Thursday, July 24, 2008

Tools, Fools & Hunger

The ladies (Bobbi Ann, Lis, and Aunt Nancy from Maryland) caught the matinee showing of "Mama Mia" yesterday afternoon. Afterwards the plan was to stop and buy Lobsters and Steamers for a rendezvous with gastronomical excellence after the show. I was to finish work, try to leave a little early and hammer down to Loews to find a new faucet set-up for the kitchen sink. And then be back by 7:30 PM for the feed.

I remember now another reason I enjoy Aunt Nancy's visits. We always have the double Maine whammy. I like Lobster , but I love steamers. Set me up in front of both right out of the pot and I am in heaven. Toss some corn on my plate in any form and a few bodacious hand hewn slices of fresh bread and I almost cannot stand it. There are a few things I enjoy more but well, this is a PG blog. So we won't go there.

Jim of Jim-Jim gives me the go ahead to leave early and I head for Loews. That great handyman paradise where you can fill two shopping carts and still leave wondering if you forgot something. I had 3 things on my list. A new kitchen faucet ensemble, a new bench vise for the bike shop, and some 5mm black zip ties. My wife insisted that because the last kitchen faucet I installed only lasted 15 years, I was to in her words, "not be a cheapskate this time". Cool. The green light. I just love it when I get the green light. Her only requirement and it was not open to debate was the faucet head had to sit way higher than the last bargain basement one I bought. Everything else on the list was my call.

Finding the vises was daunting at first. Were they tools or hardware? Would they be up front or buried in the back on aisle 58 next to the flue brushes? All of the nice gnomes in the red vests each had a different answer. It wasn't until I stopped listening to them that I was able to use some hard earned handyman logic. Logic born of years wasted looking through shelves and cubbies filled with hardware stuff. I figured out where they were. Vises clamped things right? Well find the clamps and I bet the vises were keeping them company or were acting as lookouts nearby. And I was right. With the clamps up front near the hammers, saws and concrete chisels. Damn they have a lot of stuff in that plane hangar they call a store.

Over 15 years ago I picked up one of those cheap Cast in China vises over to Marden's for $25 bucks. A huge beefy 6" vise that served me well until I finally broke the screw a few months ago. It had been pounded on, over tightened thousands of times and had many a bike part ruined and sometimes fixed in it. It was a tool I could count on. When it broke, I almost went into panic mode.

I picked up a 6 inch vise at a local hardware store and right out of the gate, Jim and I knew this vise was not going to be up to our use and abuse. But I had to have something so I set it up. Tonight I hope I remedied the problem. I bought a Wilton. Not a real Wilton, jeez they cost $500. But a Wilton wannabe, sanctioned copy made for them probably by the same Chinese vise factory that made my previous beater vise. I paid $60. I'm just not ready to spend $500 on a bench vise.

First item successfully in my cart, I head over to the plumbing area. As often as I go to Loews or Home Depot, you would think I would be numb to the outrageous numbers of one thing they stock. But when I rounded the aisle that had faucet setups, 75 feet of faucets hung on the display wall. There must have been over a hundred to choose from. Not a hundred of all kinds, but a hundred of 8"center 4 piece kitchen faucet systems. My eyes glazed over. Wow! How the Hell am I going to pick a faucet system and be out of here, uh( looking at my watch) in 10 minutes. There was lobster waiting to be killed. Clams to be steamed. My stomach was growling and I had to choose a faucet out of the hundred or so sets up on the wall.

Thankfully, Loews had them arranged by price so I was quickly able to blow off more than half of them. Bobbi said to not be a cheapskate. But she didn't say to spend dollars like we just printed them. I quickly settled my focus on the $80 to $150 range. That reduced the target group to around 30 or so. I knew we wanted a dual handle faucet. That eliminated the high side of my range. I guess single handle systems cost more. Seems odd. Pay more for one less handle and twice the headache if it screws up. Guess it made sense to someone.

