I’ve needed to buy lumber to build a tub surround for quite some time. This should not have been a difficult task. I even knew what I needed, and how much. True, I was sidetracked by two swing-arm bedside wall lamps on clearance but I did make it to the lumber in a fairly timely fashion - only to find that they had closed most of the aisle I needed so one of their forklifts could maneuver some pallets.
I stood at the end of the aisle, watching them close the little gate behind the forklift and staring longingly at the 8’ sections of 2 by 4s in the unreachable distance. Well, no matter, how long can it take them to get some wood down? Suddenly, as if the universe had heard my query, the forklift died. It was haltingly restarted a few times until the geniuses driving finally realized it was out of fuel. So the tank on the back was removed and one of them took it to get it replaced – averting his gaze from me as he hurried by. You’d think, wouldn’t you, that with the dangerous machinery out of commission and nothing moving they’d open up the aisle, right? Well, you’d be wrong. So, I started looking closely at the wood next to me. They were 2 by 4s, yes, but 16’ lengths. Well, I figured, this would actually work better – I could get them cut down!
The forklift operator wandered over and we chatted, and he said he could cut them when he was done. Then the boy with the tank hurried by again (still not looking at me) and they successfully started the forklift. I watched. I fidgeted. I made a phone call. I finally flagged down another employee. The conversation when like this:
Me: Excuse me, I need to get some of these 16’ 2 by 4s cut down.
Him: How do you need them cut?
Me: Well, I’d like one cut in thirds and one cut in half, so I can get them in my car.
Him: Why don’t you just buy the 8’ boards?
Me: Well, for one, those are down there (I gestured to the closed off area), two, this works better for the lengths I need, and three, the 8’ boards are something like $3.80 each and the 16’ ones are $5.64.
Him: (Wanders to the next aisle, wanders back) Well, that tall skinny guy down there can help you when he’s done, if not, I guess I can cut them. (Walks off)
So I hover near the lumber. And I wait. I circle the saw they use for cutting customer’s lumber. And wait. I stand in the middle of the aisle. And wait. Somehow I assumed (I know, I know…) he had told someone about me. Silly me! Meanwhile, the forklift guy seems to be randomly shifting pallets of wood. If there’s a purpose or a method to his madness, I do not see it. Several other employees stroll by me, not looking in my direction.
Now, I ask you. I’m 5’2”, pudgy, round-faced, and, yes, a girl. I’m standing in the middle of the lumber section. Do you think I mean, really, that I might need some help? Especially when I am standing there with my hands on my hips looking around in what I think is an obvious manner? I’m not trying to be sexist but I do look helpless. I know I do. People always offer to help me, because I look like a weak little ninny. I’m okay with that.
Okay, okay, even if I wasn’t a helpless looking girl, I was 1. standing in an area of the store where ¾ of the merchandise is unreachable and 2. standing next to the saw looking around for help. You’d think one of those factors might have induced a helpful response. Nada.
I’ve now been standing the for thirty (30!) minutes total. It’s warm in there. I’m beginning to sweat. Now, I am not a girl who ‘perspires’ or, god forbid, ‘glistens.’ Unless you consider the ‘glisten’ in terms of the surface of the ocean, because when my body decides to shed water it does it in enormous quantities. I could shake myself and give a wet dog a run for the money in a splatter competition. Sexy, no? I’m also sure I was beginning to turn pink, another unfortunate side effect of heat on my body. I do not deal well with heat. I’ve passed out from the heat before, and generally try to avoid it. It also puts me in a foul mood.
So I’m getting warmer and crankier by the second. Finally, I reach a decision. I look around and find the little hand saw cart they provide for people to cut their own trim to length. It’s two aisles over. I grab a 16’ board and half-drag, half-carry it over. I begin to saw. I begin to sweat profusely now. I manage, though my hand and arm are screaming in agony, to cut the first board into three chunks. Even hand-saw through a 2 by 4? Not extremely easy for those in good shape – which I most decidedly am not.
I laboriously drag the three pieces back to my cart (which had the lamps in it). I grab another 16’ board and also half-drag, half carry it to the saw. This one I proceed to cut in half, my hands and arms nearly shaking from the effort. I am dripping with sweat by this point, undoubtedly very red in the face.
The best part of this is that half-way through sawing this board, I stop to shake my arm and look down the aisle. In one direction is an employee watching me curiously. In the other direction is the employee I had previously talked to, trying very hard not to look in my direction. Lovely.
I do finally saw the second board in half and lug it back to my cart. The guy is still tooling around in the forklift, the aisle still closed. I check out and, $76 later, head out the door. The whole thing took a little over an hour, though god knows how long it would have been if I hadn’t helped myself.
My arm still feels like overcooked spaghetti, and I still haven’t unloaded my car, but I do feel a sense of pride for having gotten as far as I did today. Sure, my clothes were dripping and I was in desperate need of another shower (ironically, I had taken one just before I left – god forbid I go to a home improvement store grungy *rolls eyes*) but I had lumber.