By Robert Gillis
Published in the Foxboro Reporter May, 1996
After digging out from a record 47 feet of snow, the people of Foxboro have emerged from winter hibernation. Spring has returned in all its beautiful glory, although forecasters still worry about the impending snowstorm scheduled for much of June and July.
Last Saturday was the first nice day of the year, with temperatures reaching past 70. It seemed like everyone in town was out in the front yard in shorts, mowing the lawn, cleaning the barbecue, routing, weeding, and planting. Everywhere you looked, people were doing yard work, and they all looked happy about it.
Of course, work on the inside of the house also takes on a renewed fever this time of year, as people rushed to purchase all kinds of building supplies and tools to make all those home repairs and improvements. Spring cleaning, it would seem now includes new roofs, additions, extensive landscaping, and major plumbing.
Reveling in the glory of driving with the car windows open again, I made my way to that Mecca of home owners, Home Depot. As a new home owner (which is both a blessing and a curse, much like being a Red Sox fan this time of year) I found myself at Home Depot, Grossman’s, or HQ at all hours of the day and night. These gigantic warehouses, filled with every conceivable building material (except for the specific item you want, which should be shipped by Tuesday) are truly a “Cheers” for the 1990s: a place where everyone knows your name and always glad you came… And that you brought your visa.
As I enter into my second year of home ownership, I have found certain truths about these home warehouses to be self-evident:
- The employees know everything. From painting to roofing to electronics to thermonuclear heating options, they all have it down pat. You can say, “I need one of those purple doohickeys that you put on a type five fuse box,” and they will say, “Oh, you mean a thermal cross connecting phase-o-matic conducting wire. Aisle 50” or, “I know what you mean that’s the water repellent flux tube liner for the alpha – one electronic anti-humidostat. One aisle over from the helicopter landing pad.” After a while, you’re swamped with so much technobabble that you think you’re watching Star Trek: Voyager.
- You will always have to make a return trip. Even though you stuffed so much Styrofoam insulation in your car that it now doubles as a flotation device, even though you spent over $500 for lumber, your contractor will always come back and say, “We need just one more.” This occurs late in the day. Fortunately these warehouses do not sell weapons.
- No matter what, one thing you buy will need to be returned. The items will be 1 mm too short the wrong shade of azure, or deadly to carbon-based life, but you will need to return it. And may God have mercy on your soul if you don’t have a receipt. I recently tried to return a two dollar piece of wood without a receipt and was told my name would be placed in the no receipt box which is like Santa’s “bad” list except that I cannot return anything else without a receipt for one year. Wisely, I decided exile to the no receipt zone would be better used for something costing more than two dollars.
- You find yourself making really stupid statements like, “that’s a good price for a 200 pound container of Elmer’s glue all!” Or “yeah, let’s rip out all the bathtubs and put in those pretty blue ones instead” or “well, I only needed some thumbtacks, but let me see that redesign on my kitchen.”
- You cannot buy one item. It is impossible. You can go in to buy a light bulb, and you will leave with new carpeting, 5 pounds of penny nails, a plant, window glazing, a new storm door, and four cans of paint. It will only be as you arrive back home that you realize you forgot the like.
- You start to feel unfulfilled if you don’t go to the warehouse at least once a week. (I knew I was in trouble when I hadn’t made a purchase at Home Depot in over two days and American Express called me to make sure everything was all right.
The solution? There isn’t one. Like children in a candy store, new home owners enter these warehouses and are immediately be dialed by all of the wonderful items for sale. They wanted all, and they want it now. Can’t afford the hot tub? No problem – put it on the charge! Never thought about eight gazebo on the front lawn? Aisle 162 has 12 different models. Don’t forget the garden supplies. Better order a new shed to store the new lawnmower and rakes, too.
We can’t help ourselves. Our whole suddenly seems drab and outdated. Sure, the old faucets work, but wouldn’t a new streamlined model look great? You can live with the existing carpeting, but there’s a sale this week…
Well, I have to go now. I need a roll of electrical tape and a putty knife. I’m thinking of renting a moving van on the way over to the warehouse to haul everything back home.