A soft spot for hardware

Elise T. Chisolm

April 28, 1992|By Elise T. Chisolm

If it's spring at our house, it's a trip to the hardware store.

I lose him to Hechinger's or Frank's or some other such place when the first flower blooms.

I hear, "I'm going to the hardware store, I'll be back in a little while."

A little while turns into hours.

I would like to spend a spring day with him at the aquarium, on a garden tour or at the harbor.

But here's the strange part of his home improvement sorties: When he gets back, he often does not fix the dripping faucet or the loose shingles. And we do not put up new blinds. Sometimes he has no packages at all.

These trips do not seem to inspire him to fix anything. But I think I know the secret of his trips -- it's the male companionship, the bonding, where they discuss the differences between oscillating turbo spike sprinklers; or types of new surfaces for the driveway. After all, he does not go to bars or play golf.

The other day an overhead lamp fell and broke in the bathroom, and he said, "I'll run right to Hechinger's."

I offered to go along. After all, it is my bathroom too.

"It will be really crowded. And the traffic will be horrible at this time. And aren't you fixing dinner?"

So I went with him because he was trying to discourage me.

A gardening center or hardware store in spring is like Macy's at Christmas, a vast and crowded emporium.

There is a pungent smell of fertilizer, chemicals, paint, wood dust, bedding plants, sheet rock.

And people.

Sure enough, there were long lines at the check-out counters, the aisles were full of tired fixer-uppers and crying babies.

We found the hanging light fixture we wanted, but it took us a long time to find the aisle where it was packaged and ready to go. It was hiding under faucets. He told me you do not take down the fixture from the ceiling -- I knew THAT! He was afraid I would not abide by correct protocol.

So what is his love affair with these places? It is indeed the gregarious people in the check-out line.

He talked to the man in line in front of us. My husband tells him he did not have the right pipe fittings. "Pipe fittings and electrical fittings have male and female parts" he explains. I am embarrassed.

Then he tells the man behind us that he'd better get those 2 by 2s up right away or they will warp.

A man offers me five bucks for my place in line. He has to go to a funeral. I keep my place.

We will never get through here, I think, because the man in front of me has a whole house on his cart. Yards and yards of fencing, mini blinds and long stacks of lumber, with which he manages to hit me when the wheel on his cart turns accidentally. The man in back of us drops a rake on my right heel, apologizes, and we discuss rakes.

Meantime, I am watching the video screen on the counter display a new kind of treatment for bacteria in your septic tank with colorful pictures of toilets being treated. The graphics resemble pictures of someone's colon.

And I am getting hungry in spite of the toilet video.

Moving right along, and we eventually did, he picks up some nails, a caulking gun and two double sockets.

What are these for?" I ask.

"You never know when you might need them," he answers, as if I'd asked when are we going to the moon.

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