I would like to say I don’t know why I did that – but I do.
Our local store had exactly what I needed and its quality could not be beat. Sure, it cost more – but you get what you pay for.
My problem is with Lyle, the guy who runs it. Make no mistake, Lyle is unflappably honest and a walking encyclopedia of home improvement knowledge – but he refuses to suffer idiots.
Being an idiot, I have a problem with that.
Lyle’s store is not a place for people who do not know what they are doing because there is no store. It is a collection of mammoth pole sheds, all of which are strictly off-limits to the general public. All the customer gets to see is a small lobby with a a counter at one end. The counter is topped by a picket fence of catalogs and every ten feet or so, a hole has been chopped through the catalogs. This is where long lines of mostly professional builders, pay homage to clerks.
Shopping at Lyle’s goes something like this.
No matter which line you choose, you inevitably wind up talking to Lyle. He is always on the telephone with someone more important than you.
After sizing you up, he places a large paw over the receiver. “What do you want?” he asks.
“Sheetrock,” you tell him.
Not hiding his exasperation, he asks the obvious, “What kind?”
“White,” you tell him.
He gives you a look that says all his doubts about you have been confirmed.
“John,” he calls out in a tone devoid of mercy, “would you help this guy out?” He then signals for you to move to the last and smallest hole in the catalogs.
John who has occupied the lowest position on Lyle’s totem pole since anyone can remember is both courteous and helpful.
“What are you sheet-rocking?” he asks, with genuine interest.
“My garage,” you say.
“Are you doing it yourself or do you have help?” he asks.
Knowing never to question a question at Lyle’s, you tell him, “Just me.”
“Okay,” he says, “you should be able to lift 3/8” feather weight sheet-rock by yourself. How big is your garage?”
After working out the details, he tells you which door to pull around to. There a couple of beefy college kids sullenly load your trailer. You now have what you need but it cost you more in pride than money.
It would be simple, efficient and painless – if only Lyle would let you get away with being a moron. But he doesn’t and it has cost him. The big-box stores have cut into his business forcing him to lay off anyone on his staff who is capable of empathy.
So now I drive to the Home Depot twenty miles away.
There, all the stuff is right out where you can touch it, not behind a barrier. It’s all well organized, brightly colored and blister packed. It virtually begs to be pulled off the wall.
The problem is, big-box stuff is made to be sold, not used.
Home Depot lumber is almost always warped and you have to dig under 200 pounds of sheet-rock to find a good piece. On the rare occasion you find something you like, it never lasts as long as you like.
This afternoon, at Home Depot, I gave up looking for an odd bracket to mount an antique shelf my wife bought at an auction. The bracket had to fit into a diagonal groove. I’d never seen anything like it and Home Depot didn’t have anything close.
On my way out, I ran into John. He was working as a clerk.
We chatted and he said with sadness that Lyle could no longer keep him on. Now he had to drive twice as far to work for half the wage.
“What are you looking for?” he asked.
I told him.
He removed a notepad and a stubby pencil from his shirt pocket and wrote down a string of numbers and letters so cryptic, it could serve as an excellent password.
“Show this to Lyle,” he said, “it’s exactly what you want.”