Recently I received a very generous offer in the mail: a $10 gift certificate from my local hardware store acknowledging my upcoming/now passed birthday. From what I could read, there was no minimum purchase, no exclusions and no small-type print, just a reasonable expiration date: October 31st, approximately six weeks out from the day I received this unexpected gift. More than enough time, one would imagine.
The only problem: what am I going to get at the hardware store, other than the employees’ pity about how little I know about so much? Most of the time when I’m in a hardware store (typically I’m not browsing, unlike the cookie aisle at the supermarket), I’m attempting to solve a problem I have at home for which I have very little experience and extremely poor instincts at rectifying. Not only do I rarely know what I’m talking about, I don’t even know the proper questions to ask to enable/assist the employee in figuring what the heck my problem actually is – other than me, that is.
I’m very much out of my element in a hardware store. A fish out of water doesn’t begin to describe my situation. Tevye, from “Fiddler on the Roof” in speaking to his daughter, Chava, about marrying outside the faith came close: “a bird may love a fish, but where would they build a home together?” Build a home? I have enough difficulty maintaining one that’s already built.
When I’m asked, or when I offer it, usually I say: ” I know two things: sports and chocolate.” I guess I could also add being a cancer patient/survivor, but I don’t want to redirect a perfectly innocent conversation into a totally different direction: me and my druthers. Although, my situation has been publicly consumed in the Connection Newspapers going on eight and half years; in person, I try to not let it be the first or even second thing that comes out of my mouth. And I never initiate, though I’m happy to respond if asked. Generally speaking, I’d rather it not be about me and my cancer. As my mother used to say “It’s enough already.”
But none of this comes up in a hardware store. In fact, the only thing that comes up is my Adam’s Apple as I sheepishly swallow and admit how incapable I am as a homeowner/do-it-yourselfer and how much help I need to do almost anything. At least the parking is free so it’s not a total loss.
As you might imagine, this situation doesn’t exactly lead to an easy conversation or a satisfying outcome. Quite the contrary. I know one thing for sure however, if left to my own devices, either I will cause additional and costly damage in my crude attempt to self-repair, or I will hurt myself in the process. And waste money as well, as the end of the day will likely find me and the problem no closer to a resolution than we were at the beginning of the day. As William Shakespeare might have written: it will be much ado about nothing as nothing much will have been done. In these recurring circumstances, all I can hope for is a safe landing, so to speak, one in which, as pilots often joke: I can walk away uninjured.
Given that I’m a tool twit and have failed miserably at homeowner 101, what then could I possibly buy at the hardware store with my gift certificate? I just got an idea: lightbulbs. I couldn’t possibly screw that up, could I? I mean, they’re supposed to be screwed up – into the socket, right? What could be more natural for me? One last question though: when I place the bulb into the socket, do I screw them to the right or to the left?