Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Just the beginning

I am not a “handy” man. I do not say that to excuse myself as these are self imposed limits to my home improvement abilities. These limits were set years ago when I discovered that I’d rather do other things with my time than re-tile a bathroom or install crown molding throughout the house. From my conversations with other men I realize that I am in the minority here; still there hasn’t been a compelling argument to change my mind, so I do what I feel comfortable with and leave the rest to others.

My general rule of thumb is that if I can’t complete a task in a weekend I’m enlisting the help of someone else. And by “enlisting the help” I mean I’m going to pay someone because I don’t want to do it. I’ll do what needs to be done but feel no desire to stray far outside my comfort zone.

It’s not that I don’t get that deep sense of satisfaction from a do-it-yourself job, I do. Matter of fact in many cases that feeling of satisfaction is probably disproportionate to the actual task. For instance I can repair a broken rail on a kitchen drawer and feel like Bob Villa. Heck I installed a couple of ceiling fans in our first home and you would have thought I framed the walls and poured the foundation that held them up the way I showed them off. The thing is that feeling that comes from a do-it-yourself job hardly ever justifies, at least in my mind, the headache that accompanies said job.

Case in point, this past weekend I had some work to do on my grass. I had some other errands to run and took my youngest child with me. We went to Home Depot and made our way over to the lawn and garden section. I found the necessary bags of stuff I was going to spread over my wilting lawn and to my delight saw there was no waiting at the lawn and garden register. I paid for my things and we loaded up the car and returned home.

I hadn’t taken two steps in the door when my wife asked if I remembered to get the replacement sprinkler heads for the back yard. Doah! In my excitement at finding an open register I had forgotten about the sprinklers.

I retrieved my keys from the kitchen counter and headed back to the Depot. I arrived at the irrigation isle and only then remembered that there were two heights of sprinkler heads. I had run into this the last time I had to replace one and remembered that fortunately at that time I had guessed right. I held the 2” and 4” heads in my hand. After a brief internal debate I decided that I was 51% sure that I had the 2” sprinkler heads. I grab two with the appropriate configuration and headed for the checkout. It was then I ran across a display of 4” sprinkler heads bundled in a 4 pack for additional savings. The cheapskate inside of me caused me to return the 2” sprinkler heads on the chance that I could save money and have a surplus for the next time I needed one. So I, with some trepidation, tucked the 4 pack under my arm and headed home.

After unearthing the first sprinkler, much to my chagrin, I found that my gamble was folly as a pulled a 2” casing from the ground. I cursed my foolishness but wisely dug out the other sprinkler head as well. I discovered that it too was a 2” head but with a ½ inch extension, meaning that I would have had to return for a third trip even if I had stayed with my original 2” selection.

So I took the shameful trip to the returns counter and explained that I had gotten the wrong part. She said ‘no problem’ and took my 4 pack and placed it in a full bin next to like six other bins full of returns. As I was leaving the store, with the correct parts this time, I passed a man in the parking lot who had exited the building with me on my first trip. He was walking towards the store carrying a bag with a receipt. We exchanged a knowing smile and nod as we passed each other and he continued on his own walk of shame.

Can somebody tell me why it is that trips to Home Depot are like potato chips, you can never have just one?

I know you purveyors of hindsight wisdom will say that with a bit more planning or preparation you can avoid multiple trips. If we were talking about any other place in the world I would say that you were correct, but not Home Depot. Oh no, it can’t be done. You’ll forget something or buy the wrong size or get too much or not enough. You’ll discover a previously unseen problem buried beneath the original problem or find that the final product isn’t how you imagined it and you’ll have to start over. It will happen; something will compel you to return.

It’s a phenomenon like Big Foot and UFO’s or ESP and Déjà vu; you can’t explain it but you know it’s there. So don’t smirk at the wild eyed tales of an unending loop of Home Depot horror trips. One day it will be you. When that moment arrives remember me and remember at Home Depot you can do it and they can help but more saving means more doing and low prices are just the beginning of your descent into madness. Sometimes it’s just not worth it.

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