|You know what they say: Heir today, gone tomorrow.|
We didn’t really drive through a blizzard to go fetch plumbing stuff. It was a garden-variety snowstorm for February. There was six or eight inches of snow, followed by rain, with a subzero chaser. The snowy porridge it produced on the road was worse than ice. It was like icy grease. I drive an old van. It doesn’t weigh enough in the back when it’s not full of stuff, and it likes to skate. My son and I skated all the way to to the store.
I never understood why Einstein insisted on all that Red Shift nonsense back in 1923 to prove his Special Theory of Relativity. He could have proved that certain circumstances could make lengths appear to contract and time seem to slow down by standing on the side of the road while watching me drive sideways two miles for every one mile I went forward. I can assure you that when you’re looking out the windshield at the sidewalk, then look out the side window to see the road ahead, time isn’t an important constant. Whee!
By the time we made it to the Home Despot, we were in another weather zone where it had been raining all day and the ground was bare. My Number One son and I went into the store looking like a couple of overdressed ragamuffins. I called him my Number One son because no one was allowed to deposit any Number Two in the toilet for two days now. While we were wandering in the plumbing aisle, he got a notion. “I’ll be right back, Dad.” No further explanation needed. I picked out all the plumbing stuff I needed well before he returned, even though I needed a lot of oddball things and it took some hunting around to find it all.
When he returned, he had a combination beatific/confused look on his face. I knew he had downloaded all his data on Home Despot’s porcelain hard drive, hence the beatific look. He explained the confused look. “Dad, I was in the men’s room, and another man entered at the same time as me, and he went into the other stall holding a Snickers bar. When I was washing my hands, he came out of the stall without the Snickers bar. Dad, I don’t want to live on this planet anymore.”
Son, we’re dirty, but that’s only because we’ve been working hard in a tough spot. Our clothes have no style, and are threadbare, but that’s only because we’re poor, not because we spent all our money on getting high, takeout pizza, and cable TV. We live in a hovel because it’s all we can afford, but it’s still a home, and a home is an important engine of salubrity for a family. It’s not because we don’t know Martha Stewart from Paula Deen. You’re dressed like a clown in the septic circus, and I look like the ringmaster. But I can assure you that it’s perfectly OK for you to say to yourself, in a very snobby interior voice, “Well, we’re one step from being street urchins, but at least we don’t eat Snickers bars in public toilets.”
Back in the plumbing aisle, the clerks kept coming over to help. I hate help. I’m too polite from years of nuns whacking at me with rulers to say no thanks. I blurt out what I’m looking for, and wince, because I know what’s coming.The clerks tell me, “That won’t work. That won’t fit, you want this other toy thing that costs a lot and breaks when it’s dragged over the scanner during checkout. It’s very eco.”
No, I don’t. Just once I’d like to tell them what I’m thinking, but honestly, that’s a poor reflection on me, not them. They’re just trying to help. I’m afraid that someday I’m going to snap and say, “Why don’t you go eat a Snickers in the public bathroom.” I’m only human.
After stocking up on the oddest assortment of plumbing supplies you could conjure up, we went to the rental yard, where I promptly insulted the desk clerk. I didn’t mean to. He had done nothing to deserve being told to eat a Snickers bar in a grotty place. I said something self-deprecating, but managed to get deprecate all over the poor fellow by accident.
I was at the counter filling out the forms to get my Electric Eel and pipe breaker. During a lull in the action, I looked around the showroom and noticed that I knew, intimately, what every single piece of equipment was for, even though it was all unlabeled. This was a rental house for commercial construction jobs. It had big hammers and pavement slitters and various other tools of destruction that have chapped my hands and my ass at one time or another. I noticed my son looking around the place, and caught him wondering what the hell all this weird stuff was for. So in my ignorance, I said to him, “Son, if you know what everything in this room is for, you’ve had a very bad life.”
The clerk was not amused.
[to be continued]