M. Giant's
Throwing stuff at the internet to see what sticks

Friday, November 15, 2002  

Some people shouldn’t be allowed to have credit cards. People like me, for instance.

A couple of weeks ago, I went to the local grocery megaplex to pick up some stuff. Mainly it was an excuse to use the newspaper coupons you can only use at the store. So I loaded up my cart, rolled it up to the register, got rung up, handed over my ragged sheaf of newsprint scraps, and made for the exit.

At this point, I realized that I’d forgotten to alert the clerk to the four dozen cans of soda in the bottom of my cart. To all intents and purposes, I’d stolen them. My mind flashed up an image of myself loading the contraband into my car next to the legitimately obtained groceries. Then it flashed up an image of my immortal soul simmering in a pit of boiling sulfur while a legion of foul imps snipped off sections off my intestines for their neckties. I parked my laden cart next to the door and went back around so I could pay for the soda in the express lane.

While I was waiting, I wondered how I could forget to pay for the soda. I must have been distracted or in a hurry or something, and now I was paying the price of adding a few more minutes onto my errand. There was nobody to blame but myself. I resolved to be more alert, more aware of what I was doing while I was doing it. Be Here Now, as they say.

I got my soda rung up, and now I was at peace, having exchanged currency for every item now in my possession. My path and my conscience were clear, and I could head out to the car without dreading a vicious side-tackle from some beefy grocery megaplex security guy that would rap my head sharply against a metal doorframe and give me a head injury that would leave me permanently unable to visualize faces or perform quadratic equations or something. Although if someone did stop me, I’d be able to point proudly at my totally valid receipt and the little strips stuck to my pop cases which showed they were legally my property (and which nobody probably would have missed anyway).

I was halfway to my car before I realized I’d forgotten the cart inside the store.

* * *

A week ago this moment, I was at Home Depot trying to pick up stuff for the ceiling project. Nothing’s ever easy at Home Depot. You get there with your list that includes items like “red paint, mop head, pliers” and you get there and you’re confronted with an entire aisle of mop heads, each of which fits a different model number (a number you don’t know, because your mop’s at home), pliers in so many shapes and sizes that you need one pair for 14-gauge insulated copper wire and another pair for 16-gauge insulated copper wire, and enough shades of red to paint an actual-size portrait of the planet Mars.

So my list, consisting of “ceiling tiles, ceiling grid, light fixtures, garbage bags” turned out to be fairly problematic. I knew I was in trouble when I vacillated over the best brand of garbage bag, and it was just downhill from there.

For instance, light fixtures have their own section, with recessed ceiling lights occupying an entire aisle of their own. We were replacing existing fixtures, so I didn’t know how much fixture I needed to buy; did I just need the trim, or the baffle with the trim, or the box with the wiring and the socket and the switchcase and halogen filter and optional pull-chain attachment? Hell if I knew, so I just grabbed a box of something cheap.

Ceiling materials were another matter. For some reason, they share an aisle with the toilets, which was where my self-esteem was when I was trying to make the decision between the expensive grids that are easy to hang or the cheap grids that are harder to hang. I went with expensive and easy, loaded five crates of ceiling tiles onto one of the rolling pallets that Home Depot calls carts, and wrestled it to the front of the store.

Why didn’t I just buy the stuff I was sure of and get the rest later? you might ask. I was asking that myself. The answer was in the form of a coupon for 10% off a single purchase in my coat pocket. I was determined to get 10% off my entire ceiling, not just 10% off a box of garbage bags.

My trepidation built as I approached the register. What if I had the wrong grids? What if I had the wrong lights? What if I had the wrong tiles? Okay, I wasn’t so worried about that last one, but I was worried about whether I’d be able to fit them all in the back of my station wagon. And the lights that I thought I was getting for forty dollars per half-dozen were actually going to cost me forty dollars per.

In order to use the 10% coupon, we’d had to open a Home Depot charge account. Trash had made the phone call earlier that day, so it was ready to go.

Except it wasn’t. I won’t bore you with the details (I got all kinds of other stuff to bore you with, after all), but I couldn’t use the coupon. The cashier was incredibly apologetic.

I thought, Hmm, I have six hundred dollars worth of stuff here and I’m not sure if it’s right. I’m thinking that not being able to use that coupon right now isn’t such a bad thing.

“How about if I come back tomorrow?” I asked the clerk. He was fine with it, bless his heart.

Turns out he was wrong about my not being able to use it, but that turned out to be a good thing. This way my dad could meet me at the store the next morning, where I learned that I’d picked out the wrong grids, the wrong lights, and no electrical wire for the lights. I saved three hundred dollars by not getting the expensive and easy grids, because Dad’s experience was that the expensive and easy grids are really expensive and difficult. So everybody wins. Especially me.

It’s just too bad I had to spend an hour in the pliers aisle trying to find the right tool to cut my new electrical wire.

* * *

Trash thanks those of you who came through with birthday greetings for her today. As for the rest of you, you still have a few hours. Yes, even you guys in New Zealand. I know you’re there.

posted by M. Giant 3:44 PM 0 comments


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