This morning, Kyle showed up with his bulging leather tool belt, his cordless shop vacuum, and a clutch of 16x25x1 furnace filters. It’s one of those annual rituals I’ve come to both welcome and dread. As sure as fallen leaves and frosty pumpkins, a visit from Kyle heralds the unofficial beginning of the season that lies ahead. Since calendars and thermometers seldom agree with one another in this country, I’ve learned that a visit from Kyle means it’s only a matter of days before the inevitable descent into winter. (At this point, a gesture of comradeship and concern is in order for those who live in parts of Canada that have already been walloped by premature winter storms.)

Kyle is young, efficient, and well-bred enough to take off his outdoor shoes without even being asked. He’s able to dismantle our gas-fired furnace, tweak its innards as required, and remantle it (according to the Urban Dictionary, that word actually exists) in less than half an hour. The first time he came, two years ago, I felt the Geezer’s need to hover and ask endless stupid questions about what he was doing, what each component was called, and what function it was intended to perform.

Last year, not so much. I hung around in the basement just long enough to ensure myself that he didn’t need my help. Today, I merely said, “You know where it is. Let yourself out when you’re done.”

As someone who is endowed with endless curiosity about how things work, but little in the way of practical skills, let alone much eye-hand coordination, I always appreciate the chance to watch an accomplished tradesperson at work. My father-in-law, Bruce, is one such person. He’s an auto mechanic who has an unquenchable passion for the kind of vehicles people drool over at antique car show-and-shines. Even at 80+ years of age, he can yank a flathead V8 out of a 1939 Mercury coupe faster than I can Google what kind of engine a 1939 Mercury actually possessed.

And, like experts in almost any given field, he is both able and willing to go on at enormous length about his particular specialty, even when his audience of one doesn’t really know the difference between a dipstick and a rear diff. Fortunately, Bruce and I share two particular characteristics: we both have fairly advanced hearing loss, and we’re both too vain, too stubborn, or too lazy to wear our hearing aids on a daily basis. Which means we can communicate brilliantly. Bruce rattles on about cars. I nod and smile, giving him the impression that I’m capable of understanding even an iota of what he’s saying.

It’s a win-win.