Despite the bargains, despite the incredible you-need-it-we-got-it laden shelves, despite the little promotions with the motto “My Toy Store,” I have yet to meet anyone who really likes contending with the Home Depot hardwarehouse. Yes, you can go there with a list that includes everything from bungee cords to bundled lumber to bathtubs to terra-cotta rabbits, but before you leave with your list ticked off and change in your wallet you have to go through an experience that is somewhere in between swarming a cactus and screwing a moose. It never gets any better.
For a while it was the life-in-your-hands sensation connected with having a semi-oblivious Depotante cruising up the aisle behind you on a beeping forklift. Someone got the idea this was putting people off and it stopped happening. Then you couldn’t find help when you needed to ask a question, to the point the term “pumpkin patch” entered the corporate vernacular, denoting a huddle of orange-aproned Home Depot sales assistants hiding from customers in a remote corner of the store. Now we seem to have embarked on a New Era Of Customer Relations, and you can’t walk in the place without being accosted and mugged with solicitude. Have you found everything you wanted? Do you know about the benefits of our credit card? They wear repellent little green-lettered badges asking “Are we a 10 in customer assistance today?” Gaah.
I was trying to buy two gallons of paint, some light bulbs, and a few other odds and ends and found myself desperately fending off a middle-aged gentleman with an earnest, exophthalmic and disturbingly blinkless gaze, who started out thinking I was a contractor (I think it was my oh-so-butch Duluth Workwear cell phone holster) and wanted to sign me up for a commercial account. I explained I was not but he really wanted to be my friend and continued enumerating the Benefits Of A Commercial Account until I shoved up my sleeve and pantomimed shock, saying I needed to meet my house painter in half an hour. Nothing of the sort was the case but I had to get away before he made me an offer of marriage. This was easier said than done because the place is a horrendous maze of towering shelves and no sight-lines, and every time you think you are at the aisle you want you find yourself back at the same disturbing eye-level display of low-flush toilets.
I was all the way home before I remembered I wanted some glue. I think I’ll go to the five and dime. One of the surviving twelve or twenty in the entire nation (I sometimes think) is a few miles away and sometimes I just go there to look at a store that is small enough for me to wrap my head around.
It could have been worse. The last time something like this happened was when I bought a new front door in 2003 and the Home Depot door guy took my business card after describing the pains in his neck. A couple of weeks later he sent me an e-mail, not inquiring about appointment times but telling me his dog’s newest favorite joke (he was very specific that it came from the dog) and asking if there would be a good time to come around and see my new door. I didn’t answer. I don’t like dogs.