Bet you didn’t know that Bedford is home to the one of the handiest handy-men in the West.
That’s not just self-applied braggadocio, either. Angel Diaz, a 2007 Hurst Bell graduate, is bona-fide.
His times in all the relevant disciplines, from toilet conversion and ice maker installation, to the deadbolt test are official. On Wednesday, Diaz leaves for Georgia to compete in his fourth straight Maintenance Mania national finals in search of the elusive, if also obscure, title of best apartment maintenance guy in the U.S. The competition will be held Friday at Atlanta’s Georgia World Congress Center.
If you don’t see any value in the ability to fix a toilet in 15 seconds or assemble a ceiling fan in 12, you obviously haven’t had the recent pleasure of living in a well-run apartment complex. Maintenance technicians all over the country do yeoman’s work every day for a mass audience quite literally stacked on top of one another, and Maintenance Mania is one of the only venues where people in Diaz’s line of work are celebrated.
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“You run into impatient people now and then no matter what type of job you’re holding down, so you can’t let panic in the moment or, sometimes, the panic of the resident, affect your work,” Diaz said in a phone interview. “Whenever there’s a problem at an apartment complex you obviously want to solve it in a timely manner, but the competitiveness and the timed environment of Maintenance Mania really translates to the stresses of the day-to-day work.”
Diaz has been a maintenance tech at The Woods of Bedford for seven years, and the 28-year-old has qualified for the national event, held each year at the National Apartment Association’s trade conference, each of the last four years.
In 2014, he finished 17th overall. In 2015, he moved within the top 10 finishers. Last year, he would have cracked the top three if it weren’t for a mistake in the toilet repair event that cost him precious seconds and left him with a 6th-place finish overall.
In the same way that football is a game of inches, Maintenance Mania is often, in the same way, won in the trenches, with the winners and the also-rans separated by mere fractions of seconds.
Of the eight events at Maintenance Mania, Diaz’s specialty is the ceiling fan. He finished second last year in the timed discipline of securely installing three fan blades and a light globe onto a pre-assembled base in a personal-best time of just more than 12 seconds.
“Typically, you don’t want to rush on the job,” Diaz said. “But every once in a while, you have one of those emergencies, like a flooded restroom. That’s when the Maintenance Mania instinct kicks in.”
Local qualifying win
At this year’s local qualifying event, held in February at the Arlington Convention Center, Diaz won the water heater install (11.053 seconds), the toilet repair (17.25 seconds), the ice maker installation (5.368 seconds) and the deadbolt test (13.128 seconds) on his way to a fourth-straight first-place finish among local hopefuls.
The wild card, Maintenance Mania’s great equalizer, is a Pinewood Derby-like makeshift downhill car race in which contestants build miniature race cars that must meet predetermined specifications, using only predetermined, commonly used maintenance products and racing downhill for time. Times in all eight events are added together, and the lowest combined time in all eight disciplines wins the title, and the bragging rights.
If he can knock off a couple seconds on a couple of his times from his local qualifier, Diaz will be in the hunt again for thousands of dollars in prizes and gift cards, after finishing in the money the last two years.
The 2016 national champion, Jorge Blanco of Washington D.C., took home around $7,000 in prizes.
“Being in maintenance is no different than anything else, in that, whatever you do, you want to be the best at it,” Diaz said. “That, and the prize money is pretty good, too.”