Who Shops Here, Anyway?

Can I help you find something?

Now that he has spoken, I look again at the presumed geezer on greeting/directional duty at the Home Depot entrance. He is, perhaps, less old than I. Sigh.

But I recover quickly (Experience tells: almost every worker I meet these days is less old than I) and enquire, brightly,

Garden centre?

Experience tells here, too: I don’t brush off his offer. I have spent probably a week of my life-to-date wandering the aisles of big-box home-improvement stores, not finding stuff, and have no desire to spend any more time so engaged. I have learned to ask the first employee I see, and isn’t it nice that on this visit I can see an employee as soon as I enter?

Anyway: I tell him what I’m looking for, by department, but I don’t stop there. I don’t want the plant-or-encourage plants part of the garden centre: I want the remove-or-discourage-plants part. I want, in fact, a pruner, which word does not leap to my lips quite as fast as it did when I was less old than I. So I hold up the index and middle finger of my right hand and move them in the standard gesture for scissors from the “rock, paper, scissors” game, hoping it will convey “pruner” rather than “perennial” or “peat moss.”

And whaddya know, it does: Clearly, my career in communications has been time well spent. My greeter says, “Garden pruner?” but it isn’t really a question. Indeed, he has already half-turned for the next part, doing his own hand gestures.

Aisle 1, all the way down, on the left

Off I go. Three minutes later, I am heading back out of Aisle 1 with not one but two cutting tools. One is the garden-variety (ha!) pruner which was my minimum objective; the other is the added-functionality tool which was on my wish list, albeit without a name: a tool that translates a natural one-handed vertical squeezing motion into a side-to-side cutting motion, the better to chop off weeds at ground level, my dear. (Grass shears. Oh.)

As I pass the younger-than-I geezer at the entrance, I awkwardly hold my intended purchases aloft in the standard one-handed gesture of triumph: awkwardly because they’re packaged in hard-to-stack, hard-plastic-and-cardboard bubbles, the better to deter theft on aisles that never see a store employee, my dear. Why one-handed then? I need my other hand for the explanatory gestures.

And I found this!
I do this . . .
and it does this.

He seems to track my squeezing and cutting gestures. Either that, or he has learned not to engage with old ladies who are waving their hands. Smile and nod . . .

As I leave the DIY checkout with my hands full of unbagged garden tools, it occurs to me that I had to know about grass shears (even if not by that name) to be able to look for them. There’s a broad life lesson there, I expect.

In an older-if-not-necessarily-simpler age, I might have engaged in a conversation with a store’s owner or long-time employee about my remove-or-discourage plants objective, and the tools they had to offer.

You need a garden pruner for sure,
but you might also be interested in these grass shears.

Today, no big-box store offers that because no one has staff for that because we won’t pay for that or that’s their calculation, at any rate. Of course, I can always ask Google about plant removal-or-discouragement tools before I go to the store, but sometimes I just want someone-who-knows-this-stuff-and-who-also-cares-about-the-next-sale to cut through all the options and to tell me what I need.

I have stores like that in Ottawa for the critical stuff I buy: camera stuff, bird-feeder stuff, knitting stuff (yes, OK, I have stores like that in several cities for knitting stuff). It’s hard to see what the big-box stores think they’re offering now that competes with Amazon’s “other customers also bought this” functionality, combined with next-day delivery. Surely the only people who haven’t completely migrated to the new shopping model are at least as old as I.

This entry was posted in Day-to-Day Encounters, Laughing Frequently, Thinking Broadly and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Who Shops Here, Anyway?

  1. Jim Taylor says:

    Your sentence about the “word does not leap to my lips quite as fast as it did when I was less old than I” delighted me. First, because it catches nicely the experience of aging. Increasingly, I too find myself groping for that “word which does not leap to my lips.” Second, because it’s a wonderful demonstration of the flexibility of our language. Any attempt to parse the sentence by logic would bog down on the fact that it is not logical; how can “I be less old than I”? And yet the meaning is crystal clear.

    Jim T

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Jim T – 🙂 It *is* fun to play with language as long as we don’t get too obscure . . .

  2. I admire your skill in lamenting the losses of the past with a sense of humour. While navigating and finding short-cuts through the massive arenas of commerce, you evoke the small, dusty hardware stores crammed with open bins stocked with quantities of wares managed by experienced heads crammed with quantities of useful experience. There is nothing like the human brain for interacting with other human brains over a useful project.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Laurna – Yes, that about sums it up: “There is nothing like the human brain for interacting with other human brains over a useful project.” We often don’t know what we don’t know, and another human is particularly valuable at that point!

  3. Judith Umbach says:

    Well, our local Home Depot is crowded every weekend, and after all I am there, too, as well as on some weekdays. Sometimes I go just to find an old/young geezer to advise me, which Amazon doesn’t offer.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Judith – For routine shoppers who know what they want and have learned where it is, these stores work fine. For the rest of us, it’s a matter of finding help. Some days that works; some days not.

  4. barbara carlson says:

    On a very recent trip to Home Despot.. I noticed a new sign on the IN door — I think it offered a new APP. Key-in what you want, and the Home Depot app will tell you which aisle.
    BIG stores are fighting back, but nothing beats a human at the door to greet you, answer your questions, or even guide you right to the item(s).

    One time we were greeting by a middle-aged, perky woman with such enthusiasm, it hurt! She offered to take us right to the toilet seats AND the glue aisle. I asked if she was high on something, or had just fallen in love. She laughed, said, “I AM HIGH — ON LIFE!”

    I said I’d just read the chance of actually being born is 400,000,000,000 to 1. She liked that, but didn’t require knowing the odds to feel happy every day.

    Her bright cheerful smiley self was remarkable these days, as so many people walk around, downcast, like they’ve just lost their best friend. When was the last time you heard people laughing in public?

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Barbara – An APP – I’ll check it out. Something’s gotta give with their wayfinding. As for laughing in public, many of the staff at our Metro are exceedingly cheery, and one of the cashiers who works there and at the adjacent drugstore (don’t get me started on companies hiring only part-timers to avoid paying benefits) is a loud greeter, and knows everyone by name. Marvelous!

Comments are closed.