Just about the time I was going to run out of there screaming I spotted one on sale. You can tell because they paste these spiffy bright yellow tags over the old tags. The Delta Victorian two handle faucet with a complementary spray head on the side - Was $224 - Now $78. And in biggish Red Letters - CLEARANCE!!! I am usually suspicious of price cuts as deep as that. But I have come to know that when Loews wants to dump something, they get damn serious about it. They just want it out of there. So I picked it up and hurried to find some 5mm black zip ties. After buying a couple tools that might come in handy for the upcoming plumbing project, I beat feet to the cashier.

The damn cashier. That non-human electronic cashier from Hell. As soon as I swiped the Debit card, a pleasant voice startled me when it said, "Please wait for assistance." Uh oh. What did this mean? Wait for assistance? And just what the Hell did they expect me to do? The machine wouldn't cash me out. Did they think I was going to run for it? Eventually another one of the red vested Loew gnomes came scurrying up and told me she would cash me out in person.

Hmm. Did they remember my last run in with the electronic cashier from Hell? Had my name been added to a list of troublemakers they keep in the back? Was I now marked with some kind of Scarlet "L" for "loser who can't follow prompts on a screen"? And in the meantime, my stomach is dancing around in anticipation of the feast to come. Sloshing and jostling around like it hadn't seen solid food in a week.

Mechanically and swiftly the nice gnome lady cashes me out. After scanning each item, she then swiped each over some plastic coated plate to deactivate the security code implanted secretly somewhere in the guts of the gadgets I was buying. Everything that is except that beast of a bench vise. When I get almost to the door and think I have made it safely out of there, buzzers start screaming, lights begin flashing and another red vested gnome jumps in front of my cart. I stopped and no foolin, threw up my arms in surrender. There was so much racket it scared the Hell out of me.

She's pleasant about it, but I can feel her suspicious eyes boring into me as I slink back to a different register with my cart. Expecting to be told to empty my pockets, drop my drawers and bend over, all she wants is to re-rub the stuff over the security code de-activator. None of them beep. She then looks at the vise set hard in the bottom of the cart. I look at the vise. We look at each other. "Uh, did she deactivate the vise?" she asks.

Thinking it odd that they would be concerned a 40 pound vise would somehow walk out of there without some security code implanted in it, I said "Uh no, no she didn't."

The nice gnome lady in the red vest looked displeased and then glared at me like it was my fault. I showed mercy on her when she struggled to lift the vise out of the cart. I picked it up for her and she grabbed my arms and guided them to the plate. Here we are, me with the vise and her with her arms wrapped around my arms when some obviously more important gnome makes an appearance. He wasn't wearing a red vest, he was wearing a red shirt. With a collar and nice pockets. "Is there a problem here?" I turn just as the machine beeps it's all clear signal and the nice gnome lady in the red vest with her arms still around me guides me and the vice back to the cart. "No sir, just need to check his receipt and I think he'll be good to go."

Out into the rain coming down in buckets and wheeling my cart, I do not care if I get wet. I am finally free and all I can think about is food. Getting soaked has no affect on me.

I get home about 7:30 PM. I walk into the kitchen and the first thing I see are 3 glasses set around the table with what I identify immediately as some kind of "chick cocktail" in them. Yellow and thick, I know Lis has been showing off some of the bar tending skills she honed at grad school. All 3 of the women are butts in the air and hunkered over the bottom cabinet where we keep the liquor. They are engrossed in some kind of search and hardly notice I am home.

"What's up ladies?"

My darling wife looks up with glazed eyes and says, "We're looking for the rum. Where's the rum?"

My wife still drinks, but not much. I will say I was surprised that she was feeling no pain this early. But hey, her sister was up and well, parties happen. They gave up looking for the rum and decided to clean out the cabinet and reorganize it. Bottles that had not seen the light of day in 20 years came out. Corks were popped and contents sniffed. Liquids were poured out. When they were done with the bottles, the dust rag was found and used. Damn, these women know how to party.

