Pet Encounters a Memorable Part of Job for Former Repairman
May is Maytag Month Deals are happening throughout May at Mitten’s Home Appliance.
Appliances have changed a lot since local pastor Art Scottberg worked as a Maytag repairman in the Chicago area from 1978-1985, but the many interesting people he met over that period have stuck with him.
Before leaving for seminary, Scottberg visited around 10,000 homes, eight stops a day, fifty weeks out of the year. Most of the visits were pleasant, but like the enmity between mailmen and dogs, an appliance repairman could run into more than his fair share of interesting animals that took offense at the sight of his toolbox.
“I lost more uniform trousers to friendly dogs that had never bothered anyone,” he recalled.
On a job to repair a washing machine in the basement, Scottberg became aware that he was being watched. “I felt a presence behind me,” he said. “The air on the back of my neck went up. I grabbed the screwdriver and I turned around, and there was a German Shepherd crouched and ready to pounce.”
The protective dog backed off, but by the look in its eye, Scottberg knew it was going to attack. Luckily, the owners heard his yell and took the dog away just in time.
More interesting than the dogs were the homes with tropical birds, some with dozens lounging throughout the whole home. Scottberg’s favorite tale is the time he met an enormous parrot that had allegedly starred in a few black-and-white Errol Flynn pirate movies. After fixing the dishwasher, he walked over to its giant cage for a closer look. “For some reason, I stuck my right hand in there to stroke its feathers. And he grabbed my index finger.”
The bird wasn’t letting go anytime soon, and Scottberg panicked. “All of a sudden my mind races back to some National Geographic thing I’d seen on TV saying that parrots have so much pressure in their jaw, they can crack walnut shells,” he said. “I don’t know what to do. It’s just looking at me with one eye, and it started to squeeze ever so slowly.”
There was a sharp knife in his belt, and he knew that when it came down to it, he really didn’t want to lose his finger. “I very slowly reach over to my belt, unsnap my sheath, pull out my knife, and the whole time that bird’s eyeball is watching my hand,” Scottberg said. “I was sweating through my shirt. I was scared to death. I knew I was going to be fired, I was probably going to be sued, but I’m not going to lose my finger over this bird.”
Now with both eyes, the giant parrot watched him bring the knife up to its throat. Right before he was going to jab it, the owner walked back into the room and spoke to the bird, which answered back, releasing his finger.
“I said, ‘Wow, it’s a beautiful bird,’ and quickly turned around so she couldn’t see that I put the knife away,” Scottberg said. “I looked at that bird and that bird looked at me, and I swear he was laughing.”
Later, wrung through by the experience, he found out that the bird was worth around $100,000.
Scottberg’s most memorable story is also his favorite one. While training at the Northern Illinois Gas Company, there was a shanty inside the company warehouse that was set up like a basement with twenty violations for trainees to find.
“My turn came. I went in said a quick prayer and started to write down as many things as I could see,” he said.
Two days later, his pager summoned him to the office, and he was told to wait in a room until summoned. Nervously, he did as he was told and opened the door.
“The entire crew, everybody, was in the office, and they gave me a standing ovation. I didn’t know what I had done. I didn’t save anybody’s life,” he said.
The branch president himself came up to Scottberg and told him that in the many years the shanty had been set up, no one had ever found all twenty violations – until now. Scottberg was awarded a unique trophy featuring the actor from the Maytag commercials standing next to a 10 series washing machine, and later kept it in his church office as a reminder.
“Ever since then, if I ever got jammed up or didn’t think I could accomplish something, every once in awhile I would see this on my shelf,” he said. “And I’d know with God, all things are possible.”
Scottberg likes to use the story for the occasional sermon as an encouragement to others, since he hadn’t even been the best or favorite employee. “My goal was to be the best man on the crew when I started,” he said. “When I left my boss, who’d been historically tough on me, looked at me and said ‘I hate to lose you. You’re the best man on my crew.’”
More than thirty years after he left to go into ministry, Scottberg still gets questions from friends and family about their appliances. With all the changes to appliances in thirty years, he now knows as much as anyone. But he will always treasure his time as a Maytag repairman.