Recently I began a late education into a whole new world for me. We began cleaning up and remodeling my old family home place.
No, the cleaning and remodeling weren’t new to me—I think I’ve been doing that most of my life. But, because my part in the project was mostly cleaning, which everybody knows really isn’t very important because anybody can do that (not that anybody does), I was elected to run to get the various parts and pieces needed by the assembled group of volunteer master craftsmen and relatives who were entrusted with the important part of the project.
Since most of the work was done on Sundays when local outlets were closed, I was forced to enter my new world of hardware warehouses. These outfits are humongous. If they were filled with clothes, jewelry, and food, I would have been just fine. But they’re filled with a huge assortment of objects in each department all of which look alike.
On one occasion I was sent for window glazing, among other things. I found the aisle that had familiar looking tubes, but after two passes along the block long aisle I found no window glazing. I decided to go to the customer service desk.
“Pardon me,” I interrupted two men behind the desk who were apparently discussing their social plans. I think I don’t speak your language.” They both looked worried.
“I’m looking for window glazing, but there’s nothing by that name in the aisle. What do you call it here?”
They looked at me, then at each other, then back at me. I smiled encouragingly.
The manager-type looked at the clerk and asked, “What do we call window glazing? The clerk sorted quickly through his brain files and replied, “Window glazing.”
“But there’s nothing in aisle 4 marked window glazing,” I repeated.
“Yessir, it’s in aisle 4,” the manager-type assured me.
The clerk checked his brain again and added, “but if it isn’t there it might be in a display in aisle 16. Before I could look back at him he said, “No, make that 14.” As I looked at him he spoke again, “Aisle 15, yeah, that’s where it is!”
I looked at both of them without smiling, and asked, “Is there anybody else here who can help me?”
A couple weekends later I was sent for some electrical stuff. Again I couldn’t find it. There was no one in the aisle to help me, so I went up to the desk and asked for help in Electrical.
As I returned to Electrical I heard the call for help. Very shortly a clerk appeared in the aisle. As I stepped forward to claim his attention a male customer said, “Oh, I need some help here.”
Before the clerk could respond I stepped up, took the clerk by the arm, and said, “Oh, no, you’re mine.” They both looked a little shocked, so I added, “If you want help either you wait, or you go up to the desk like I did.”
Tool men met Assertive Woman. Assertive woman won.
Then there was the time the clerk was a former Marine, but that’s another column.
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