"Things that interfere with writing well: Earning a living, especially by teaching."

-William H. Gass

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Home Depot: you can't do it, and they can't help you

Welcome to this June, my first ever June without work.  Normally, in spite of being a teacher, I work in the summer.  Not so this year.  Betty Friedan should have warned we modern females of the "summer vacation mystique."  As a person who rather enjoys her job but looks ever forward to the break at the end of the school year, this elusive summer vacation has been held up as the greatest 2.5 months of every teacher's life.  It's a time to enjoy a slower day, read more books, listen to music, get things done that just didn't make the to-do list during the busy school year, plan for next fall, and just plan relax.

No one tells you that if you only have one thing to do all day it is nearly impossible to get that thing done.  Give me an astonishing amount of work to accomplish in not enough time, and I can do it.  Ask me to run to Home Depot to pick up a simple thing today....and I'll have it done by next week sometime.  

Here's another thing I didn't know.  Apparently, when you are a teacher with the summers off and you are approaching 30 years of age, June, July and August become one long marathon of HGTV.  When you start talking about bird watching in your yard, you're old.  When you start talking about what you've done to the new bathroom, you are old in training.  

I admit it.  I can't stop talking about my own home improvement projects.  And I don't even own this place!  I guess it's like when people who want to have children buy dogs and begin displaying weirdly parental behaviors toward their Weimaraners.  It would seem even we the childless aren't totally immune to certain degree of "settling down."  Getting married.  Shopping for a house.  All of these behaviors feel exactly the same as trying on grandma's clothes when I was 8.  Extremely fun, but somehow not my own.

Of all the things I have done so far in this summer of domestic boot camp, finally making the solo trip to Home Depot was the least enjoyable.  I went in with what I thought was a simple request.  I wanted to find a test-kit to make sure my kitchen floor tiles didn't contain asbestos.  I went to the customer service desk and waited in line.  There was only one elderly couple in front of me, but all four orange aprons were consumed by whatever they needed.  I waited for about three minutes until another apron walked by and I asked her where I could find the asbestos test kits.


"Yes, I'm ripping up my kitchen tiles but I want to make sure they don't contain asbestos before I do that."

Blank stare.  Pause.

"Oh, ok.  That would be in plumbing."

I must have looked skeptical, and I was.

"Well I think so anyway, let me check."

She uses a walkie-talkie to get plumbing to confirm her thoughts.  They don't answer but somebody in Paint does, and they claim to have it in aisle 40.

Great.  I walk to aisle 40, which is filled with lighting supplies.  Big sparkly ceiling light fixtures.  Etc.  Not paint and certainly not test-kits of any sort.

I go to the end of that aisle and approach the now 6th apron I have seen.  He also looks shocked at the mention of asbestos, which surprises me because it says right on the box of tiles we bought to make sure and check for the stuff before laying down new tiles.

He uses his walkie-talkie because he thinks it will be in flooring.  Flooring confirms that yes, it will be in flooring.  He tells me to go to flooring. 

On my way to flooring several aprons ask me if I need help and I make sure I'm going in the right direction, to flooring.  A nice gentleman tells me he's "going that way anyway" and will escort me (because god forbid someone actually like see me through to the end of this very fucking simple task).  We get almost to flooring when apron #9 sees someone he knows and stops the cart to chat with these folks.  I contemplate heading to flooring, which is now in my sights, on my own but I figure this guy is invested in me now and he'll make sure that if it isn't there he will find out where it is.

It isn't there.  

He radios someone in paint, and they swear it's in paint.  I walk like 7 miles back to paint, where, through extended consultations with two additional aprons, there is no such test kit.  

Enter: Manager.  He is about 12 and needs exercise, sunlight, and acne medication.  He also needs an inventory lesson because he has "no idea if we carry something like that."  He is also the fourth apron to say "Asbestos?" and wrinkle his brow as if he had never heard of such a substance.  

My favorite part is that each apron, upon discovering that they didn't know the answer to my question, looked at ME like I was the idiot.  If anything was going to make me grateful for my break from the Department of Education, this was it.