Sweet and Lowe’s

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…

Previously published. No changes made. Trivia: This is one of the initial (#15!) posts I made during my sporadic and unfocused first year of blogging which was (gulp) 11 years ago. It was one of my first bits of writing to gain a tiny bit of traction, and in that sense it feels like home. Cheers.

37 replies »

    • I’m not sure if they have Home Depots or not (I avoid them, based on their union-busting history, among other things). But I’ve long since learned that when Terry is following a certain path, we’d best just stick to that path. It’s easier…

      Liked by 2 people

  1. You deserve that martini. And next time, tell them to ask the salesperson to use the store computer to check inventory on all neighbouring stores. That’s saved us a few times, especially once when we were trying to buy a couple of kayaks that were on for a fantastic sale price!

    Liked by 2 people

    • See, once Partner has established the protocols of a mission (carefully plotted or not) it’s just easier to go along for the ride and hope for the best. There are fewer harsh words spoken in the end…

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Yes, I remember this one, and still funny. We’ve had similar situations, where a friend or relative wants us to check our town’s store to find something they want and can’t find at their town’s store. Of course we go check. 😉

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yep, you might as well go check, if you have the time. Besides, I don’t trust the “online” inventory. I want to visually inspect whatever it is and make sure it’s the exact right thing and it isn’t damaged…

      Liked by 3 people

  3. 11 years? Your “voice” is still the same. That’s awesome… means it’s true!

    I’m curious why they didn’t ask one of the inbred salespersons to check the computer for stock availability in other locations before sending you on a possible wild chair hunt.

    Ah… (getting back to AM Gold)… 🎶the things we do for love🎶

    Liked by 2 people

    • I can see subtle variations in tone here and there, but yes, my writing style may wander here and there but it’s basically followed the same baseline for quite a while…

      Now, how do I say this delicately? Umm… let’s just go with this: asking a store employee in West Texas to utilize a computer can be risky. Many of them still don’t trust such things and want nothing to do with them…

      “Walking in the park and reminiscing…”

      Liked by 2 people

  4. My spouse is dead and had no siblings, so no odd conferences that result in strange requests about furniture that may or may not be ‘correct.’ My siblings know better than to go there. Or their spouses do. Bless ALL their hearts.. O_o Now I feel the pain in the part where that chair got bought. I’ll try to keep it short too, given it’s YOUR comment line, and not a blog post and oh shoot…it’s already too long.. Oh well. I was at the local grocery store that used to have the most awesome bakery on the planet. Things have slid in the time of Covid, but we all have to make sacrifices. I went to the store in quest of fresh bread (their bread is still as good as it gets ’round here) and a doughnut or maybe two if they were appealing. They’re not always appealing any longer. I espied one of my favorite kinds, the chocolate (raised) bar type with fudgey frosting. There was an in-bred Jed already at the pastry case, one of those whom you wish after interacting with them for five seconds that their mothers/fathers had believed in birth control. Being a mindfully little drone/clone I stood the requisite six feet away waiting for Jed to make up his pointy little mind and choose a damn doughnut. He shambled back and forth leering and drooling, and finally grabbed MY DOUGHNUT. It was MY doughnut dammit!! Now it had been snatched from my salivating maw by the wicked whim of fate and in-bred Jed. Sh*thead a**hole m*therf*cker (I said soto voce). Jed jumped, apparently startled by the venom in my aside and scurried away, bearing my treasure with him. I realize your post was posted before and that the conversation and scenario are buried in the sands of time and things that don’t actually have to be remembered, except as amusing anecdotes for occasions such as this; BUT you might want to remember and share “Sometimes you’re the windshield and sometimes you’re the bug” (that will only make sense to those of us who waft through an arid wasteland on our way to somewhere else and get bugs on our windshield as a ‘reward’). with your partner the next time he involves you in purchases of the patio furniture kind….it might bring him comfort when his prize is snatched away. My sympathies in retrospect.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I am outraged the Jed the Head took your donut. This is just beyond the pale. Send me the details and I’ll have someone take care of his grabby little ass. Teach him to mess with my sister, mmm hmm.

      But let’s chat some more about the donuts. Back in my wee bairn days, there was a time when I was forced to perform child labor for my Evil Stepfather on his Sunday-only, devil-spawn newspaper route. (My other siblings were given the option, which they rarely took, of participating. I was the only one who had no choice in the matter, just another brick in my wall of dissatisfaction that I have built over the years.) We picked the bundles of papers up at 2 in the morning and we wouldn’t be done until 7 or 8, with me rubberbanding the massive Sunday editions with all those damn ads whilst he drove and threw. It was wretched and I hated it.

      The only bright spot in this torment, and I mean ONLY, was the fact that we would also stop by Winchell’s donuts and I was allowed to pick out a few selections for the journey. I loved most of their creations, but I was most enamored by the lemon-filled, solid donuts. Grease-dripping deliciousness that kept me sane for a few hours.

      Then, one fateful day, we arrived to the horrifying news that they were out of the lemon-filled. How could this be? We were almost always the first customers. Yet they were already OUT?

      I was never the same after that day. Never.

      But I do fully understand your pain. Our bond is even tighter.

      (You know, this smells like a blog post. Stay tuned.)

      Liked by 1 person

    • In my experience, I’ve learned to never trust the inventory shown online. Too many times I’ve shown up to find that The Man has lied to me once again. It’s better to head to the store and deal with the tragedy personally… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  5. “The Pope stopped for a sermon and a shovel”! Brilliant.

    Ah yes, I know exactly how this routine goes, and it is a true sign of love when the one partner Goes All The Way Down There and drags home two chairs. It’s a marvellous story.

    Liked by 1 person

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