Staying Out Of Trouble – At Home Depot

I painted my barn on Saturday, which is no big deal, other than afterwards I discovered how far paint can travel coming out of an airless paint sprayer pumped up to 2400 pounds of pressure. Inside and out, everything within six feet of my barn, including one curious yellow horse, is now decorated with spots of red barn paint.

It was like a remake of “101 Dalmatians” by the director of “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.”

Despite the prerequisite setbacks that occur with any project that involves two ladders, five-gallon buckets of paint, dropcloths and rented equipment, things went pretty well and I found myself back at Home Depot by late afternoon returning an airless paint sprayer with suspicious-looking red specs all over it. Anyone looking at me, as I stood in line near the rental counter, would have thought I had either had just butchered a hog or was a stand-in for a Charles Manson movie.

It was a beautiful Saturday, so there were several of us milling around the rental counter. Suddenly this 16-year-old, pimply-faced kid with a goofy hat and a “Life Sucks” t-shirt started shouting at the woman working behind the counter. It seems he and his mother were next in line, but the saleswoman had made the incorrect assumption that the man standing a little further away was with them. Quite innocently, she asked how she could help him and the kid started going berserk.

As soon as she recognized her mistake, the saleswoman apologized and immediately turned her attention to the kid and his mousy mother, who never uttered a word the entire time. Instead of accepting her apology, the mouthy kid began demanding to talk to the store manager, grabbed his befuddled mother and stomped away.

When it came my turn the poor saleswoman was still feeling terrible about the incident. I tried reassuring her, noting that anyone who could get upset that easily came in with their own set of issues. “I know they’re going to complain,” she sighed. “And I’ll get written up for it.”

As I made my way toward the exit, I walked past the service counter where, sure enough, the red-faced kid had, in what seemed a well-rehearsed scene, grabbed the store manager and was complaining about how rude the saleswoman had been to his mother.

“Wait a minute,” I interrupted, getting the attention of the manager, who, judging by my appearance, must have wondered who I had just dismembered in the appliance department. “I was there and the saleswoman was never rude to these people. She made a mistake and she apologized for it.”

“Hey, old man,” the kid spat at me, “mind your own business.”

Old man.

This punk kid who is going to spend his entire life complaining to store managers about clerks, waiters, mechanics, tellers and salespeople in hopes of getting something for free called me an “old man.”

This old man was ready to grab him by his grimy t-shirt and lift him off the floor, when I realized he would love nothing better. He would fall to the hard cement, feigning a back or a neck injury, while his helpless mother was instantly punching 911 into her cell phone. The ambulance would arrive, along with the police and I would have to try to explain why I had assaulted this 16-year-old kid writhing in agony and screaming for a neck brace.

A kid who probably spends his mornings eating a box of Fruit Loops while watching commercials for personal injury attornies.

Instead, I calmed myself, turned to him and asked, “Hey, kid, who’s being rude now?”

I stayed long enough to make sure the store manager realized that her saleswoman had done nothing wrong. She gave me a look that told me she had seen this type before and knew how to handle him. As I watched, she herded the kid and his mother down the aisle back toward the rental counter, where I am sure the kid knew that he and his mother were now going to get whatever it was they were planning to rent for free.

Life doesn’t suck, but some people sure do.

Until next Monday,

Have a great week.

– Bruce

“To avoid criticism: say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.”

– Elbert Hubbard