The Stories

Sweet and Lowe’s

Sweet and Lowes

 

I’m working on my blog, minding my own business, on a Sunday afternoon. The phone rings.

It’s Terry.

He’s calling from Odessa, where he and the brother and sister that are still on speaking terms are taking care of family business. There is no telling what this might be about, as those three think dangerously alike and any negative aftermath of their actions is tripled.

I answer.

He responds. “Hi Sweetie! I love you!” Immediately, with those 5 words, I’m on red alert. I know him. There is going to be an attempt to involve me in something unsavory.

I take a deep breath. “So, what are you guys up to?”

“Well, we’re here at Lowe’s and Nina and I were looking around at stuff and we were out in the lawn and garden section and Nina found these patio chairs that she really likes but there’s only one and we talked to the guy and he says they won’t be ordering any more ’cause it’s the end of the season for them.”

“Uh huh.”

“Well, so can you run down to our Lowe’s and see it they have any of these chairs? I think they’re just like the ones we have on our patio.”

We have a mix of about 40 different chair styles on our patio, because I’m always going to Lowe’s with the sole intention of replacing one dead plant and instead coming back with furniture and a crate of citronella candles. It’s imperative that we narrow down the destination of this life quest. “Okay. Which exact chairs are we talking about?”

“I think it’s the ones you just got.”

“I bought two different sets the last time. Are you talking about the fake wicker ones, or the fake wood ones, or-”

“These have arms.”

Really? Imagine that. I contemplate having a martini, even though the breakfast dishes are still warm. “Okay. Are the arms curved? Are they metal? Do they have-”

“Oh, wait! Here’s a SKU number.”

Thank gawd. “Okay, go.”

“Okay. Um… 1-4-6-9-1-4. Did you get that? 1-4-6-9-1-4. Wait. No. Yeah, that’s right, 1-4-6-9-1-4. 1-4-6-9-1-4. 1-4-6-”

“I think I’ve got it, poodle.” I take a deep breath and consider my options, because I’m really not in the mood to stop doing what I’m doing now and go do something else. I test-run Plan A, which is to instill a little bit of guilt, an action that helps keep a relationship strong and usually allows one of the partners to remain relatively sane: “I’m still in my jammie pants. I’ve got to shower and all that, so it might take a while.” (Translation: Why are you doing this to me?)

No response. They are on a mission, and we shouldn’t waste any time contemplating the possibility that I may not want to do what they need me to do. After all, exterior decorating is on the line and, as a gay man, I should accept the challenge with grace and manifest destiny, racing out the door as quickly as humanly possible.

So we default to Plan B: “But I’ll hurry, and I’ll call you when I get there.”

“Okay, great. We’ll still be here.” Of course they will. It’s Odessa. West Texas. Going to Lowe’s is one of the few available highlights. You put on lip gloss and you take a picnic basket. That’s just how it is.

So I hop in the shower, slap on something comfortable to wear and head out.

And of course it’s 107 degrees in the shade. I leave a trail of glistening tire rubber on the pavement as I head south. I pull into Lowe’s, and apparently The Pope has stopped by for a shovel and a sermon, because the place is packed.

I claw my way through the mass of unwashed hillbillies and their inbred offspring, all of them fondling a John Deere riding lawn mower like they’ve just seen Jesus in the oil spill under it. I finally make it to the lawn and garden area. I begin my quest.

And I find exactly two lawn chairs with that SKU number, both of them a little banged up and obviously the last dregs. The good ones are all gone. Joy.

I call Terry. “Well, I think I found them.”

“Okay, great, let me head back over to the chairs.” I patiently wait while he apparently bangs his cell phone on any item containing metal during his journey. Three years later, he’s arrived. “OH MY GOD!”

“What?” (Why did I ask that? Do I really want to know?)

“It’s GONE! The chair’s not here anymore!”

I offer comfort, because that’s what my therapist says I should do. “That’s okay. Let’s just make sure we’re talking about the same chair.”

He’s not listening. I can tell by his muffled voice that he’s telling someone who has just walked up “Somebody bought the chair!” I’m assuming it’s Nina. This sidebar conversation continues for a bit, shock and dismay is expressed, somewhere in the afterlife Sylvia Plath begins a new poem about how forcefully life sucks. Then another male voice joins the conversation, presumably his brother Tommy, and again with the “Somebody bought the chair!”

I try to break in. “Okay, this model I’m looking at here is just like one of the batches of chairs I bought for the patio, so I think it’s the right one. How many does she want?”

“She just wants two.”

“Well, there are two here, but they’re pretty beat up. I don’t think that-”

“Somebody bought the chair!” he tells yet another voice that joins the discussion. Okay, we’ve exceeded the number of known relatives in this search party. Is he now involving total strangers in what should be a personal and discreet trauma? Then again, it’s Odessa. There’s not a lot to do on a Sunday afternoon once you’ve praised the Lord and met your quota of racist remarks at the church barbeque. The citizens are yearning for something interesting to happen that will keep them occupied until Fox News airs something that isn’t a repeat.

The 17-way conversation continues, with me throwing in sympathetic tidbits while Terry and Nina determine exactly how they are going to be able to go on with their lives without the chairs that Nina didn’t even know existed two hours ago.

And then, wandering around in the heat and the noise, I turn a random corner, and I’m confronted with towering stacks of the same damn model of chair.

“Um, Terry…”

“Somebody bought the chair!”

