Sam, Sam the Not-So-Handy Man


Sam and his brother Al, could not have been more different in many ways. Al was the diplomat and good at fixing things. Sam, on the other hand, was blunt and even outrageous in his actions and quite pathetic at anything that required fixing or putting together, with cooking being the exception because he was good at that (albeit quite messy). Al came across as somewhat distant and unfriendly while Sam was actually well liked and respected. Al could not cook well at all, not even short orders on the grill. Sam’s food always tasted better although exactly why was a mystery.

Sam relaxing

Sam relaxing

So when there was any kind of issue in the Store that required a cool head and some tact, Al was the guy to get because he could diffuse the situation without bloodshed. Sam was definitely not the guy to go to for this.

Case in point: a long-time and frequent customer had a knack for complaining about everything, especially the food. Some people are just that way: chronic whiners whether justified or not. However, the one thing you shouldn’t do is constantly complain to Sam about his food and/or the quality because he prided himself on always buying the best.

So one day Customer was once again saying something negative and Sam lost his cool and proceeded to grab the guy by his collar and pants, jerked him off the stool and pushed him through the Store and out the front door while yelling, “Get the hell out of my store and never come back!” It was quite a scene as you can imagine.

Customer stayed away for a very long time and frequented other eating establishments in the area, none of which matched the food at Singer’s Luncheonette, so one day he came slinking back in and quietly ordered something. He ate it without saying a word.

Al was also fairly handy and could fix things that needed it. He must have gotten some of Pop’s carpenter gene, as the family calls it, and enjoying puttering around. He and his wife, Jean, had a second home in Patchogue, New York, and liked to spend time there. As with all homes, there are always jobs to be done.

Sam, however, missed out on this particular gene and was, without a doubt, one of the most un-handy people on the earth, largely due to his impatience.

Sam & Martha's first house

Sam & Martha’s first house

One time in the 1960’s when vinyl records were still in existence, he had a Do-It-Yourself kit for a record keeper that was a basic box with doors on the front that slid or moved somehow. It was his job to put it together.

Naturally, he didn’t believe in reading the instructions. One can only assume he at least looked at the pictures in the brochure provided and we all know how indecipherable they can be.

There was much cussing and slamming of tools before the job was eventually done and the piece was together and actually worked! So maybe there were a few screws leftover, so what? It was finished. He persevered and was too stubborn to ask for help, but the job was done.

Another time, they ordered two metal covers for some radiators. [For those who don’t remember these, they are rectangular coils in each room used for heating. The boiler in the basement below the apartment would originally burn coal and create steam which was sent up to the radiators and also a pipe that went all the way to the sixth floor. Usually, since the Singers were on the first floor, the heat that was put out was often too hot and so the radiator valve was often turned off and the room would get cold. Meanwhile, the people on the sixth floor were cold because the steam pooped out by the time it got that high up. It was not an efficient system, but all that was available. The coils were ugly and dangerous to touch when hot, so covers were the answer.]

They arrived (unassembled, of course) one day while Sam was at work. Marcia decided to put one together herself because it was going in her room. She carefully looked at the directions, spread all the parts around on the floor, found the necessary tools and was able to get the cover all nicely constructed in a decent amount of time with no problem.

Sam’s job was to do the same with the other one. However, this proved to be much more difficult. Marcia would try to help and suggest he do it like the instructions, but no….Sam “knew” what he was doing and did it his way even if it was wrong. He attacked it like he did a lot of things: like a house on fire! She finally gave up and walked away and left him to figure it out.

As you can imagine, there was a lot of cussing going on and it took him much longer than it had Marcia, but eventually it was done. It was something the family would remember and laugh about.

Front Porch with Martha, Sam & Phil

Front Porch with Martha, Sam & Phil

Another funny incident came much later after Sam and Martha had moved to North Carolina and bought a cute little house, their first real house. It was a small, blue ranch style home with a front porch on which they would spend a lot of time sitting and talking in the pleasant evenings.

Naturally, the inside needed painting and Sam was up for the job. He spread some drop cloths on the wood floor, although quite carelessly and paint ended up on it anyway. The correct way to apply paint from a roller is a slow, even up and down movement.  Apparently Sam had no clue how to use a paint roller and when Marcia and her husband Phil stopped by to visit, there was Sam putting the roller into the paint and without carefully removing any excess, was slathering it onto the walls as fast as possible using an up/down/across/any which way motion that was so outrageous to see. Meanwhile, due to the overabundance of paint on the brush, it was splattering everywhere. The muted yellow color was on the floor, on Sam’s clothes, all in his hair, all over his glasses and okay, some actually made it to the wall. It was such a mess, eerily reminiscent of the Thanksgiving Gravy Fiasco.

Sam in Living Room he painted

Sam in Living Room he painted

Martha was hiding out in another room and had seen enough to know she couldn’t watch anymore. She kept mumbling something about how the floor was never going to nice again and if thoughts could kill…you get the picture. Marcia and Phil wisely made a quick exit.

The painting did get finished and as long as you didn’t look closely you would never notice the odd brush marks of paint being rolled in many directions or the spots on the wood floor that were never cleaned off. Another job done, even if not so well.


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