Nature may abhor a vacuum, but Americans love their vacuum cleaners and hate it when they go on the fritz. Luckily, there are people like Britt Taylor in the world with the curiosity to diagnose the problem and the patience to fix it.
"Patience figures in a lot," says Taylor as she struggles to fit the casing on the head of an old Filter-Queen. "And sometimes, you just need to walk away."
Finally the parts snap into place. "There we go." A sigh of relief.
Woman 1, Machine, 0.
Taylor's workshop is at the back of A-1 Vacuum Sales and Service on Southland Drive. Loyal customers of A-1 will know that the longtime owners retired last fall. Taylor's father-in-law, Doc Taylor, happened to be in the right place at the right time to buy the business: two doors down from A-1 at Chuck's Music, the shop he owns with Britt's spouse, Jesse. And that is how Britt Taylor came to be where she is now: "repair engineer," as Doc puts it, and manager of A-1.
But Britt Taylor views her current job placement from a slightly different perspective.
Inquiring minds have to know
"The main thing that got me to here is I am a very inquisitive person," Taylor says. "If something is not working I have to know why.
For example? "For example, years ago, my clothes dryer quit and I took it apart and fixed it. I found out what part it needed and went and bought it and put it back together.
"It's kind of like, when you're low on money and you can't afford to have someone come and fix something for you, you figure it out.
"I've done it all, the dryer, the washer, the plumbing, you name it. I had to fix a toilet, totally take it out. I did own a lot of how-to books. I had the whole Time series of how-to-do anything imaginable that you needed to do."
So it's in her nature to try to get to the bottom of things.
"Doing the vacuums is really not that difficult unless you get into the electrical part, and that I did have to learn. You just have to have one of those kind of brains that likes to work through puzzles.
"Someone brought me a Dyson, taken completely apart in a Rubbermaid tub. The gentleman had taken it apart — he'd even taken the wheels off — because it wasn't working properly, and he couldn't figure out how to put it back together.
"He asked if I would do that. I told him, 'You're lucky I like puzzles.' And I put it back together for him."
Learning from Mother Nurture
Talk a little more with Taylor, and you'll learn that nurture had a hand, too, in her suitability for this work.
As a child, she watched her mother and grandmother tackle and finish jobs that would make some grown men cry.
"My grandmother built lots of things. One thing she did that you couldn't do today is she had to move her mother to her house, but the house wasn't big enough. So she purchased an old schoolbus and attached it to the house to make it larger. She cut the door out of the bus, and she cut the door out of the house, and she attached them."
Where was that? "That was in Independence, Ky.," says Taylor.
From martial arts to marital bliss
Taylor is a native of Campbell County, but the family moved first to Louisiana and later to Bloomington, Ind. She learned about the world of retail from her parents, who owned stores in both places.
In Bloomington, she learned to do the books, she had signs printed, ordered ads and dressed windows. She went along on buying trips to Chicago's Merchandise Mart and New York's Garment District, where she remembers "a tall building had a different clothing label on every floor. You'd go to the floor of the labels you were interested in, like Floor 7 for Bobbie Brooks." It was exciting stuff for a girl from Indiana.
Taylor later moved to North Carolina and worked in retail and as a teacher's aide. But she traveled through Lexington often and always wanted to live here. In 2004 she made the move, and in June 2005, she met Jesse Taylor at her son's karate class.
Now the couple work two doors apart. Jesse calls her the brains in the couple, not to mention the fixer.
"She's the one who changes the oil when the car needs it," he says.
"The vacuum cleaner is just like your car," says Britt Taylor. "It has filters, and it needs maintenance. People don't realize that.
"That's a good thing, I guess, because I wouldn't have a lot of business if they did."
To her, it seems perfectly natural to be doing the work she does.
"I come from a long line of women who are very determined," says Taylor.
"They fixed things on their own and taught me not to be scared of a screwdriver."
Vicky Broadus: (859) 231-3516