Just breathe. “Terry, I’m standing in front of at least 50 of those chairs. So we want two?”

“YES! Two. I can bring them back out here the next time I drive out.”

“Got it. I’ll talk to you later.”

“Love you!”

“Love you, too.”

And of course, the last two lines of conversation make it all worth it. We do what we have to do to make sure our loved ones are happy and have access to stylish seating options. I pocket my phone and head to checkout, dragging two chairs that have no concept of what this relocation plan really means. But it’s all good. The heat, the noise, the inbreeding. John Deere dripping special Christian oil. No biggie, really.

But I will be having that martini.

Just as soon as they get the Pope-Mobile out of my way so I can leave the parking lot…

 

(Originally published in “The Sound and the Fury” on 07/02/09, revised and updated with extra flair for this post.)

 

40 replies »

    • SKU = stock keeping unit. These are little miracles, and they are so much easier than dealing with someone babbling “look for the brown chair with black legs”. Because there’s one model that looks like that in the world, right? 😉

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  1. Very funny Brian. And what is funnier is that I am from West Texas, born in Odessa and brought up very near there. I will just say I lived in the city just East of Odessa. Great post my friend, have a happy day! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Terry! Raised in a city just East of Odessa? Hmm. I can’t imagine what that city might be. Just kidding. I actually enjoy visiting both Odessa and Midland (we were just there this past weekend) because the folks are so colorful and interesting and I can always get some stories out of the experience. Side note: I was giggling last night over your “Pool Boogie” video. You have a zest for life that I greatly admire…

      Liked by 1 person

      • I hope to get back to Midland later this year, I still have family there – they expect me to visit every once in awhile! Thanks Brian, glad you enjoyed the video – have a Happy Friday! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh, wow…this is one of the best! Family members just know how to push those buttons, no matter what…

    Best lines:

    “…where he and the brother and sister that are still on speaking terms are taking care of family business. There is no telling what this might be about, as those three think dangerously alike and any negative aftermath of their actions is tripled.”

    “Immediately, with those 5 words, I’m on red alert. I know him. There is going to be an attempt to involve me in something unsavory.”

    …and, the clincher:

    “I pull into Lowe’s, and apparently The Pope has stopped by for a shovel and a sermon, because the place is packed.

    I claw my way through the mass of unwashed hillbillies and their inbred offspring, all of them fondling a John Deere riding lawn mower like they’ve just seen Jesus in the oil spill under it.”

    I think that I’ve seen the unknown relatives of the latter here in the Pacific Northwest – at Costco, Fred Meyer (Kroger), and ACE Hardware stores…
    XD

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yep, family members are able to whack at my personal buttons like woodpeckers on crack. Of course, if they had just left me alone, I probably wouldn’t be the writer I am today, so I have to grudgingly give them some credit. And the “clincher” bit is my favorite part of this piece, proving once again that we were soulmates in previous lives… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  3. “I claw my way through the mass of unwashed hillbillies and their inbred offspring, all of them fondling a John Deere riding lawn mower like they’ve just seen Jesus in the oil spill under it.”

    This was the cake.

    “The heat, the noise, the inbreeding. John Deere dripping special Christian oil.”

    This was icing.

    I am now shoving all of this in my mouth and laughing until I puke.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Just found this piece to read, Brian! I was laughing and nodding my head, as I can certainly relate. Being here in Lubbock, going to Lowe’s is a journey into weirdness, every time. I, too, have had people call me up to look in ‘our’ stores for something they can’t find in ‘their’ stores! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. snicker to full on belly laugh.. These things are like fine wine…improve with age! Thanks for the giggle. And I live in a small town in Utah where they don’t even sport a Lowe’s. It was considered too ‘citified’ I understand. The next little town south of here is much more progressive. I’ve heard rumors that they’re going to host a Lowe’s in THEIR town (hey, taxes, revenue, lots of folks from my small town driving the 5 minutes to get there..what’s not to like?) Me? I’m sorta glad my town ‘fathers’ are stuck in 1864 (or thereabouts) because I’ve been to the city, seen it and gotten the requisite T-shirt (Salt Lake IS a city. To folks in Utah anyway) and I left just because of scenes like yours. Although there is more to do in Salt Lake..

    Liked by 1 person

    • I relish the thought of getting out of the big city of Dallas. It’s just not enjoyable any more. Granted, there ARE tons of things to do, especially the cultural opportunities and the huge array of restaurants, but I’m just done with the people, the attitudes and the constant rushing to accomplish nothing. I crave peace and quiet. Now, I don’t want to get TOO far away from civilization, as there are certain worldly goods that I must obtain on a regular basis, which means my new oasis can’t be more than an hour or so away from a decent-sized metropolis, so there’s that. And really, we can’t go anywhere until my partner is ready to retire, so I’ll probably still be right here twenty years from now, bitching… 😉

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  6. It took me forever to find a place way down here to comment,
    But
    I love laughing out loud. In front of more than one person. Who’s talking about something very serious. It’s now obvious I wasn’t listening at all.😶
    Thank you

    Liked by 1 person

  7. It’s always hard to pick out the FUNNIEST thing you say in a post, but I think this time it’s “I test-run Plan A, which is to instill a little bit of guilt, an action that helps keep a relationship strong and usually allows one of the partners to remain relatively sane:” Keep ’em coming, Brian!

    Liked by 1 person

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