!

While I waited and Allen and his colleague worked, I thought about how much we rely upon people who have skills in fixing things that are broken. Plumbers, electricians, road repair workers, mechanically gifted men and women — without these unsung heroes, we would be forever stuck in elevators, surrounded by darkness and plagued with potholes.

Their work is absolutely necessary, appreciated and increasingly plentiful, due to many older workers retiring and fewer individuals stepping into their shoes.

The job prospects for electricians, for example, are estimated to grow 14 percent between 2014-2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Yet, says the bureau, “many employers report difficulty finding qualified applicants.” The bureau reports similar situations for other repair-centered professions such as plumbers, physicians and surgeons, veterinarians, elevator installers and repairers, roofers and ironworkers (who, among other things, repair bridges and other important parts of society’s infrastructure).

None of these professions requires a college degree. Training through apprenticeship and/or trade schools can lead to full-time (and fulfilling) employment.

Having seen plumbers, electricians and, most recently, a cable repairman at work, I can say that the work is hard and exacting. There’s no “extra credit,” no “A for effort.” Lights either work or they don’t. An elevator cab either rises and lowers or not. A building stands — or falls.

Yet for the worker there can be tremendous satisfaction when pipes don’t leak, the lights go back on and the television works. And, from my perspective as one who benefits from the repairs, there is a certain heroic quality to those who put things back on track.

I once heard someone criticize farmers for being “stupid” and “slow.” This was said over a meal, an irony that I immediately pointed out. Just how stupid or slow could you be to provide food that sustains, that “repairs” hunger?

Those who are “educated” might think they are “beyond” seemingly simple professions that provide services. Yet we all benefit from their services.

With the ever-increasing cost of college (and the sometimes questionable rate of return for our dollars), repair-oriented professions that don’t require a university education are certainly worth serious consideration for those who want to make a positive difference in many lives. Far from being lowly, the honest work undertaken improves the quality of life for many and is a real blessing.

Oh, yes, the actors in television programs might seem glamorous, and the work of news broadcasters and commentators might seem vital. But without people like Allen to fix what’s broken, we’d never even know their names.