Monday, July 28, 2008

The Incredible Shrinking Man

The other morning as my wife and I were enjoying a quiet breakfast, a thunderous crash shook the back end of our Victorian farmhouse; we felt it even in the kitchen. I jumped up from the table with a mouthful of grits and ran down the hallway to investigate.

The library door, when I tried to open it, met resistance, so I drove my shoulder into it and pushed through, into the room. What I saw was not a pretty sight—

Books were scattered everywhere across the floor, piled up in a great big heap.

Apparently, an upper shelf support in one of the pine bookcases had pulled loose and brought down with it all the books and shelves below.

After scratching my head for a moment or two and swallowing the rest of the grits, I realized what was needed: heavy-duty shelf brackets. And since my wife would be driving into town that afternoon to run errands, I figured I’d let her stop by Lowe’s Home Improvement Warehouse, to save myself a trip.

I gave her the instructions, and made sure she understood exactly what kind of brackets to get. The right brackets were essential if the overloaded shelves were to stay put.

“Got it,” she said, walking down the porch steps. “You want the brackets that come in strips about five feet long, that recess into the wood, and that come with adjustable clips.”

“That’s right. Only get that kind.”

“No problem,” she said, and off to town she went.

A few hours later she called on the cell phone.

“They don’t have those shelf brackets here, Honey,” she said. “I’ve looked and a salesperson has looked. Where else would you like me to go?”

“Listen,” I said, “they’re there. I’ve seen them. Let me talk to the salesperson.”

A young fellow came on the phone then and I gave him a description of the brackets.

“Sorry, sir,” he said, “we don’t carry that kind of shelf bracket.”

“Yes you do. I saw them there a few weeks ago. You carry them in two colors, gold and zinc.”

“Sir, we don’t have that kind and, to my knowledge, never have.”

Sometimes when you know something is true, it’s frustrating to listen to someone else tell you that it isn’t.

“I’d like to speak to another salesperson,” I said.

He hesitated. Then his voice delivered a flat, “Wait a minute.”

I waited.

Eventually another salesperson came on, and, again, I went through the whole exchange, him saying, No sir, we don’t stock that kind, and me saying, Listen to me: yes, you, do! and us going back and forth like that for a while.

Finally, he said: “Sir, you might ought to try Lowe’s.”

It hit me broadside, like a shovel.

“…This isn’t Lowe’s?”

“No sir,” he said. “This is Wal-Mart.”

And with that, all I could think to say was, “Um, could you please put my wife on the phone again, please?”