A round of applause for El Señor Arreglalotodo

Stew and I recently adopted the routine of doing a brief expression of gratitude before meals. Nothing deeply religious but just an improvised reminder of what is going right in our lives, so the occasional potholes in the road don’t rattle us so much.

Topping my gratitude list, of course, is my husband Stew, along with our good health, our unfailingly amusing and loving animal companions, and a few others good-luck charms.

Most recently I’ve added Félix to the list. He’s someone who is always in good humor, hard-working, loyal and honest and perhaps most important of all, whip-smart, particularly when it comes to fixing things around the ranch, often in the role of Stew’s assistant.

Félix is our Señor Arreglalotodo, or Mr. Fix-It.

The latest Félix-Stew feat was to fix our dishwasher. To someone in the States that may not sound like splitting the atom or discovering a cure for baldness. In San Miguel, though, where knowledgeable appliance repairmen are a nearly nonexistent life form, and availability of replacement parts is controlled by a monopoly called ServiPlus, Félix and Stew’s achievements are certainly worthy of note. In the past they’ve cured an ominous rattle in our refrigerator; our stove’s temperamental oven (until we replaced it with a new GE model); sputtering chainsaws; flat tires; water heaters and a hundred other things around the ranch that have gone pfft.

The Santa Clara repair team is pleased with their work. 

We know many people who are not nearly as lucky as we are with Félix. For example, after several failed attempts to get a dishwasher fixed, friends of ours gave up and bought a new one. That’s not an unusual “fix” for broken appliances in these parts.

In the past, we’ve tried using the oft-recommended repairman Margarito, but he turned out to be an elusive and useless character. When Margarito failed to show up at our place to fix our stove three times in a row, I tried to ambush him at his taller, or workshop, by loading the dysfunctional stove on our pickup and bringing it to him. One look at the place and I knew this was a fool’s errand. The workshop was a dimly lit cavern of rusting parts, broken appliances, scattered tools, and whatnots piled halfway up to the ceiling.

I never got to meet the famed Margarito. He was never there and his wife, talking from behind the piles of junk, kept promising Margarito would call me when the repairs were made. “We’ll get back to you” she said—ah, that most fraudulent and cruel Mexican expression.

In my experience service providers never return phone calls, much less call when they are not going to show up. It’s up to the customer to chase the repairman with incessant calls at various times hoping to “catch” him, so he can earnestly promise to come another day or have the job done by—another cruel expression—mañana. Dream on.

Crafty fellow that he is, Stew has tried to circumvent the repairman juggernaut by downloading repair schematics from the manufacturers so he could buy replacement parts here and do the fixes himself.

Dream on some more. Repair parts for appliances—regardless of the brand or where you bought them—are only available from an octopus-like outfit called ServiPlus. And the only way to get parts from ServiPlus, based in Querétaro, is to engage one of their repairmen, who has to come to your house, diagnose the problem, order the parts, and after two or three service calls, perhaps fix it. ServiPlus’ chokehold on the replacement parts and repair racket explains why there are so few independent appliance repairmen in captivity in San Miguel: There’s no room for them to operate.

At this point, Toto might ask, “But Dorothy, isn’t that system a monopoly, like, illegal restraint of free trade or something like that?” And she would patiently reply, “Yes, Toto, maybe in Kansas, but we’re in Mexico.”

The only way out of this trap, which Stew has used a number of times, is to order replacement parts directly from U.S., even if they take two to three weeks to get here.

But back to our gagging, nine-year-old Bosch dishwasher, which didn’t seem to be draining properly. Could be the water pump, some electronic circuit or, fortunately, a clogged drain hose. Stew and Félix took the machine out of the kitchen and onto the terrace and set out to unclog the drain line, first with a plunger, then with a plumber’s “snake” and finally—Stew’s idea—to blow out the crap out of the hose with bicycle air pump. Félix hrrumphed incredulously, but Stew’s cure worked.

The old dishwasher is running like new, no thanks to Margarito or ServiPlus. So let us pause now and be grateful for another success, and to Stew and Félix, two clever fellows indeed. 

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