Tag Archives: Lowe’s

Just Who Do You Think You Are?

Day #2 of “the match game”, or, Let’s Wreck It.

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Tearing south on upper Peach Street, Slumtown’s answer to Telegraph Road and any generic mall complex beat from Charlotte to Fairfax – to Lowe’s, again, because one more gallon paint. Yep; a single bag of plaster powder had held out for the ceiling cracks, a huge relief from the prospect of sheet rock. Nope; didn’t want to live under the threat of a sky like that falling on my precious new piano.

But – should I even show my face at that counter, after my rude behavior 24 hours earlier?  In luck ! Spying a trademark red vest, I scurried after his grey-haired shuffle down Aisle 4, waiting with uncharacteristic grace while the gentrified senior heading toward him offered a pandering greeting, and then pounced. I needed ceiling paint; here was my Benjamin Moore chip; could we make a white tint, using this hue?

He was sure he understood what I wanted. He was also sure he couldn’t be certain that we could make it happen. I tried. Really I did. The vow to be nice was ever-present in my consciousness. Causing this man to hyperventilate was not my plan.

But, in minutes, the gallon was mounted. We reminisced about the old paint mixers, churning like cement trucks you could hear clear back to the wall aisle of the old stores, because we were both of that certain age…

His hunch was dead on; the tint was just right. After tapping the lid with his tightening hammer, he brought the big can to the counter. I looked at him. He’d been so sweet. David. What’s your last name, David?

Hume.

“Hume? As in famous 18th century Scottish philosopher, David Hume??”

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The year…maybe 1990. Smith-Corona had made a type-writer hybrid that took floppy disks, with a little horizontal word processing window so you could see what you were typing. I’d fallen behind on my quest for the elusive Master’s in Music Ed, but Jeffery Smith, the newest Ivy league pedigree on staff at Fredonia, was teaching a class in Baroque opera and I had just that one, rehearsal-free evening.

We covered the opera house wars, Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, and then, the piece d’resistance: castrati. Professor Smith assigned us the mandatory viewing of “Farinelli”, with English subtitles – the story of the most infamous Italian hyper-tenor with truncated testiculatta ever to strut the operatic stage.

The movie was raw, sensual, and riveting. But, the research paper assignment which would count as a mid-term; now, there was a task. After mulling for days on a potential topic, my  mind drifted across the Mediterranean….what else was happening in Europe during the 1700s, perhaps even in, say, Scotland?

Seek, and ye shall find.

Even the ancient, 90’s search engine did not fail me.

Now – who in the world was this David Hume?

Writing the paper was invigorating. Comparing an as yet unheard-of-by-me philosopher’s view of proper comportment, which molded an entire nation’s culture, with the bawdy, degenerate lifestyle of Farinelli….was a literary field day. And, Jeffery Smith must have enjoyed my indulgence: he gave me an A.

Castrati were a curious anomaly of a time in history that would live out an evolution unprecedented even by the Biblical eunuchs. But, David Hume? Now, here was a different animal altogether. Teaching his people to revere “keeping up appearances”, in order that they might Represent a whole nation’s idea of civilised elegance. William Wallace would forever pale in my firmament to such a notion of power over human behavior. To an Anglo-Saxon/generic Mediterranean hybrid raised by a barber and a seamstress, this was a concept.

I never forgot about the 18th century philosopher. And, now, almost two decades hence, here I was standing at the paint counter in Lowe’s, speaking with a man who bore his name. But, nothing could have prepared me for what happened next.

“Yes.” he said, with conviction.

“He was my great-great [ great, great…. ] grandfather. I was born and raised in Thornlie Bank, between Paisley and Glasgow.”

See……this is why, even when we know full well that the government is only telling us ten per cent of what’s really happening, and the IRS wants more and more of what we work so hard to bring home, and our educational system needs a total overhaul, and the cameras are everywhere…..this is why we stay. We stay, because there is no other place on our earth where, when we least expect to, we can still find a gem living quietly under a rock.

The living, breathing descendant of Scottish philosopher, David Hume....I give you: David Hume!
The living, breathing descendant of the most important Scottish philosopher and economist of the 18th century……mixing paint at Lowe’s. Ladies, and ever-gentle men, I give you: David Hume.

“No – ! You’re Fine!”

[CYNIC ALERT]

It was time for the match game.

Benjamin Moore had migrated to the remote outskirts, where people live who have lawn ornaments on the porch and keep dead cars in their yards. After fifteen years staring at #886 and #815, I had lost all desire to drive 47 minutes just for two gallons of #008. So, Yo, Ho-Ho, it was off to Lowe’s she goes, for the Valspar equivalent of The Best Paint Ever Made in 1993.

Those couple years in the art department had, apparently, stuck; with surprising speed and accuracy, I almost found it. “Pink Kiss?” or, “Apricot Pit?” They were open til 8; where was the attendant?

One register light, lit. One sack boy, willing to page Paint.

Oh, but there she was.

A shorter, if wider, woman, long hair, younger. Body pressed against the left end of the counter, facing north. Glasses, and a cell phone, and the bearing of one who would get her way without a peep.

I made my beeline – for the right side of the counter. And, pressed my slightly taller, slightly less voluminous body against the counter in tandem. And, probably said something out loud to myself and nobody in particular, within earshot of the woman on the left end who waited much more quietly, keeping her body especially still.

