Yesterday's comment from Jill Smith of Writing or Typing sent me to her piece on Big Box hardware stores eating one's brain, which put me in mind of my own hardware situation. Get ready, d. sidhe, more clues.
I live within walking distance of a Lowe's. This is almost purely a boon, the only drawback being I'd much rather trade with a Mom and Pop. That and the fact that once Lowe's appeared, the Sears Hardware which was just two blocks further away ran like a mongrel with a tin can tied to its tail, the mizable bastids. There's a family-run Ace Hardware a couple blocks from that, one of those small businesses with a clientele so firmly established that it was oblivious to both the Sears and Lowe's invasions, though everyone figured they'd be gone in a month. It's one of those places where you can't find anything, because everybody who works there also owns the joint and no one can be bothered with organizing shelves or clearing stuff out of what passes for aisles, and if you're brave enough to strike out on your own, and lucky enough to find what you're looking for, there may be five or six different stickers on the same object and you can choose your favorite decade's price. If you have to ask for assistance, though, you're stuck, because the one guy who's paying any attention to customers whatsoever is busy talking the intricacies of fishing lures with some toothless gent who seems to live there. I don't think you could even dust the place without contacting HazMat first.
Then there's the other guy.
He's a mile up the road. Ramshackle building just off a busy corner, the place is the flagship of a four-or-five store empire. I used to trade with him semi-regularly, though I just didn't like the guy. Too much of a glad-hander, plus his prices are guaranteed to be higher than anyone else's. And he's got a cashier who's a real type. You may know her. Worked there for twenty-five years, probably, and thinks she's part of the floor show.
I was in there one day a few years back, renting a carpet shampoo-er, and she's got a radio going in her little cube there, and I realize she's listening to Rush Limbaugh. I run into Mr. Glad Hand in the parking lot, and I complained about it. Now, I'm one of those people who's sort of physically memorable. I do look like that picture. I have this enormous cranium. And I'm usually wearing my Jeff Gordon shades, because they're polarized and I like to drive in 'em. So I bring the shampoo-er back Monday morning, and go to get my deposit back, and the cashier glares at me, then makes a big production of going over and snapping off the radio. So, instead of suggesting to his employee that she play something which didn't insult some customers, he told her the asshole in the sunglasses complained about Rush.
But I still traded there from time to time, until shortly after the invasion of Iraq. I was there to buy some mulch, and hanging next to the price list was a tee-shirt with a map of Baghdad on it, and on the map a little sign that said, "Future Home of Bob's Hardware. Opening Soon."
I didn't bother to complain that time, and needless to say I don't shop there anymore, but I did take the opportunity, several months later, when our little adventure was clearly turning to shit, to indulge in my baser instincts. I sent the owner a letter. On it I'd printed out a particularly gruesome photo of Iraqi war dead, several bodies burned to ash. And I wrote, "Hey, Bob, they're already lining for your new store. When's it gonna open, again?"