Somebody Else’s Home Improvement

February 14, 2003

One of the most amazing things about the modern world is the mega-hardware store. You know the place: it’s so huge that if it weren’t a square building they’d have to give away complimentary balls of twine at the door for people to unravel as they went along so they’d be able to find their way back. Many of these places call themselves "warehouses", which implies that they’re saving you money by cutting out the middle-man. Actually they cut the middle-man’s heart out and fed it to hungry dingoes while his children watched, and now they’re able to pass on a discount to you at the expense of numerous jobs. Think about that the next time you hear some place talk about "slashing prices."

But I digress. These places are so huge they should have a bus system especially for those people who are just popping in for a light bulb and an orchid. Unfortunately you can never go into one of these mega-hardware stores without having to talk to a customer service person at some point, and even though customer service people meander through the store constantly, they have a knack for steering clear of where you happen to be. So you could ride the bus from aisle 77B (oddly-shaped plumbing joints) and, like an African safari, see dozens of customer service people on the way, and then be unable to find any when you arrived at aisle 13F (screws that are neither philips nor flathead). Here the African safari comparison breaks down: no one really wants to find a lion parked outside their bungalow, and unlike lions, a customer service person probably can tell you which is the best wood sealant to use. That’s the amazing thing: almost every customer service person I’ve talked to in a mega-hardware store has known where to find what I’m looking for, and will even walk me to the exact spot. The only thing they could do better is let me ride on their shoulders.

Unfortunately I can never ask them for advice because I’m too distracted by this wide black piece of nylon with straps hanging off of it that they all wear around their waists. This piece of nylon usually has, "Ask me about my back support!" printed on it, but when I ask the question always comes out, "Shouldn’t a garter belt be worn under your jeans?" Having finally found the light bulbs, and after reminding myself that I’m never in my life going to build a cabinet so there’s no point in buying a handful of those really neat looking knobs even if they are only 59 cents each, I usually realize I need a basket of some sort because I can’t possibly carry ten light bulbs without breaking at least nine of them on the way to the checkout. So I have to go all the way back to the front, rolling up my ball of twine as I go.

As you probably know, there are three types of baskets available in a mega-hardware store: the little handbasket, the wheeled basket like the kind you find in grocery stores, and the great big wheeled platform with a solid iron handle. I think this last one is for men who are too insecure to carry around a handbasket even if they’re just buying a light bulb and an orchid. Or maybe it’s for people who own those big, ostentatious houses that have popped up in the past few years. Don’t get me wrong: I love stately old houses. But in the past ten years I’ve noticed new houses on such small lots they’re surrounded by approximately six inches of grass, and they’re so huge you could break into one and live there and the owner would never suspect anything unless the two of you went to get something from the refrigerator at the same time. Of course I would never do this, but it gives me something to think about while I’m waiting for the bus.

Enjoy this week’s offerings.

A physician claims these are actual comments from his patients made while he was performing colonoscopies:

1. "Take it easy, Doc, you’re boldly going where no man has gone before."

2. "Find Amelia Earhart yet?"

3. "Can you hear me NOW?"

4. "Oh boy, that was sphincterrific!"

5. "Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?"

6. "You know, in Arkansas, we’re now legally married."

7. "Any sign of the trapped miners, Chief?"

8. "You put your left hand in, you take your left hand out. You do the Hokey Pokey…."

9. "Hey! Now I know how a Muppet feels!"

10."If your hand doesn’t fit, you must aquit!"

11. "Hey, Doc, let me know if you find my dignity."

12. "You used to be an executive at Enron, didn’t you?"

13. "Could you write me a note for my wife, saying that my head is not, in fact, up there?"

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