Before my life in Manhattan, I’d lived in houses for almost a decade. Along with home ownership came the obvious repairs and improvements, which were daunting and costly. Every night or weekend was dedicated to a new or ongoing project, which often left little free time.
After five years as a New Yorker, I struggle to remember those exhausting weekends playing house. No more weed-pulling, leaf-raking, touch-up painting or managing contractors on Saturdays and Sundays. My weekends in the City That Never Sleeps are filled with as much sleep as needed. Relaxation, park visits and other fun-filled activities like Broadway and sidewalk wine sipping have replaced the drudgery.
My first apartment in New York was in a hi-rise tower with more than 200 units and a building staff larger than some companies I’d worked for. I learned the way that life happens here, and I adjusted quickly. From checking my 3x6 inch mail slot daily, to tipping out doormen during the holiday season, for the first few years, I felt like I was visiting Mars, or living in fiction.
I learned quickly that Michael and I no longer ruled the roost. All at once, a team of people existed and became part of our daily routines. I found myself in communication with a management company who left weekly notices under my door, a board of directors who decided on the repairs and handled the finances of the co-op, several doormen standing guard, maintenance men, porters, and of course the guy who keeps it all under control while barely breaking a sweat: THE SUPER.
Probably millions of New Yorkers can vouch for the importance of great super when living in New York City. The superintendent keeps the halls and common spaces clean, shovels the ice and snow, and maintains the systems and the landscaping. Supers will walk your dog, feed your cat, eliminate creepy crawly things, and reluctantly listen to your problems. An honest, organized, highly capable super makes life in the Big Apple more bearable. The super is the king of kings, the head honcho, the big mahoff.
My super travels from apartment to apartment Monday through Friday, handling everything from minor tasks to emergencies. In three years of living here, I’ve yet to see him frazzled, and that includes the threat of Hurricane Irene knocking on our door last summer.
Late last night after Michael left town, the bathroom sink stopped draining and started leaking underneath. At midnight, I yanked everything out from under the vanity, dried up the mess, and brushed my teeth in the kitchen. If this plumbing debacle had occurred just a day earlier, Mikey Fix-It Kaler would’ve been able to step in with his tool pouch and take care of business, but timing wasn’t on my side. I needed to figure this out, and fast. Married to a handyman for a decade plus had eliminated even the slightest home improvement challenges. I’d become spoiled.
“It's the "P-trap. You’ll need to call Julio in the morning.” No sound of concern came from the other end of the phone line and he insisted it was an easy fix. Julio is our super, and he’s saved the day on numerous occasions. Surely, he could end the leak and get the water running downhill again.
But I had just one question, “What in the H is a P-trap?” Since it was a little too late at midnight for plumbing 101, I figured I’d ask another time.
Julio is a super extraordinaire. He’s much more than a building manager. I like to call him ‘Superman’. Calm, cool, and collected, he enters the apartment each time with his handy toolbox and mechanical contraptions. Within thirty minutes, all is back to normal for as normal as a 100-year-old apartment can be. Then he packs up and is off to another residence to save someone else’s day and often prevent catastrophe. On top of his knowledge and efficiency, I am impressed that he never gets dirty.
Julio came by this morning with his bag of tricks and gadgets, and made the repair in twenty minutes. It was probably elementary for a jack-of-all-trades or a handyman with a wrench, but not for someone like me whose biggest tool is a flatiron. Obviously, I slept through mechanical systems class in interior design school. I don’t know a P-trap from a mousetrap and I have zero contractor skills, but what I lack in plumbing and electrical abilities, I make up for in decorating.
When my husband returns from his trip, I want a lesson in plumbing basics. No worries, I’m not going to attempt to play house again like the old days before life in Manhattan. I’ll leave the playing and the fixing to Julio. My Superman knows best.
For more city stories, follow me on Twitter, or on Tracy’s New York Life.