Spelunking at Home Depot

I finally had enough of a weekend free to put up the backsplash in our kitchen. It was neither a huge nor complicated job, and I had done some floor tile before, but never tackled a backsplash.

My wife had helped me pick out the tile which was more like a mosaic of rough stones. I got to Home Depot, found the tile, and started to count them out. I needed twenty-three pieces, but only found thirteen on the shelf. Come one, there must be more back there. It was on the very bottom shelf, so I stooped down and peered into the abyss. Was that another box back there? I couldn’t quite see. I lit up my phone light and shined it in, and yes, it was another box of that tile!

OK, now I have to get it out of there. Surely I can find someone to help me. I looked up and down several aisles and of course, saw no one in an orange apron. I guess I’m going to have to do this myself.

I got down on my stomach and crawled into the space between two other stacks of tile. Not much room to spare. Thank you paleo and CrossFit for helping me shave off a couple of pounds. I got all the way in up to my waist and got a hold of the box. It was a whole box of ten tiles, still wrapped in plastic, exactly the number I needed! As I wriggled out, I wondered how many had walked by wondering what I was doing. I expected a tap on the leg and the question, “Do you need some help?” But as I extracted myself, I was still the only living soul in the aisle.

Mission accomplished. Backsplash done. Not bad for my first time.

“Got any nails?”

A man was standing out in front of our house the other day, and I knew exactly why he was there. The truck pulling a trailer filled with extension ladders said it all before he even spoke. He and his small crew were out looking for work trimming palm trees.

He had rung our doorbell, but I had disconnected that a long time ago so the sound wouldn’t wake up napping grandchildren. So I walked out front and we began talking about my four palms badly in need of a trim. After he made an offer, I said, “Can you do it today?” He quickly replied yes, and we shook on the deal.

Now my front yard palms are well over twenty feet tall, requiring a much bigger ladder and a lot more courage to climb than I possess to maintain. I was really interested to see how they would get up there. The three man team had clearly worked together for a while. One guy set up the ladder and climbed to the top. The second disposed of the branches he cut off. The third owned the company and he watched while they did the work.

Back to guy number one. After leaning what looked like a twenty-four foot ladder against the tallest tree, he started up a chainsaw, hung it from his belt, and started climbing as it idled. At the top, he belted himself to the tree, and then quickly trimmed the tree to a neat “ten and two” (think clock). I thought the guy at the bottom would load up the trailer with branches. Nope. He just dragged them off into the adjoining vacant lot. I don’t know it you’re supposed to do that, but I didn’t ask any questions.

While all this is going on, my across the street neighbor is hauling some trash out to the curb. The third guy picked up a piece of plywood and proceeded to use it to repair a hole in the bed of his trailer. He yelled to me, “Got any nails?” I did and brought a box over to him. With a smile, he said, “My man!” and took a handful to fix his trailer.

When he was done with the trailer repair, he sat on my front porch with me. He asked for a Coke. All we had was Lacroix. He was thankful. I offered three, but he said the other guys wouldn’t like it. He asked me how long I had been in the house. I’ve been here twenty three years, but he has lived in Flagler County his whole life, sixty-one years, the same age as me.

He then told me about his first job in Flagler County when he was sixteen. Back then there were few roads through what is now our city. He and two friends were looking for work and came across a construction site. His friends were bolder than he was and went right to the foreman. When they asked for jobs, he asked, “What can you do?” They both said, “We’re operators.” He handed each a spade and showed them where to start digging. Then he asked this man, “What can you do?” He looked at his friends and said, “I’m not an operator!” The boss pointed to a truck and said, “Can you drive that?” He said, “Yes.” “Ok, pull it around here.” He did and that was his job. His friends all had blistered hands while he got to drive the truck.

My palm trees were trimmed and my yard was all cleaned up in about 30 minutes. The trees looked great! What a difference. And what a nice afternoon talking with a few guys just out making a living.

A big slice of today

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

I had the first appointment of the day when I recently took my car in on a Friday morning for some routine maintenance. With computer, journal and coffee in hand, I found a table when I could read, write and wait. Other than a few service people, the place was mostly empty. Over the next hour or so, I watched as the receptionist, sales, finance, managers and, eventually, a few customers arrived.

As I eavesdropped on casual conversations about their plans for the weekend, one outburst caught my attention. “I’m ready for this day to be over!” He passed by so quickly I never got to find out anymore details. But I thought to myself, “What a dismal way to begin your day!” The sun is barely up, and you are already yearning for dusk.

Maybe that’s not fair. Maybe he had a funeral to attend, a root canal scheduled or knew he was about to get chewed out by the boss. So he just wanted to get it over with.

I wonder if he’s the only one. Are there others who just want to get life over with? What happens to your soul when each day crawls by with nothing but boredom, pain or loneliness?

When I catch myself just wanting it to be over (and yes, sometimes that happens), I remind myself that I really don’t know what this day will be like. I don’t know who I’ll meet, what I’ll learn, or what will arrive in the mail. I have to remember that what I dread usually only takes up a small slice of a day rather than defining the whole thing. Most compelling stories begin with a person with a problem who learns something about themselves and creates new possibilities. I want to be a part of such stories, so I don’t want the day to be over until I’ve experienced all of it. In other words, give me a big slice of today!