Red Queen vs. White Queen.

But, this wasn’t Wonderland.

Then, the White Rabbit. Zooming out of Aisle 5, heading straight for the counter – and, the woman on the left end. “Can I help you?” he said – to HER.

Decades of fighting my own battles, of winning some and losing many, bearing the weight of all the crap you’ve already read about for the past five months. Ye Gods; I could have just about had a baby in that much time about 30 years ago.

“NOPE!”

“I’ll be the bully here. I’m the one who called for the page.”

Yes. That was my voice.

And, then, inevitably, the ensuing guilt – of the same number of decades, for all the reasons you’ve, yeah you know.

Turning to the woman on the left end, I tore into my persuasive prattle. The part about being in a hurry. The next part, something about …but, she was already prepared.

And, she said it. Shaking her head.

“No  ! – You’re fine!”

She wasn’t in a hurry. She had tomorrow off. She had all day to paint. Yeah, well. I had hired a guy. Not strong enough to take a ladder, or lift the…..

But, get this straight.

I am not “fine.”

I am never all that. I’m a tiresome, oppressive load. A chronic melancholic. A self-obsessed compulsive with a preference for immediate gratification. One who longs for an ideal totally unreachable in our dimension. A hopeless romantic caught in the throes of gritty realism. No. Fine, I am not.

Now, she’d said it with the effortless inflection of one who likely did so every day, to at least two people, perhaps a shit load of abrupt customers at Wal-Mart. Well-rehearsed, she’d long since forgotten how it made her really feel to say it. Rather, she spoke the words with the conviction of one who had gradually, obliviously, become familiar with herself as a conforming little slut to political acceptability. No matter that the people to whom she ascribed the phrase were largely unforgiving, self-serving, adult brats; more importantly, she had polished the appropriate response to sinless perfection.

With deft efficiency, the paint attendant cheerily provided me the computer-matched gallons in place of “Pink Kiss” and, smiling, turned his red-eared back, and walked. He was done.

But, I wasn’t.

That poor creature stood patiently while I took her back to the year my long since ex-husband had first painted the walls of my house which we shared for that blip on the screen we called our marriage. How, color blind, he’d brought home #815 instead of #813, and joyfully presented me with a living room completely covered in aqua. Not ash blue. Aqua. “It’ll fade”, Lena, mum’s Italian dressmaking client, said when she’d come to pick up her niece from piano lessons. Lena knew something I didn’t. She knew that wall paint would fade – in seventeen years. And, she wasn’t about to tell me I’d be waiting that long. Enough just to have faith and accept, like a good Catholic wife.

I don’t know how many minutes passed at that counter, me babbling, she listening, me and my self-conscious drive toward the embodiment of a pathetic apology and she just letting it all play itself out, she with her day off all day to paint. She, the self-actualized single girl, one hundred per cent self accepting, just riding it all out and looking forward to her blue rooms that she would produce all by herself in the house that would become her spouse. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that part. Best that she just have faith, and accept, when the time came. And, it would, soon enough.

Meantime, by some act of Providence, I looked down at the counter. There sat my two gallons of computer-replicated #008, and my bag of dry plaster, just waiting, rolling their lids at me. I looked up. She looked back. OH? Wait! I’m done here! I’ve been done. It’s my turn to take my stuff and go now, to the sack boy in the lit register.

The White Rabbit was sly. He’d gotten me what I wanted, and left me with it, just to see what I’d do. Nice move, that. He’d been in this scene before.

“So, which do you prefer”, I laughed, embarrassed. “Passive aggression, or in your face, put it all out there?”

She looked at me and smiled, nodding. “I think I’d wait for “Nice.”

This made me crow. And, I did. I threw back my head, and indulged a deep one, right from the belly. “Nice”, indeed !! Yeah. I’d never been nice, either, I told her.

But, she probably had. Like being politically correct, she’d attended enough self-help seminars to know that “nice” and “kind” were the only two attributes that made people truly like you. She held the secret. That was why she could stand at the counter, and wait, and laugh while the rest of the world agitated their way through the scenes they were so compelled to create. To her, this was nothing short of the purest of Sunday evening entertainment.

And, so it was that she took what I said with a grain of philosophy. For a fleet moment, I saw her as genuinely nice, perhaps always nice, born sweet, a joy to everyone who knew her.

And, her paint was ready. I looked to the right, to the other woman who had gradually crept into the frame, waiting her turn with net neutrality, just tired, wanting to get whatever and get home. OMG. I tried a funny face. Charm was the device of the devil, and it worked every time. Only convincing the charmer, grand relief for everybody else in the room. Time to let the rude, remedially grown up bully babe gather her things and return to her fraught little existence.

I scurried away, glad to leave them both with a “nice”, tight punchline. Success. I had what I needed, I’d gotten there first, and now it was everybody else’s turn to tie up whatever remained of the value of the moment. My damage was long done. And, I’d accomplished it being neither nice nor fine. Like sand paper, coursely grained, just enough to make rougher edges smoothe, I’d just been a little bit real. In the end, after a good, sound spanking, God would bless us all. I had the faith to accept that much.

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© Ruth Ann Scanzillo

copyright 4/19/15 All rights, in part or whole, those of the author whose name appears above this line. Thank you.

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