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Ladies and Gentlemen: The story you are about to read is true.  I didn't bother to change the names because I don't remember any of them.

I had the most adorable time at Lowe's Home Improvement, today.

This afternoon, I went to the downstairs lockers in the front building to collect my genuine polypropylene artificial Xmas tree for setting up in the Library.  I managed to not kill myself in the process of lugging the Bag-o-Tree from basement to courtyard, across courtyard, then up three flights of stairs to my humble abode.  Yay me.

At this time, I will state, for the benefit of those who might not have already guessed, that I am me, I can be nothing else, and part and parcel of my me-ness is losing track of things.  So, it did not surprise me in the least when, upon relieving the bag of its contents, I did not find the "screws" (There is a reason that I place the word "screws" in quotes; I'll get to that in a minute) that secure the tree in its stand.  Not problematic, thought I, whereupon I bet myself a shiny new nickel that I could find suitable replacements at Lowe's.

The walk to Lowe's was quite nice, even for Homestead PA at 21:00 hours, with only a minor delay due to the passage of a westbound train.  Once there, I proceeded to Seasonal, where the nice young man told me that they did not carry specialty "screws" for Xmas tree stands, and that I would do best in Aisle 18 (Hardware).  Again, not problematic; I was more or less expecting to hear that, but thought that I'd try anyway.  Besides, it gave me the chance to take a close look at one of the "screws" in a stand exactly like mine; I knew that it was there, it was a floor model I had seen last Wednesday.

While we imagine me walking across the store from Seasonal to Hardware, let me get back to the quotes around "screws".  The "screws" I sought are not screws at all; they are bolts.  People, even tech-types, use the words "screw" and "bolt" interchangeably, but there are precise definitions involved, definitions that usually don't matter until one is looking through bins of fasteners in a hardware sales area.  But that was precisely where I was headed.

Once at Hardware, I began scanning the racks.  I can never remember where they keep everything; you should see me trying to find wall anchors and expansion bolts.  The nice gentleman (I'll be gracious) working the department asks me if he can help me find anything.  I tell him that I have misplaced the screws (this is for his benefit, because I can assure you that he is not looking at my eyes) from my Xmas tree stand and was looking about to see if I could find suitable replacements.  Now, the fun starts.

He tells me that I really should have brought one of the screws with me, to get the right thread type.  See my introductory statement to him, above.  Then he asks if I was wanting wings on the screws.  "The originals had pennyheads," I answered, "but I could just run hex heads in with pliers, if I had to."  This is where his eyes start to glaze over.  "Do they have points," he asks.  "No, they're actually bolts," I reply.  His mouth is open, but no sound issues forth.  As it happens, I had been scanning racks from the corner of my eye, and this is where, as fortune would have it, I happen to see the familiar blue bins at about knee-height.  "Oh!" I exclaim, "Hex-head bolts!  This just might do it!"

"Okay..."  Pause.  "Are we finished, then?  Another pause.  "There's another customer..."  There indeed was another customer, who had just shown up not fifteen seconds earlier.  I was truly happy that the nice gentleman did not have to leave all of his pride at my feet.

I do wish that I had better command of bolt nomenclature.  I knew exactly what I was looking for, but had forgotten what it was called.  All I had was the ¼" measurement of the threaded holes and a mental picture of the threads.   I did some looking, just before writing this essay, and found that I was seeking three 1/4-13UNC-2 hex-head bolts.  Asking for those might have simplified matters.  Then again, asking for those might have left the front of the nice gentleman's pants warm and very wet.

My holiday tree is nicely plumb, awaiting lights, I didn't lose a nickel, and I had a little humor to brighten my day.

EDIT: You should see the guys in Electrical, when I show up there :o)

May 2013

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