Rather than hang around being ansty because I was so hungry, I fled to the office. About 1/2 hour later dinner in all it's glory was served and my day was complete.


BBC said...

I love lobster, haven't had any for about 20 years though, to cheap to buy it. Once in a while George gets me a two pound jar of oysters at Costco, it's only about ten bucks, a good deal.

A few months ago I went to a building site a block from me and picked up over two gallons of new nails, tie downs, used carpenter pencils and such. Plus a pickup load of closed cell foam insulation. They sure wasteful these days.

I'm always coming across free building materials, have lots of stuff here for projects if I ever get around to them.

I don't buy many tools anymore as I've been collecting them for 40 years, my metal lathe sure comes in handy at times.

But a few months ago I did buy a band saw to cut up pallets with, Helen likes them for firewood and they are free just a half block from me.

I give her the good stuff and I use the crap with nails in it for camping and in my shop stove.

We live dirt cheap and sort off of the fat of the land here. Still money left over every month even though all we have is small SS retirement incomes.

Gary ("Old Dude") said...

I totally relate to your experience and feelings about Lowes---one doesn't just "shop" there A trip to Lowes calls for all the advanced planning to be done just like preparing for a vacation trip. One Knows, one will have to spend hours to do things right---how else is one to learn of new tools, new gadgets, new materials----a trip to Lowes is like making a pilgrimage to Lourdes.----it awesome

Apertome said...

I avoid Lowe's, Home Depot, etc, for the most part. It's too easy to buy things I don't really need. And as an apartment dweller, I don't need much in the way of tools.

Apertome said...

I mean to add a couple of other things.

1. I love lobster, but almost never eat it. Living in the midwest, any lobster we get here is less than fresh and very expensive. Although I guess even here there are places you can get live ones. Still, too expensive. And I once saw a truck labeled "Midwest Seafood," which really made me wary of any seafood I see around here.

2. I love the way you wrote about what you'd think would be a mundane topic ... going to the hardware store while hungry ... but managed to make it interesting.

Missy Glave said...

I love lobster too ... but I've not eaten it since I was pregnant. Oh wait ... that was crab legs. The September I was pregnant with Griffin my husband took me to Red Lobster for "all you care to eat crablegs" for my birthday ... well, let's just say never let a pregnant girl eat all she cares to eat crab legs. Later in the evening it will most probably not be a very pleasant experience.

I've never had steamers before. Are those clams?

You know what irks me about Lowe's? On the TV commercials their staff is so friendly and accomodating. When you actually go into a store ... there are NO staff even remotely as kind ... hell, you can rarely even find someone to help you.

Thanks for letting me rant about Lowe's ... we are in the middle of a porch and garage/master suite addition ... and I've just about had it with them!!

Dawn Fortune said...

Ah, Lowes. The blue box mecca.

I refuse to use those electronic scan things. I was raised in a time when people who talked to machines (or who heard machines talk back) were looked upon strangely. I want a person to throttle if something goes wrong.

Lobsters and steamers - I have 'em once a year when my aunt and my second-grade teacher bring me and L out to celebrate my birthday. It got postponed this year, so we'll probably head down in August sometime for the celebration. L is horribly allergic to crustacean, so she gets the fried scallops, but I still get the biggest lobster we can find. Last year half of him came home to make stew. What a marvelous tradition.

Carlita said...

Sounds like my kind of party.

I, too, always feel vaguely guilty for no reason when one of the automatic checkouts starts acting up.

El Cerdo Ignatius said...

1. There are no Home Depot or Lowe's stores nearby our home, but there certainly are in two places we visit (Quebec and Florida). I hate the places. Too big to make much sense; too few staff to help you find things; too few again that actually know where anything is; and the worst of all, the SELF-SERVE checkouts. This is the King of Crappy Ideas. Give me a live person punching in some codes, any day, no matter how slow or surly.

2. Mmmmm...lobster! Dang, I missed my annual feed of lobster this year. That's just plain wrong. Glad you enjoyed your meal, sir; I certainly enjoyed your post.