Now doubt you (readers?) remember being dragged by your parents to some hardware or home-related store when you were a child. Maybe it was to pick out new light fixtures, or to find a replacement filter for a furnace, or to buy a new washing machine. The field trips for replacement filters, etc. always ended in locations that would make watching mold grow seem entertaining. For example: a store that contained nothing but fragile lamps. (No running!) For example: a showroom full of lighted woodstoves. (No running!) For example: the lumber aisle at the hardware store. (No running!) These stores never offered seats for the uninterested. The parental decision-making processes called for in such locations were always interminable and uninterruptable. And even if you wandered off, say, out of the lumber aisle, you’d only find yourself in an aisle full of, say, dehumidifiers. Or caulk. A decent store had a water fountain, which was good at least for a few minutes of entertainment, not to mention for quenching any unfortunate thirst that might have arisen during the refreshment-free trip. Food? Out of the question. If you were very lucky, the stores were old and family-owned, and there were free lollipops.
As it turns out, in my so-called adult life, owning a home requires such weekend field trips. As it turns out, they are not designed to torture children with boredom, they are designed to torture everyone with boredom. Except that now there’s Home Depot, which combines the tedium of all the stores my parents used to drag me to with endless walking. As it turns out, there are still no seats for the uninterested. The reason for this is that everyone in the store is uninterested. If there were chairs, we’d all sit down and take naps. This, I have come to understand, was the secret of the childhood home repair-related trips: No one, not even the parental sorts buying the replacement filters, caulk, lumber, etc., really wanted to be a part of such outings. It just had to be done.
Which is why we found ourselves shopping for door hardware this weekend. (By the way, I can think of few activities that will make you feel older and more grown up than shopping for door hardware. Seriously. I’m probably acquiring additional fine lines and grey hairs even now, as I write about it.) The reason for the trip was simple, really: We hired a contractor to install a new front door. (As you may remember, the glass is broken and it leaks.) Soon, he will arrive at our house with the nice new door we picked out, but unless we have the appropriate hinges and lock waiting for him, our door will be more like a new slab, leaning against our house.
And so: We made a trip not to Home Depot, but to a store that specializes in door hardware. (I know, it’s hard to stay awake, but bear with me here, people.) As in, this place was covered, from floor to ceiling, with door knobs, cabinet handles, door pulls, locks, and hinges. I mean covered. Like wallpaper. We found ourselves debating the merits of antique brass vs. polished nickel, and ball-bearing vs. um, some other kind of hinges. Time passed. Possibly decades. I’m convinced that the surly old man who worked behind the counter was actually about 15; working in such a place must have taken its toll.
There were no seats. Or water fountains. When it came time for us to pay for our hinges and locks the bill was shockingly high.
I scanned the counter near the register for lollipops, but there weren’t any.