It’s not every day that a person starts out shopping for hardware and ends up with an offer to commit bigamy.
The great cynic Oscar Wilde said “Bigamy is having one wife too many. Monogamy is the same.” In almost any other circumstance my initial response to that would be “Poor Mrs. Wilde.” Fortunately for all concerned there was no Mrs. Wilde. But last week my concern was not about the existence of Mrs. Wilde, Mr. Wilde, or the tenuous state of any union. My concern was that I was in an enormous store, which seemed to cover several acres, and I could not find Steve, who covers 1 square foot. If ever there was an instance where an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, it is when two people breach the threshold of a giant store without an ironclad agreement not to wander off from each other. There should be a sign over the door saying “Abandon hope (of staying together) all ye who enter here( without cell phones).”
I try, I really try, to remain within sight of Steve in the aisles. But the second my back is turned to check the price of thumb tacks, he darts off. “Dart” may be little too strong a word. No one darts through one of these mammoth stores. If the endlessly long aisles aren’t blocked with merchandise, ladders, daily specials, special buys, and special specials, they are teeming with other people trying to find their own spouses.
That is how I found myself, still without thumb tacks, walking slowly past each aisle. I would stop and take inventory of everyone I could see, trying to match what I saw with what I was looking for. What I was looking for was a 68-year-old guy with gray hair. If there is a kind way to say what is coming next, I hope this is it. If you find yourself in a huge hardware store looking for someone, plan to have better search criteria than a 68-year-old man with gray hair. At any given time, 90 percent of all people in a hardware store are gray-haired 60-somethings. This includes the staff. We were in Florida, which compounds the possibilities by a factor of about one thousand.
In a lucky break, we were in a store where the personnel are very helpful. One nice man (gray-haired, late sixties) approached me and asked if he could help me find something. I told him I had temporarily misplaced my husband and could he help me find that. He said no, but maybe he could find me replacement. This, you have to admit, approaches a new high in customer service. For one fleeting moment, I thought this could lead to my own reality show “Brother Husbands” or something and then thought “Who would watch that?” I thanked him for his offer but explained I pretty much had my hands full with just the one.
In an even luckier break, I had my cell phone, Steve had his cell phone, they were both switched on (this trifecta is rarer than you might think), they were both charged, and — we should have bought a lottery ticket — they both were working inside the store. So I called him. After 35 years of marriage, we don’t have the long, detailed cliff-hanging conversations we had when we first met … you know when we were the two most interesting persons in the world. At this stage of our lives, we communicate mostly by grunts and clicks, sort of like porpoises. Our longest verbal interactions now take place by phone when we are somewhere looking for each other. (Grocery) “Where are you?” “By the vegetables.” (Airport) “Where are you?” “By the hangar.” And the ever-popular (hardware store) “Where are you?” “Uhhhhh.”
That’s what I was getting now. ”Uhhhhh. “ In this store, it is very difficult to describe where you are because many things there do not have names with which most of us are familiar. Oh sure, the hammers and nails and screws and electrical boxes are easy. But what if you find yourself in front of one of the dozens of items whose label, not to mention function, is a complete mystery? Following “Uhhhhh” he said, “Stay where you are. I am coming towards you.”
My skill set is fairly limited, but I am able to see. I just couldn’t see him. And if I couldn’t see him, he couldn’t see me so how did he know he was coming towards me? Maybe all the conspiracy crazies are right and we do have chips embedded in us for tracking purposes. Maybe Steve caught sight of me at precisely the right moment. Maybe he was trying to sound informed while he was really just as lost as I was. Maybe somebody would watch “Brother Husbands.”
Marla Boone resides in Covington and writes for the Troy Daily News and Piqua Daily Call.