Sunday, August 30, 2009

Hardware store hell

posted Mon, 19 Jul 2004

I used to love to go to Home Depot. When I first became a homeowner three years ago, a trip to Home Depot was fun. I got to look at all the Home Depot stuff and dream about what it would look like in my house. It was an adventure – I was learning how to do new things – conquering new horizons – becoming more self sufficient every day. I was a pioneer woman, surviving on my own wits on the lone prairie.

But now I hate going there. It’s a pain in the neck. One of the main reasons – in addition to the fact that you can never find anyone to help you – is that you now have to do your own checkout. I don’t WANT to scan my own items, put them in the bag, and then run my own credit card. I want someone else to do it for me while I read a magazine. Or while I get out my credit card so that as soon as all the items are in the bag, I am ready to hand it over.

None of this waiting until the last minute for me. I’m not like those women you see in line at the grocery store with a full cart, lost in a reverie, while the cashier scans and no one is putting groceries in the bag because it’s 5:30 p.m. and there aren’t enough bag boys. When the cashier gives the total to the customer, the customer digs into her purse, seeking her checkbook. Then she has to find a pen. Then she very carefully writes out the check.

“Couldn’t you have written everything but the amount while the cashier was scanning your groceries, you idiot?” I want to scream at her. Honestly. I mean, is it a surprise to these people that once the groceries have been scanned, they will have to somehow pay for them? And tell me – would it kill you to bag your own items if you see that there isn’t anyone else to do it? Damn. I do it myself even if there is a bag boy because I get tired of having the canned caviar thrown on top of the out-of-season strawberries and squishing them.

But I digress. I have to go to Home Depot because that, apparently, is the only place I can get a replacement spool for the Toro trimmer I use to mow my tiny, curved front yard. “Spool” is the proper term, incidentally, not “reel,” even though I think a yard trimmer has more in common with a fishing rod than a sewing machine.

The trimmer gave out of line Saturday afternoon when I was going to knock “mow lawn” off my list. I refused to drive all the way to Home Depot on the weekend and maintained the hope that G’town Hardware, the hardware store near my office (one of those “pay more but we’ll sort of help you” places), would have the spool. I called them this morning and asked. Well, I don’t know, the clerk said. What’s the model number? I had thought telling him I needed the spool for a 12” electric Toro trimmer was enough, but apparently, Toro has not seen fit to standardize this part. I had the cap from the trimmer in my car, so at lunch, I got the number off the cap and called the hardware store again. This time, the clerk told me they didn’t sell anything for Toro. I will not comment on the ridiculousness of the gestalt (lolaphilologist, did I use that properly?), except to say that this was the same clerk both times.

Then I called Stewart Brothers, the hardware store near my house, which closes at 5:00, so really is no help to me during the work week, but if they had the part, I would maybe wait until the weekend to mow my overgrown lawn. I will risk incurring the wrath of my neighbors not to have to go to Home Depot.

Stewart Brothers did not have the spool either, but the clerk said they could sell me line that I could wind myself. Right.

I was forced to call Home Depot. The clerk I spoke to there said that yes, they had 12” Toro spools, and no, the model number didn’t matter because Toro makes the same size spool for all their 12” models, thus reinforcing my impression that the guys at G’town Hardware are not the sharpest tacks in the box.

I already had gotten that idea last week when I went there in search of a door jamb with insulation to replace the one on my back door. My house is 82 years old, so nothing in it is standard size. The only door jambs I could find at G’town were 84” tall. I needed 80”. (People were shorter then.)

I asked the clerk to cut it for me, but he looked at the cutting equipment and said, “Wah-ll, Bill don’t like us cutting stuff with that.” I reminded him that the only way I could use the door jamb was if it was 80” and that I was not going to buy a hacksaw just to cut four inches off it. He told me I couldn’t use a hacksaw on it anyhow – that a hacksaw would rip the jamb (made of plastic) to shreds. When I said that maybe Stewart Brothers might have the part in the size I wanted, he said, “Maybe.” I left without buying anything, wondering at the sales philosophy of a store that lets customers walk out rather than doing a simple task for them.

When I went to Stewart Brothers, the clerk said, “I can cut that for you.” He used a hacksaw and it was just fine. I told him about G’town Hardware and he snorted. “The guy who owns that place is an idiot and the clerk who wouldn’t cut this for you is lazy.”

When I got home, I discovered that the jamb was still a smidgen too long. I had pretty much lost all patience with this darn thing, so I took my pruning clippers – the ones Harpo gave me and that will take off branches an inch in diameter – and clipped off the extra. Actually, twisted and squeezed and tore off the extra and a little more, but I got it off.

So anyway. Home Depot is on my way home from work, sort of. It will be a hassle to find parking and a hassle to find the part and a hassle to check out. I need some emergency chocolate to fortify myself for this trauma.

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