No youngster himself, Fred often repeats what his father used to say:
"There are always preludes to hell."
For Fred one of those preludes is waiting for service people, folks who fix the things in life Fred can’t fix. Their number is legion.
Another prelude is paying the tradesmen when the job is finally over. That’s an additional smack in the chops.
Fred and Rhoda, both retired, had a sink stopped up and they called plumber after plumber. Finally, they got one who said he would come the next day.
Fred went shopping early that morning so he could get back in time to help Rhoda get ready for the plumber. She had started cleaning the house so the plumber wouldn't talk about them.
They live in a small town and that’s one of the minuses to an otherwise pleasant life.
Rhoda draped the sink to keep the foul water from coming up after the plumber unstopped the pipe. Then she and Fred sat down and waited. And waited.
Fred doesn't have much patience, especially since his time is not that long, he believes, given the results of his latest physical but that’s another story.
It truly bothers him to watch the clock and just sit around waiting. But that seems to be the way of the world ever since he was in the Army long ago preparing to go to Korea.
"It was always hurry up and wait when I was in boot camp,” Fred has reminded Rhoda at least a hundred times in their 50 years of marriage.
When the plumber and his assistant finally arrived they started to take the pipes apart and one of them broke. Fred was prepared for the problem to be more complicated than just a congested drain line. The house is old and when things fall apart, they really fall apart.
Just like Fred is in the process of doing according to the results of his physical.
He wasn't disappointed this time either. The plumber and his assistant were at the job forever. So much to fix, so much time to wait.
Fred and Rhoda had no choice but watch the meter run as one problem became two and then three. Then there was the dreaded trip back to the shop after the inevitable announcement,
"We don't have that part on the truck.”
Fred was hoping one of the men would stay in the house to do whatever one of them could to make the wait shorter, but both of them went to get it.
"Must be a big part," Fred said to Rhoda.
When the plumber and his assistant came back, they cut up the floor tile, made a real mess and replaced several of the older pipes.
When they got done, they tried to clean up a little, but Rhoda had to follow around behind them to wipe up what they missed.
To this day, when he tells the story, Fred compares the plumbers’ visit to dental cleanings that seem to go on forever, what with all the grinding and the drill running.
Fred hasn’t gotten the bill yet, but he knows that will be the final touch to another service call that didn’t go well.
Rhoda is more accepting of things like service calls. She has lived quietly through a number of preludes to hell.
In fact, nothing has bothered her much since she finally adjusted to Fred coming home from Korea with one arm and one eye.
"He was never really the same after that,” she tells anyone who asks, "except that he still hates to hurry up and wait."